When I first opened the bookstore, I was adamant that it was going to be a store for readers, not collectors. I was not going to sell first editions; I was going to sell books for people who liked to read, I was a man of the people not a curator, blah blah blah. Then somebody brought in a first edition of War of the Worlds and, feeling that piece of history in my hands, it took me about 30 seconds to throw out my rule and carry some collectable books.
One busy Saturday, I had a line at the register and a woman came in with a box of books to donate to the store. I invited her to wait a moment and I would let her know how much credit I could give her, but she said not to worry about it—she had just tried to sell these books at a garage sale and she just wanted to get rid of them. On the side of the box read “Old Kids Books $1 Each.”
About a week later, one of the New Hope floods came and I had to pack up every book in the story. Martines (a restaurant across the street) let me pile up books on her tables (I would eat at a restaurant like that!), friends and customers loaded up their vans and cars and we emptied the store.
We already had a second store in Trenton, and we decided to close up the New Hope store and deliver all the books to Trenton. We still hadn’t opened that box of kids’ books.
It took us months to settle in to the Trenton store, unpacking, sorting and shelving all the books from New Hope. It was maybe six months later I opened the box of books.
It included a first edition early Maurice Sendak A Hole is the Dig ($150) and a first edition Tasha Tudor ($800). But the mind blowing book was a first edition (200/200 on the price tab of the flap) of The Cat in the Hat. It was in perfect condition, no single mark or scuff, no price clip. It looked unread. List price? $7,000. (We eventually sold it wholesale to another bookstore for about $2,000).
What an amazing collection of books, which had sat unwanted in a box at a garage sale for $1.
There is something essentially human about used books. Life may leave us a little battered and worn, but we still have the capacity to inspire, to teach, to entertain, to love and be loved.
And no matter how unwanted we may feel at times, how neglected and overlooked, all it takes is the right person to open our covers and recognize us for the treasure we are.