Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2021 Issue

Leaving The Co-Op

3aaaa489-4f74-4a15-a12b-c3bde95ef4ac

Booktown. Photo by Rinn Wright.

About eight years ago we joined one of the few bookstore cooperatives in the United States. It was a great choice and we have liked it very much for all the time we were there. But now, after thirty-five years in the book business, it is time for us to retire. Health and age have taken their toll. Picking up fifty-pound boxes of books is no longer sensible or possible. We haven’t quite figured out what to do with the 100 or so boxes of books in my basement yet, but we will.

 

So, what did we learn from the co-op experience? All in all, it was a great experience and we enjoyed it most of the time, except when I had to close the books at the end of the day. Math was not the high point of my education! All of us were experienced booksellers, mostly older, and were mostly easy to work with and, of course, I love to sell books. So, a co-op is a good way to own a bookstore without being there ten or twelve hours a day, six or seven days a week, and being responsible for everything that goes on. I recommend it for some of you booksellers who have gone out of business but would really love to have a store again. Gather together a few of your bookseller friends and form a co-op. Our store started with about five booksellers twenty-three years ago and many sellers have come and gone in between times. Another seller and I retired at the same time so they recruited three more and are up to nine at this point. The new folks are younger, but experienced, and have brought fresh ideas. Though this is a small town, it is definitely a Book Town.

 

The second best reason is that you don’t have to hire anyone to watch the store because you all take turns doing so. No Osha, no Workmen’s Comp, no sifting through resumes. In the co-op, as with all humans, some folks really cared more about the store than others, but that’s humans for you. But it still all worked out in the end with everything getting done.

 

Another great thing is the customers you meet. By and large, they are friendly and excited to be in a 4000 square foot building chock full of books on almost every subject you can think of. Especially with the shortage of bookstores nowadays; at least in our neck of the woods. As with any bookstore, there are always the nut cases and the surly customers, but who cares about them. They are mostly entertaining.

 

I was used to online bookselling and had been out of a retail bookstore for about fifteen years when I joined the co-op. Bookselling in a retail store had changed a whole lot from when I worked at Powell’s in Portland in the 90s. The new store was a small store in a small town, though the biggest bookstore in any town nearby and well attended, and I wasn’t sure how to pull in customers and how to price my books. The internet is rife with booksellers, most of whom have no idea what they are doing – selling $50.00 books for $5.00 and $5.00 books for $50.00. Sometimes, customers even came in the store, looked at the books, copied the ISBN or title, then would say, out loud, “We can get it cheaper online”, (so rude!) and off they would go. So, doing research on what a book was worth online and how to price it for a store occupied a lot of time at first. And I did well, I made my rent and utilities every month and took about an equal amount home each month.  As my customers got to know me and like the quality of my books, my revenues increased.

 

The way it worked was to have people work in the store equal hours to the number of square feet of space they “owned”. When a couple of empty booths showed up, another dealer would ask for it or someone from outside would come along. I asked for two more booths and got them. It meant working a good deal more hours, but still not like a private bookstore.

 

I quickly learned another lesson. At first, I had a lot of different books in different venues. If you have a subject that sells really well someone else will go out looking for those books for their area. If you have a limited space in a co-op, don’t try to sell one of every kind of book there is, pick two or three subjects that you know well and limit yourself. This is where it gets difficult because we all know that when we see a great book for sale for a really inexpensive price, no matter the subject, we have to buy it. But if you have any self-discipline, it’s not a good idea to do that. Carry a lot of good books in your three or four best subjects. Or find something that no one else is doing. In my case, that was Tarot Cards. Keep your booth tidy and your books alphabetized. Pretty soon people come into the store and go straight to your section because it’s easy to find what they want.

 

One thing I’ve always known is that booksellers are notoriously bad bookkeepers, myself included. A group should have at least one person who is good at it or hire someone who is, because co-op bookkeeping is complicated. And we were lucky, we had that person. She was a former accountant who liked and understood numbers, which I don’t, and though her bookkeeping methods were archaic, she did a great job of sorting out all the blunders the rest of us made and paying us at the end of each month. Also, it’s a good idea not to scrimp on things like advertising. Especially now in the virtual sales age. A perfect example is that we all knew that the best advertising we could have was a good web page and a Facebook page. But somehow, no matter how often we said we wanted it, it was always procrastinated to death.

 

I have to say I am happy to never have to close out at the end of the day again. It was not just my money I was dealing with, it was eight other vendors, as well. Though I did it often and made a lot minor boo boos I got to be pretty good at it, but it gave me a headache almost every time!

 

All in all, it was a terrific eight years. I will miss some of the people that I spent the last eight years with and a couple will remain friends for life. I will definitely miss some of my good and crazy customers with whom I had great rapport.

 

Because I can’t quite give up books and bookselling, I’m keeping my online business, www.thewrightbook.com. My husband and I were traditionally-rigged ship sailors for many years and have amassed quite a large and interesting library so we have launched a new web page this year, www.ageofsailbooks.com. Drop in virtually when you get a chance.

 

If you are itching to be a bookseller or an old-time seller who can’t quite think about opening a new bookstore on your own, think about a cooperative store. It’s great fun and can be quite profitable without taking over your whole life.

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 24:</b> C.F. Payne, <i>Micawber, Imitating Norman Rockwell’s “Triple self-portrait,”</i> mixed media, 2002. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 24:</b> Brian Froud, media illustration published in <i>The Land of Froud,</i> 1977. Estimate $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 24:</b> Haddon Sundblom, <i>All a Girl Needs,</i> oil on canvas, published in <i>The Ladies’ Home Journal,</i> 1942. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 24:</b> Adrianne Lobel, <i>My One and Only,</i> 26 scenic concept collages for the Broadway musical, 1983. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 24:</b> Charles Schulz, original four-panel pen and ink <i>Peanuts</i> comic strip, 1971. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 24:</b>Jack Davis, mixed media cartoon for <i>Playboy,</i> 1959. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 24:</b> Charles Addams, mixed media cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1937. $6,000 to $9,000.
  • <center><b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé<br>Sales Exhibition Catalogue 47<br>Part III<br>Antiquarian Temptations:<br>Rare Books, Atlases & Maps,<br>Photos & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> PIETER MORTIER. “Le Neptune Francois ou Atlas Nouveau des Cartes Marines. Levées et Gravées par ordre Exprés du Roy…” Paris, 1693.
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> MARC CHAGALL illus. SHAKESPEARE. “The Tempest.” Large folio. Monte-Carlo, 1975. Signed by the artist.
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> JOHN SPEED and followers. “A New and Accurate Map of the World.” Hand-colored engraving. London (1626 – 1627 – circa 1650) – 1676.
    <center><b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé<br>Sales Exhibition Catalogue 47<br>Part III<br>Antiquarian Temptations:<br>Rare Books, Atlases & Maps,<br>Photos & Manuscripts</b>
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> MATTHÄUS SEUTTER. “The Colossus Series.” Set of 4 prints, contemporary hand-colored engravings, each c. 57x49cm. Augsburg c. 1730
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> (CHARLES LE BRUN). “La Grande Galerie De Versailles, et Les Deux Salons qui L’Accompagnent, peints Par Charles Le Brun premier Peintre de Louis XIV…” Paris, 1752.
    <b>Galleri Bygdoy Allé:</b> G. BRAUN – F. HOGENBERG. “Danorum Marca.” Contemporary hand-colored engraving, 33x48cm. Cologne, 1588.
  • <b>Bonhams, June 29:</b> LIFE OF OSLER, PRESENTATION COPY TO NEPHEW NORMAN GWYN. CUSHING, HARVEY. 1869-1939. <i>The Life of Sir William Osler.</i> Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1925. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Bonhams, June 29:</b> OSLER TO HALSTED MENTIONING CUSHING AND WELCH. Autograph Letter Signed ("Wm Osler") to William Stewart Halsted on medical matters, 2 pp, January 19, 1919. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Bonhams, June 29:</b> CUSHING PRESENTATION COPY TO LUCIEN PRICE. CUSHING, HARVEY. <i>Intracranial Tumours.</i> Springfield, 1932. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Bonhams, June 29:</b> OSLER ON HIS CHILDHOOD. Autograph Letter Signed ("Wm Osler") to Mabel [Brewster] on returning home to Staplehurst. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Bonhams, June 29:</b> SCULTETUS, JOHANNES. 1595-1645. <i>Cheiroplotheke, seu armamentarium chirurgicum XLIII.</i> Ulm: Balthasar Kühnen, 1655. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Bonhams, June 29:</b> VICQ D'AZYR, FELIX. 1748-1794. <i>Traite d'anatomie et de physiologie.</i> Paris: Didot l'aine, 1786. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Bonhams, June 29:</b> TAGAULT, JEAN. C.1499-1546. <i>De chirugica institutione libri quinque....</i> Lyon: Guillaume Rouillé, 1549. $400 to $600.
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). Autograph Logs and Journals from his 1927 Alaska Expedition. $7,000 to $ 9,000.
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). Cañon de Chelley, 1904. Oversized orotone, 17 x 22in in original Curtis Studio frame. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). 26 cyanotypes, featuring images of Cheyenne tribes from Volume VI of <i>North American Indian,</i> c.1907, made by Curtis in the field. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, June 30:</b> EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952). The Vanishing Race, 1904. Oversized orotone, 18 x 24in in original Curtis Studio frame. $20,000 to $30,000.
  • <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [CIVIL WAR] -- [SHERIDAN, Philip Henry]. Personal headquarters flag of Philip Henry Sheridan used when he led the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. Spring - Summer 1862. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [EARLY PHOTOGRAPHY]. Half plate daguerreotype of firefighter Walter Van Erven Dorens. [San Francisco]: n.p., [ca 1854-1856]. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [LINCOLNIANA]. Abraham Lincoln banner possibly made for the 1864 presidential campaign. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [REVOLUTIONARY WAR - CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. [HOLTEN, Dr. Samuel]. An archive of letters related to Danvers, Massachusetts, physician and statesman Dr. Samuel Holten. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD]. CARBUTT, John, photographer. Exceptional collection of 27 stereoviews from the series, "Excursion to the 100th Meridian, October 1866." Chicago, [1866]. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [ALASKAN GOLD RUSH]. William Steele West and family, extensive archive of photographs, diaries, correspondence, and personal items. [Ca 19th - 20th century]. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [TAYLOR, Zachary]. Quarter plate daguerreotype featuring the 12th President of the United States. N.p.: n.p., [ca 1845]. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [WASHINGTON, George]. Signed Society of the Cincinnati document. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph endorsement signed ("A. Lincoln"), as President. [Washington], 29 September 1862. 1 page, 4to, old creases. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <center><b>Cowan’s<br>American Historical Ephemera<br>& Photography<br>June 25, 2021</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Th. Jefferson"), as United States President, to Robert Patterson. Washington DC, 2 July 1805. 1 page, 4to, evenly toned, small tear from seal. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [EARLY PHOTOGRAPHY] -- [ALCOTT, Elizabeth Sewall]. Ninth plate ruby ambrotype attributed to Elizabeth Sewall Alcott. N.p., [ca 1856-1857]. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Cowan’s, June 25:</b> [WESTERN AMERICANA]. RUSSELL, Andrew Joseph, photographer. <i>Salt Lake City, From the Top of the Tabernacle.</i> [1869]
  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Livres et Manuscrits :<br>de Cervantès à Houellebecq<br>18 – 25 June</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 18 – 25 June:</b> Jouve, Paul -- François-Louis Schmied -- Rudyard Kipling. <i>Le Livre de la Jungle,</i> 1919.<br>€ 80,000 to € 120,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 18 – 25 June:</b> Cervantès Saavedra, Miguel de. <i>El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha.</i> Bruxelles, 1607.<br>€ 30,000 to € 50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 18 – 25 June:</b> Buren, Daniel - Aimé Césaire. Cahier d'un retour au pays natal. Solstice, 2004. 1/140 ex. Avec 1/20 suites d'œuvres originales.<br>€ 4,000 to € 6,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 18 – 25 June:</b> [Musique] - Gioacchino Traversa. Six sonates à violon seul. [Vers 1770].<br>€ 3,000 to € 5,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions