The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Pulp Resources

Gary Lovisi (publisher of the essential Paperback Parade) just released his second book for Krause Publications: Dames, Dolls & Delinquents.

This book will be a much appreciated expansion on his "Social Issues" (Sex, Drugs, Juvenile Delinquents) category in The Antique Trader Collectible Paperback Price Guide. I haven't received my copy yet but if the Antique Trader is any indication it will be a fun and informative guide with tons of high quality cover reproductions.

Also, I recently hooked a new customer who blogs at Pulp Serenade:

Cullen's blog is one reader's odyssey, started because he couldn't find enough locals who shared his pulp fiction obsession. He writes long, thoughtful posts on classic era mystery, science fiction and westerns (books and film). Pay him a visit and see what he's reading.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paperback Restoration Service

In the course of adding to my vintage paperback inventory, I often come upon books that can be greatly improved through some moderate fixing-up. After handling thousands of these books, I've developed some gentle and effective restoration techniques that can turn G-VG books into gems and Poor-Fair books into serviceable reading-copies.

Here are some before and after images of my recent restoration of a rare 1st of Black Wings Has My Angel, a PBO by Elliott Chaze.

As I received it:

Text block slanted and cracked into several pieces, peeling/splitting to spine and some deep creasing to the corners that were threatening to break away.

Using professional techniques and archival bookbinding materials I turned this into a square/solid, fair-good copy.

More pics from the restoration: 1, 2, 3, 4

These are repairs I regularly perform:
  • tipping in loose pages
  • fixing cracked bindings
  • reinforcing heavy creases
  • re-squaring spines
  • removing/minimizing spots and stains
  • closing page tears
  • restoring cover gloss
and more.

I have this down to a one man assembly line procedure and can get through large stacks of books quickly.

I don't believe in--nor am I capable of--erasing all signs of age and character, but I do believe in preserving the book in a solid (and potentially readable) state and slowing or halting deterioration.

Since I'm doing so many of these for myself I thought I would extend the service to other collectors. Simple book repairs can be done for $4-15 per book. More complex and time-consuming repairs and can be costed out ahead of time.

Do you have vintage PBs that need some TLC? Contact me and we'll work out the terms.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Junk in My Trunk: May 16, 2009

(click on the photo to go to the flickr page with annotations)

My stoop sale haul from this past weekend. My life will be greatly improved by darts, waffles, and Mojo. Plus I have the electronics lab in case I have to work on a career switch.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Buying Book Inventory: Striking the Right Balance

Due to drastically slowing sales volume--leading to nervous tic refreshing of my inbox and blank staring at the internets wondering "Is this thing on?"--I've been rethinking my buying strategies recently.

Back when the world wasn't like this, I could count on Amazon and eBay as income pillars and the five others venues I list on as light gravy with the occasional surprise. My buying was divided about 60-40 between eBay / estate sale finds (slower selling but more interesting and financially rewarding) and thrift store hunting (ISBN checked quick-selling utility titles). I bought until I felt like stopping--based mostly on gut.

This is no longer working. My Amazon sales are down to the equivalent of an entry level job in a no future industry and--because of exhaustion and disgust at the high maintenance and ever changing conditions at eBay--my storefront has been nearly empty.

Starting NOW I'm going to much more strategically look at how I buy (a bookdealer is like a can't stop buying or you die) and try to more effectively sell what I have. I'm going to total my monthly fixed expenses, see what's left over and allocate that mostly to--hopefully--quick-selling stock.

I can't ignore eBay because so many people are unloading good books at desperation prices but the at least 3-week delay between sending a paypal payment for an auction won and the day you can relist that item has become a barrier. I need to focus on only the most promising lots and bid at 15-20% of my presumed resale price rather than my usual 25-35%.

Sales-wise, I'm starting to repopulate my eBay store focusing on speciality areas in a way that will hopefully attract multi-book buyers. I'm uploading vintage paperbacks in select batches of collector friendly authors and genres. I've included an explicit and straight forward shipping chart that should encourage bundling (especially for international sales). And as always I'm auctioning crack lots of common and low-grade titles in the hope that buyers will come back for the heavy stuff when they see the care and attention I give my product.

I'm also digging out those 'reseach' items that are stuffed in drawers and getting them listed (since they're long paid for) and opportunistically buying up cheap non-book items (toys, games, wacky crap) that I’ll quickly turnaround and--again...hopefully--pay for the slower selling books I pick up.

So, that's all I got. As a bookdealer how are you wading through the quicksand?

METAPHORICAL LESSON LEARNED: A bookdealer is like a dying--yet hopeful--shark in quicksand.

But seriously people. Support your favorite bookdealer (even if it's not me). It's cheaper than a bank bail-out, war, or health care and you'll have a new BFF.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book CSI: Dumbass Killfile

I recently listed a first paperback edition of Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and--in the process of pricing my copy--I noticed one on ABE that was underpriced and restorable so I bought it up.

This is what I received in the mail:

Transparent plastic baggy, no padding or stiffeners whatsoever and--if that wasn't bad enough-- the bookseller had stuck an inventory label directly on the spine of a delicate 58-year-old paperback.

After a careful 10-minute application of sticker removal the best I could do was this...

I recovered and readherred the chip, but what a pain in the ass.

It's true that I was deliberately buying a low-grade book from someone who doesn't know how to catalog or price a book but do they have to suck at their trade so badly that they damage books more than they already are (and more than is described in their listing)?

I was so livid that I ended up spending 45-minutes restoring a maybe $25 dollar book.

As of now I'm officially starting my dumbass killfile of booksellers that I will never buy from again. Does anyone have such a list going already? Want to share info?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Studying Filth

I picked up three "Tijuana Bibles" (8-page erotic comics from the 1930s-1950s) at a flea market recently and I thought my process of researching them was worth documenting.

Tijuana Bibles were illegal to sell in most states, there's no publication information or artist signatures in the booklets, and they were widely pirated and reprinted. So dating them is a bit of an art form.

TBs were distributed more like drugs than like paperbacks. To buy them you had to know a guy who had a connection. We he needed a restock, he had to contact his source and usually drive to pick up new stock personally (since sending "obscene" materials through the mails and across state lines was--and sometimes IS--a serious offense). The source usually had one or two in-house artists who drew the material (generally parodies of movie stars, comic characters or headline makers) or else would shamelessly reprint TBs acquired from another source.

Knowing this I looked at my three newly acquired TBs. All are bound in the same manner--a one-piece folded cover with a single staple in the middle; are on similar paper stock; and show the same level of age toning, so they're all likely from the same source/publisher from around the same time. They're also likely first printings or from the original art. I determined this by the vivid, high contrast reproduction. Later printings can appear faded or difficult to read because of detail loss (which has sometimes been filled-in or redrawn by a second, less-skilled hand).

Two of the bibles are generic gags and feature unrecognizable characters but the third is a parody of the Casey Ruggles strip by Warren Tufts with started in 1949 and ran until 1955. So we can safely put the bibles somewhere in the 1950-52 range (TB publishers were quick to find new material to parody so I'm putting these in the early years of the Casey Ruggles strip's run). Were the Ruggles bible not part of the lot, I might attempt to date these by the gag contents...or the folk popularity of French hair dressers and cunnilingus, but that would be trickier.

Lastly I believe all of the bibles were drawn by the same unknown artist. This is due to the identical cross-hatching/shading technique in each of the bibles, the similarity of the figures and the joke contents (which all seem fairly progressive for the medium--showing a woman coming out on top--and are actually funny and well-told).

Here are the bibles in question (NOT WORK SAFE repeat NOT WORK SAFE): Andrie's Beauty Shoppee, These High City Prices, Casey Ruggles

...and if you're seeing this on my Facebook page and happen to be a family member or old grade school teacher DO NOT CLICK ON THESE LINKS (or at least don't tell me about it).