Let It Go!

Edgar Rice Burroughs Reprints with Jackets

I mentioned in last week’s story that this seems to be the “winter that wasn’t” so far. It is 57 degrees outside the warehouse on Tuesday, February 18th. The ten-day forecast isn’t calling for any snow with daytime temps in the 40s and 50s. That gets us to the end of February.

Will March descend with a lion’s fury and make us pay for the mild 2019-2020 winter?

I hope not. It might mess up the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair March 5-8.

I also mentioned the early flowering bulbs seem far ahead of their usual blooming times this year.


What has also changed is there has been NO WINTER LULL here at Wonder Book.

Just the opposite. These are phone call memos that get taped to my door. These people call and request house calls. In addition to this stack, I just stuck another half dozen slips like these in a scout’s hands. He was here dropping off 70 boxes from…a house call. And he left 84 boxes outside Sunday night.

Slider image
Slider image

We’ve never used that awful word when it comes to book buys at the stores: “NO.”

I’m getting worried we might have to.

I’ve never said “no” to books.

Well, not exactly.

This email came in over the weekend. There was a phone memo taped to my door about this lot as well.

Hi Chuck, I have 20 ERB books in fairly good condition. I was told at the Frederick, MD store that I needed to contact you to have them assessed and see what sort of an offer you would make for them.

Please contact me via this email on how we can get together so you can evaluate them. The following is a list of the titles and publishers.

Title — Publisher
Tarzan and the Leopard Men — Burroughs
Tarzan and the Ant Men — Grosset and Dunlap with Illustrated cover boards
Son of Tarzan — Grosset and Dunlap with Illustrated cover boards
Tarzan and the Golden Lion — Grosset and Dunlap with Illustrated cover boards
Tarzan of the Apes — Grosset and Dunlap
Tarzan Lord of the Jungle — Grosset and Dunlap
Tarzan the Terrible — Grosset and Dunlap
Tarzan the Untamed* — Grosset and Dunlap
* with Dust Cover, missing portion on spine otherwise in good condition
Tarzan and the Lost Empire — Grosset and Dunlap
Tarzan and the Lion Man — Grosset and Dunlap
Tarzan Triumphant — Grosset and Dunlap
Tarzan at the Earth’s Core — Grosset and Dunlap
* 3 Copies, 2 in good condition, 1 a bit rough
Land that Time Forgot — Grosset and Dunlap
Thuvia, Maid of Mars — Grosset and Dunlap
Tarzan of the Apes — A. L. Burt
Son of Tarzan — A. L. Burt
Beasts of Tarzan — A. L. Burt
Return of Tarzan — A. L. Burt

Looking forward from hearing from you soon.

I sensed the sender felt there was substantial money involved if an “assessment” was expected.

I replied:

I’m sorry.
We have almost no market for ERB in reprint.
You might try “XXX” Books [a competitor] for a second opinion.
I wish I had better news.

He replied, a little testily I thought:

Hi Chuck, I find your reply unusual since you have a shelf full of ERB books in your special vintage book section.
So be it…

Hmmmm…you can’t win sometimes. But I tried to rescue my reputation and good PR by replying:

We get so many of them now—most go to Books by the Foot. [because of their age]
If they have perfect jackets, they may go in the glass cases at the Frederick store.
If they are in open stock at a store, they likely have been there a long time.

Folks just don’t read them or collect them like they used to.
Much more supply than demand, I’m afraid.

I’ll look at the store next time I’m over there.


The slings and arrows…

I knew my offer for 20 jacketless Grosset & Dunlap Edgar Rice Burroughs books would be minimal in 2020.

25 years ago it would have been a different story. Burroughs fantasies were easily convertible into cash then. I might have offered $5 a piece for them and priced them at $15-20 if they were in good shape.

In this case, I felt discretion was the better part of valor. It would have wasted both our time. And he would have thought I was a pirate if I’d offered what they are worth nowadays. My offer wouldn’t have paid for him to transport them to us.

I don’t like it when people get mad at me. I take “business” personally. I thought I’d let him down as gently as possible.

If they had dust jackets…then I’d get a bit excited. They are so cool!

On Wednesday, I went to the Frederick store to see what he was talking about.

We’ve had these on the shelf for 5-10 years.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Reprints

And the ones in dust jacket I thought I might get excited about? These have been in our cases for way too long. Years and years…

Edgar Rice Burroughs Reprints with Jackets

The jackets didn’t excite me like I had thought they would.

Sigh…it’s depressing. They’re like old friends…or old pets. What do you do when it gets to this point? I guess we just keep caring for them…and hope.

And mark them down!

I’ve predicted a lot things pretty successfully in the used book galaxy over the years. I never would have predicted Tarzan would be unsellable. Maybe if Hollywood makes a Lord Greystoke movie…or Pellucidar…or Mars…or Venus.

Letting go…It is so hard. It is sad. You try every way you can until…it is just hopeless. You can’t get mad. Why? Just move on. But I feel my footsteps are a little heavier. Maybe something will appear…

Today I pulled the plug on one of the largest library sales we do in-house. It involved enormous pickups twice a year. We’ve been doing it for years. We have to drive long distances across the Potomac River in vans. I think it was 6 vanloads last fall. It takes a full day with 2 people in each van to prep, travel, pack, load, return and unload. 6 trips times two people is 12 days of work. That is a lot of payroll just getting the books here. After that, the sorting process begins. And we pay the library for the books on top of that! AND all the books had been picked over during their very successful sales. There are never any hidden treasures.

I hope I don’t regret it. I wanted to give them enough notice. That will give them time to find another “vendor.”

We are drowning in books. At least right now we are. And it is FEBRUARY!


What does it mean?

I’m worried.

I’m a businessman. So I’m always worried about something. Too much. Too little… Everything is a problem.

What do we do?

I guess we just keep plowing ahead. Cutting costs wherever possible. Increasing efficiencies. Faster. Better. Cheaper. MORE.


There have been some high spots this week. They’re still fun.

We’ve gotten some interesting signed books in this week already!

Chavez Signature

Hugo Chavez! LOL.

I like this one in particular.


Jake Pickle was a long time Texas Democratic congressman. The inscription relates an interesting anecdote with LBJ.

Jake Inscription

This seems to say he was a driver for LBJ when Johnson was running for Senate after 1947. Those must have been exciting times—trying to keep up with Johnson’s legendary energy. Lyndon was a “driven” man. To gain name recognition and support, he constantly toured the huge state of Texas. He sometimes shook so many hands his own hands were raw. Pickle went on to take LBJ’s congressional seat in 1963. It had been held since 1949—when Johnson went to the Senate—by Homer Thornberry. Johnson nominated Thornberry for the Supreme Court in 1968. The ways history links and flows are just amazing to me.

I have a personal connection with Pickle as well. My dad was friends with lots of Texas politicians, even though he hadn’t lived there since the 1930s. When I was a kid, I met a bunch of them at various functions like the Texas State Society picnics. I even met LBJ and Lady Bird when they came to Buffalo, NY. He was running for his own term as President in 1964. This was a campaign stop. My dad had been invited to greet his former classmate upon arrival. I was 8 or 9. We stood in a line at the bottom of the steps leading down from the plane. The President had to bend very low to reach my hand. I looked up and up and up…til I could see his face and the big cowboy hat atop his head. Lady Bird was in dazzling pink, I think—with a pink hat as well. She was so friendly.


Her accent and cadence was just like all my Texas aunts and female relations.

“BLESS your heart!”

One time my dad took me to lunch at the Congressional Dining Room in the Capitol, I was in high school… We were seated with all kinds of people whose faces I would see in The Washington Post. Pickle was there…as well as a bunch of other congressional folks currently involved in the Watergate whirlwind. I don’t recall much about the lunch. Just a bunch of old guys in suits. They were very nice to me I do recall reaching across the table to shake hands with Bob Strauss. I knocked over a goblet of water with my arm. It spilled all over the table. Fortunately, it didn’t spill on any of my dad’s friends. Still, I was mortified.

When my dad died in 1975, Jake included an homage to him inserted into the Congressional Record. “A Man for All Seasons.”

Slider image
Slider image

That was so generous and kind of him. And just so… “Texas.”

Books take you places. This book has clearly just opened many doors for me that have been shut for many years.

This week has also brought in another Presidential impression.

Slider image
Slider image

This sheaf of 30-40 8×10 photos slipped out of a nondescript Kennedy Assassination magazine. I don’t recognize any of them. Are they originals? A “discovery”? Time will tell.

…#BookRescue…and the time and hard labor that goes along with it.

We had four urgent Books by the Foot orders for “instant libraries” of cookbooks this week!

So, I had to go to two of the stores and pull duplicates and books that haven’t sold for too long a period.

Slider image
Slider image

It is fun. Therapeutic for the stores and for me! A good workout too. My belt is still too damn tight from the holidays!

This week also brought in two giant truckloads of books from ABAA colleagues. We received thousands of art books from one colleague and thousands of pre-1940 cloth and leather from another. These are books these colleagues can’t sell to readers or collectors. Most are destined to go to our Books by the Foot program. It is their only chance at #BookRescue.


We will squeeze them in. My art book friend, Kevin, also brought the missing volume of the Shakespeare elephant folio set he sold me some months ago. I bought it knowing it was incomplete, but it was just so beautiful I couldn’t resist. He told me if he found the missing volume in the New England hoard he was working on, he would bring it to me. The plates are stunning.

Shakespeare Elephant Folio

That’s the new volume atop the pile. My laptop and glasses will give you scale. Now I need to figure where to put them.

They are so BIG!

Last weekend was, as I predicted, lots and lots of searching through carts—trying to be sure we find books with value or importance among the thousands of “valueless” old books that come through here.

I left Sunday evening with a “herd” of carts pushed toward the loading docks on their way to other pastures here. It looked like this.

Sunday Carts

There are 25 or 30 carts there—including those you can’t see out on the darkened loading docks.

It is Friday morning. I’ve got to get this story to my editor, so she can post it before the end of the day.

I’m not sure what will happen in the mysterious bookstore in the next part of Round and Round. Why were those old 7-pointed hex signs hung behind paneling in the ancient stone walled room at the back of the shop? I have some suspicions…We will see if it comes together today.

The week also yielded some other surprise treasures.

I don’t know why I opened this Oliver Wendell Holmes law book yesterday. Maybe it is some kind of instinct. Or 6th sense?

Slider image
Slider image


“My Book Muse! Hurray! It has been so long! Where…”

“Get on wi’ yer tale. We can catch up later. I am oft wi’ you tho’ yer unaware.”

“So you tell me which of the thousands of books I should look inside of?”

“Pish. Finish yer tale. Perhaps I’ll join you at one of your famous Happy Hours tonight.”

“I’ll save you a stool if you want.”

Her laugh was like strummed harp hung with hundreds of tiny silver bells.

“A seat would do me nae guid. If I join ye, it will be in…spirit.”

She chuckled at her witticism. Then she said: “Look again at the Holmes book. Yer missing something!”

I sensed she had gone. Perhaps to Tir Na Nog…

‘I might get kicked out if I start speaking with her aloud at Volt or Parc Bistro,’ I thought.

But then the bartenders have come to expect odd things from me.

I’m glad she’s back. I need the companionship. I guess I also need someone to let me know which books to look into.

I went and found the Oliver Wendall Holmes book. I opened it and studied the autograph. The inscription…it was signed to James MacReynolds! MacReynolds was also a Supreme Court Justice. And MacReynolds signed it to a Mr. Copley. I wonder who Copley was? This book leapt from being “cool” to “wonderful.” A Supreme Court association copy signed by two Justices!

Thank you, beloved Muse.

I wonder if I found any of these on my own?

Signed Books

Well, with her or without her, I can predict the future, my future.

A weekend full of books and an end result that will look something like this.

Sunday Carts

OH! And I’ll need to open the packages from the LA ABAA book show!

ABAA Packages


A Gentle Madness.

Biblo Madness.

4 Comments on Article

  1. Victoria Breeden commented on

    My only hope is that you don’t become discouraged and give up on being the book-rescuer of all time! Please keep doing what you’re doing.

    1. Chuck replied on

      Thank you Victoria!
      We aren’t going anywhere.
      I just dont know if we should get bigger to accommodate “more”.

      It is still fun – mostly LOL
      Thank you for your kind and inspiring comment

  2. Susan Kavanagh commented on

    I think the excessive amounts of books coming into your stores is connected to the aging of the baby boomers and the Marie Kwondo phenomenon. So many people are downsizing. Although I find homes without books sterile and soulless, so many younger people like that “clean” look. You need to find an instagram “influencer” who shows wall of books.

    1. Chuck replied on

      Hi Susan,
      You’re right about the boomers.
      It also reflects that they are so few bookstores left.
      We are the only one I know of in the region that buys/takes “everything”.
      A lot people want “happy endings”b for there collections.
      Thus we are inundated – and flow is increasing…
      Our http://www.booksbythefoot.com helps us repurpose many books as “books”.
      But we are still getting more and more stuffed.
      And I’m getting further and further behind with the books that I need to evaluate personally.
      We are constantly working on solutions.
      The IG is good!
      Thank you fro reading and commenting!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *