Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Fair Trade

 The last time I wrote I was in a smoking hot lather over the breaker from the estate sale and the remnants of what were once gorgeous books. But the past couple weeks have been so busy getting ready for the Akron Antiquarian Book Fair and then – finally!—exhibiting my books at the fair this past weekend that my mood has elevated considerably. Friday and Saturday, in fact, I floated around the John S. Knight Center like an iridescent bubble. Never mind that my feet were screaming from having worn heels for two days and flying around that cavernous space countless times in them -- I was in book heaven! Not only did we sell a lot of stuff, both books and ephemera, but we also sold some pricey things, including the $700 Frank Lloyd Wright portfolio of 100 drawings pictured below. That one departed first thing out of the gate which gave me a few momentary qualms until I realized that the reason it had been under the bed for so long is because I wanted it to sell at the fair. It would have been a nightmare to ship and  of course the buyer would have been from  Outer Mongolia which would have incurred postage so high a mortgage would have been required to pay it. All it took was the mental image of me lugging that thing to the post office, beautiful as it may be, and – zap! – no more angst.
For the last three years at the fair I enjoyed the company of my booth neighbor, Jim Best, The Bookman of Kent, but this year a bum knee kept him from setting up. He did show up to man the front desk and give his talk about the worth of old books, but he couldn’t possibly set up and break down a booth even with help. I thought it would be weird to have a vast gaping space next to us, but as it turned out, we didn’t have one. Two very charming young people who opened a book and antiques store in Akron four months ago had the confidence,  knowledge, and  style to set up an eye-catching booth featuring both books and what is known in the antiques trade as "smalls". I have a hunch they did well too. Eric and I between us bought enough stuff from them to have paid the lion’s share of their booth rent. Of course we wanted to give them a boost, but we also genuinely liked what they had, so it was a win/win. Their business is Books and Bits and I have a good feeling about it. Young people like those two are what we need, not only in our aging organization, but also in the book business as a whole. I so hope we can nurture them to take an active role once they get in the groove with their new store.

Speaking of young people, one of my best sales was to a young person, probably in her early 30’s. She selected a $125 book about the history of Cleveland and a VERY rare item that's a cross between a book and ephemera about the Cleveland Discount Building priced at $175 and asked me if I could do better if she bought both. I easily lopped $25 off the Cleveland book, but gulped at the idea of taking less for the rare one. While I was thinking about it she began telling me how much she loves old books and paper and how it’s her goal to build a significant collection of Cleveland history. Call me a pushover, but just like THAT, everything in me shouted, “DO IT!” Young collectors are the lifeblood  of this busines and there standing right in front of me was one who recognized something special when she saw it and really, REALLY wanted it. I discounted it by another $25 and made her day. But you know what? It made mine too.
 As if that wasn’t enough warm fuzzy for the day a second one came along about a half hour later. Last year I bought a four volume leather bound  set  of Don Quixote published in 1795 in Dublin, Ireland. They were very nicely kept and I really loved them, so I set them back for the fair. But once again my heart kind of sank when a man picked them up and headed in my direction. Maybe I really didn’t want to sell them after all!

“These are SO great,” the would-be buyer said. “II’s my birthday and I want to get them for a birthday present.”

I gazed at him and immediately recognized “that look” – the exact one I no doubt had  the day I bought them --  and a sudden rush of happiness enveloped me. One again, it was okay. I put them in a bag and wished him a Happy Birthday.

I’ve thought about all this for a couple days now and I think it helps explain my growing disinterest in selling online. Of course I will still be doing it, but for me it’s about the people. Nothing can compare to seeing that delight I know so well myself and knowing that my work made it happen. It’s also knowing that the books or paper I just sold will be appreciated and cared for.

In these electronic days that’s no small matter. I need what I do to have meaning too -- and, thankfully, the fair reminded me that it does.
(First picture was taken in my booth. I am sitting in the foreground with my back to the camera)


sundaymornancy said...

It was a great way to spend a Saturday, browsing among the dealers' wares and seeing what the book enthusiasts were buying and selling. As a spectator, you get to see a snapshot of each dealer's specialty.
This is my second year at the sale and the Akron book fair has become a welcome "rite of spring."

tess said...

Oh, that's cool -- a rite of spring. I love that.

Hilda said...

What a wonderful blog. Thank you for letting us sneak a peek into the Akron Book Fair. I don't believe we have one here.

tess said...

I wish you did, Hilda. You would so love it.But I think you're right that there aren't any in your area. I poked around a little online to see if I could find you one, but I didn't. :-(

Anonymous said...

Love these photos of the Frank Lloyd Wright. We had one of his smaller buidlings in Redding, and it was a major source of pride for the small country town. The fair looks so easy to view. That is so important in a fair of this sort. Wish we had been there. Happiest Birthday wishes a few days late. Gin

tess said...

Thanks, Ginger. You would definitely enjoy it. There's a lot of different kinds of stuff. I sold a $6-15 postcards too -- so the prices are all over the map. That's what makes it fun --everybody can take something home. Frank Lloyd Wright is still VERY popular everywhere.