Sunday, January 02, 2011

Is this Nancy Drew book Rare? Sleuthing at eBay #17

As a long-time collector, I feel the need to help educate those who are not as involved in knowing what exactly you are collecting and those new to collecting Nancy Drew books. There are a lot of book sellers out there who don't know what they have or don't understand what it takes to actually date a Nancy Drew book (by having a guide/etc.) and often go by a copyright date ( a red herring in the case of these books) or other misinformation they pick up. Seasoned booksellers however, generally do know what they have or they should know... ;-)

So I'm going to from time to time, highlight something that's stated to be "RARE" and is most definitely NOT Rare...And I'll tell you why it's not rare so you don't fall for that "RARE" trap in the future.

The basic definition of rare is something that is "seldom occurring or found." You know how they sometimes say an eclipse--like the recent lunar eclipse--is rare because it hasn't occurred in hundreds of years? So how can something that reappears on eBay frequently be so rare. To those that should know better: If it's so rare, why is it often being sold for less than $10.00? Or even $50.00? If you're so proud that it's so rare, why aren't you auctioning it off at Sotheby's so you can get more than $50.00 for it? I think you all get the picture...

Bottom line in collecting Nancy Drew books? It boils down to common sense. If someone is shouting out to you that it's rare, but listing it for a few bucks and if you search for it you find a bunch more just like it, then chances are 99.9% likely it's not so rare. As always, buyer beware. Do your homework before jumping in.

Book: The Secret at Shadow Ranch--Format 1/1st Printing Book

Why it's NOT Rare: While it is a format one and could be a first printing book, these come up for sale too often to qualify by definition as rare. Scarce might be a more accurate term, but even that is a stretch. The dust jacket for this book might qualify as scarce as it seldom comes up for sale.

Book: The Mystery at Lilac Inn -- 3rd art cover in dust jacket, only issued in 2 printings this way.

Why it's NOT Rare: In the last week there were 9 of these listed at eBay/Bonanza/My Website. At any given time on eBay, there are usually several for sale. I really wouldn't even consider this scarce. Earlier last year I purchased 2 at eBay and then went to the Nancy Drew convention in FL and found 2 or 3 copies in a bookstore we visited.

Book: Twin Thriller Book Club edition of The Mystery of the Ivory Charm and The Whispering Statue. These came out in the 1970s.

Why it's NOT Rare: It's incredibly easy to find, there are tons of these on the market.

Book: The Secret of the Old Clock. Not a first printing.

Why it's NOT Rare: It comes up for auction pretty often in this style--various printing years, while this one may be from 1932, that alone does not make it rare.

Book: Mystery at the Ski Jump. Yellow spine picture cover printing from the 1970s.

Why it's NOT Rare: This book is listed at a VERY laughable $99.00. It's probably worth in its shape about $2.00. Not only is it not even close to being a first printing of this book (which isn't rare either), there's nothing rare/scarce/unusual or even very interesting about it. The seller even states in their auction listings, "There are hardly any surviving copies of this book left. Most of them have been destroyed over the years." Um...seriously!?? Then whey are so many more of these books listed at eBay all the time?



keeline said...

Standard Webster definitions of "rare" and "scarce" do not address the nuance of how these terms are used in the book trade.

One excellent resource is John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors (Oak Knoll Press) which is currently in its 8th edition. This book is available as a free PDF from the ILAB web site.

I highly recommend this book. No matter how many times one looks at this, there's always something new to learn from it.

During my time as the manager of an antiquarian bookstore specializing in children's books like these series (1988-2000) we had occasion to speak with many dozens of booksellers about this topic. What is a "rare" book and what is merely "scarce". It is not merely a case of degree.

A "scarce" book is one where there is a greater demand than the available supply in collectible condition. Hence, if a book is common but always seen in "good" or worse condition, those lesser copies may not inspire demand though a "very good" or better copy, especially with a dust jacket, may indeed be in demand. Ratios of supply and demand can push a perceived value for a book up.

A "rare" book is one very seldomly seen. To qualify, several sellers said that it would be a book that a full-time dealer that specializes in that field of the book in question might see once in a lifetime career in the business. A scarce book might be seen once a year or more by that seller.

Of course, eBay changes the dynamics of things and many items that were exceedingly scarce before eBay show up with regularity. Part of this is timing and another part is a factor of a high-priced item attracting other similar copies to be sold.

For example, I have an 1870 Raven, supposedly the first separate edition of this poem. I paid a low 3-figure sum for it, perhaps even less. However, when I saw a copy offered in the mid 4-figures last February, I have to ask myself, how much do I want that book vs. the income it might realize, especially when finances are tight.

Books can become more common as the people who remember and held them either pass on or move into smaller places. With children's books it is often people of a certain age group who are interested in a given book because it is remembered from their childhoods. Only when a book or author transcends this time frame to have demand well after the period when the books would normally be remembered.


keeline said...

The store in this photo has so many "rare books" that it bought a neon sign to announce it to evening passers by.

Rare Books Neon Sign


Anonymous said...

I saw the exact same listing at Ebay myself, Jenn! Laughable? You bet! Had to do a double-take.

KsMadMan (Junior) said...

I like having anomolies---I admit, I sought out some interesting printings of Nancy Drew, and when I found some cheap, early (possibles firsts) of the Danas from their wartime years, I bought them. I bought some early NDs at a somewhat knowledgable bookseller in Nebraska and ended up with two first printings and a second printing for a great price. I was hoodwinked back when eBay was new and remembered those professional series book dealers telling me how hard to find some of these books are. I think 1961 Lilac Inn and Fire Dragon both must have had HUGE print runs. They are NOT hard to find. (I think FG has them overpriced).

Jenn said...

JR--Yes I agree, Lilac Inn does show up fairly often, though sometimes it's because the same sellers keep relisting their copies, they aren't selling for their prices. 2nd art Hollow Oak wrap dj is very hard to find in comparison.