That’s My Kind of Superbowl

We spent Superbowl Sunday — where else? — at a book fair.  Here are a few observations.

Paper books are not dead.  Believe it.  In fact, modern First Editions are worth quite a lot of cash.  And by modern I mean books that came out in the last century.  Who knew a F.E. Chuck Palahniuk book, like CHOKE, which came out just 11 years ago, could go for $400?

Hardbacks, and their covers, are art.  Check out the original cover of SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE — the arch is like the entrance to a holy vestibule.  Or how about the yellow spotlight, both shining on and encapsulating the human figure, on DEATH OF A SALESMAN.  Or how about the orange and green A and M on Auggie March.

A certain je ne sais quoi.  Speaking of SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE, I stood before one F.E. wherein Mr. Vonnegut had not only signed it but, around his signature, drew a caricature of himself.  I almost totally lost my senses when I saw this.  Thank god it was behind glass.  I remember taking in a sharp breath of air.  I looked away from the price.  I had to get the heck out of there before I did something really stupid.  Like write a check.

Never never clip the price.  Of course I’ve done it, too, when giving a gift.  But it’s kind of silly, right?  I mean, don’t we all know how much books cost?  Cutting the price out of a F.E. book greatly decreases it’s value.  I saw so many folks spot a book and get excited about it’s pristine condition, only to sag in the shoulders when they saw the price had been lopped off.

Cocktail hour, all day long.   There was a full bar.  I guess it’s kind of like going to an auction: they figure if you get all liquored up, you’ll more easily whip out the credit card.  I spotted said bar from a distance.  I wasn’t about to go near there, knowing that Vonnegut book was in the house.

Window shopping can be fun.  I hate to shop, hate it, but sashaying from booth to booth to check out what the sellers had, to see the creativity (or lack thereof) in their displays, to be surprised by an original Jane Austen or Mark Twain, could make you downright euphoric.  Or catatonic.  Depending.

The Unread.  One thing I love about library books is their worn-out-ness, but of course a book is much more valuable if it looks like it’s never been read.  While I understand this (well, duh) doesn’t it somehow seem counterintuitive?  Who buys an expensive hardback book and never cracks it?

Harry Potter.  It’s been well-documented I’m not a Harry Potter fan.  I read about 50 pages of the first one and said ho-hum.  This place was crawling with F.E.’s of HARRY POTTER.  And they’re pricey.  If you’re one of those folks who waited in line at midnight to buy the First Printings, hang on to them.  And if they haven’t been read?  All the better!  But what are the chances of that?  Unless you’re me.

32 thoughts on “That’s My Kind of Superbowl

  1. amyg


    thanks for sharing these. good god i love books.

    i’m on tangents all over the place today (see bobbi’s–btw, have you seen her book launch announcement!? (and yet, another tangent)). anyhoo, years ago, my aunt was friends with a local english teacher-slash-philanthropist who volunteered at the famous mary anderson arts center in floyds knobs, indiana (ha ha). they snagged a guest appearance with kurt vonnegut who was doing a reading across the river at the kentucky arts center in louisville (that really is kinda famous). i got to go to his smaller reading in indiana and took my sister to the reading/talk he did in louisville.

    while at the mary anderson center, he agreed to do a quick workshop with local high school seniors. the kids read one of his works and wrote essays, top essays were picked to meet with kurt.

    my friend’s aunt told a great story about meeting with him to go over details for the student workshop. he made a joke, something about, “…so, do i get a pick of your virgins?” the friend’s response didn’t miss a beat when she told him, “they’re seniors in high school; good luck finding one.”

    i love that story. i also love my aunt’s friends. there’s a group of four or five of them that this lady belongs to. they all let me interview them years back when i was researching an article on menopause. i showed up and one of them asked what kind of information i was looking to get and i said, “let’s just start with your feelings on it.” one of the friends said: “well it sucks a big fat donkey dick.”

    i still use that quote today.
    but i digress.

    1. Teri

      Hahahahaha! And “good luck finding one.” Love it!

      You saw Mr. Vonnegut in person. I am painfully, painfully jealous. And I’ll need more details. Of course. In person, over coffee.

  2. Laura

    Wait….do you mean people cut the book itself to get rid of the price? Like cut a hole on the back cover? Really? I feel like I’m missing something. I’ve never done this or received a book that had been physically harmed to remove the price — sure, I’ve had books that have been roughed up by someone trying to claw the bookstore sticker off, or they even take a black marker to the printed-on price, but the thought of taking scissors to a book makes me want to scream a little. I hope I’m wrong and people don’t actually do this!

    1. Teri

      They don’t clip the actual hard cover of the book. They clip the jacket, just inside on the front flap. Snip snip!

      Sorry for not making that clear. I imagine you reading this post, thinking, “What are they doing?! Stabbing the book!!! Trying to kill it!!!” Apologies.

    2. Sarah W

      This used to be standard practice, Laura, when the price of books were printed on the upper loose corner of the front or rear inside bookflap.

      No barcodes, no major butchery (depending on how you feel about it), just one small diagonal snip and no one could tell how much—or how little—you paid for their birthday present.

      1. Teri

        I always used to clip out the prices. Never thought a thing about it. Of course that was back when I had no idea people bought used books as an investment. Who knew?!

  3. girl in the hat

    “A book is much more valuable if it looks like it’s never been read” reminds me of the library scene with the owl-glasses man in The Great Gatsby. A library full of unread books seems like the height of decadence to me– like Roman orgies, even, consumption for no good reason. (Loved this post!)

    1. Teri

      That is exactly what is seems like! Thanks for pointing out that scene. I’m off to look it up now. 🙂

  4. Lyra

    Oh the pretty!
    This is the only, the absolute only kind of shopping I can get behind. How much was the Vonnegut? Did you really not see it?
    I wanted to get my husband one of his drawings before he passed away and I couldn’t afford it. Then he passed on, and now it’s definitely out of the question.
    So my husband got a t-shirt with his Vonnegut’s self-portrait on it.

    Speaking of books…so remember that book The Marriage Plot? I borrowed my husband’s copy and stuffed it in my bag that I take on the train. The jacket got ripped in the corner, I think there’s a coffee stain…and let’s just say that my husband loves me dearly to have only said, “My book!”

    I’m not meant to be a collector. My books have to withstand too much travel. And too much me.

    1. Teri

      I asked my husband. He looked. He says the one with the caricature was $7,500. And there was also one without his signature (which I, apparently failed to notice) priced at $1,100.


  5. macdougalstreetbaby

    I love looking at these covers. They’re like time capsules. I just shot the cover to my daughter’s elementary school yearbook. Yes, I know. It’s disturbing that an elementary school has a yearbook but the point is that we decided to do an I SPY sort of picture so that 20 years from now they could look back and be reminded of things that took center stage in their lives. There’s a copy of a Harry Potter DVD with the price still on. I hadn’t thought of it before but you’ve given me reason to like it. Who knows if in 20 years that will be too much or too little?

  6. schietree

    One Spanish student I was teaching in Scotland a few years ago was collecting all the Harry Potter editions she could find – especially if they were in different languages. I wonder how many she has, and if she knows how valuable they are now?

    1. Teri

      That’s a good thing — it’s apparently lucrative to have entire collections where you also have foreign editions. Do you know how many she has?

  7. Hope Perlman

    Feeling very guilty about cutting off price on book this holiday season. On top of feeling stupid, because the husband got two copies of the book, both with prices removed, so he couldn’t exchange one at the local indie bookstore.

    But now I will remember, and put a little sticker over the price.

    1. Teri

      Oh no! There are way more things for us to feel guilty about! I think I only stopped doing this months ago …. who knew? But I will say the Book People at these shows are so much fun to talk to.

  8. Averil Dean

    CARRIE!!! Gimme that.

    I do love the way the cover designs have changed over the years, how you can tell without checking what decade the edition came from.

    (And I love the Harry Potters. It’s awful of me, I know, as they’re written for children. But I find them completely charming and whimsical. The movies too.)

    1. Teri

      I thought of you every time I saw a Chuck Palahniuk book. If I could have picked one up for cheap, I would have. But they were so pricey!

  9. Erika Marks

    And this is why we are ALL kindred spirits…Superbowl, Schmuperbowl. (Though I do always check the score of the Puppy Bowl, I will admit.)

    Oh, what fun you must have had. I have never been to a Book Fair like this. Now I want to know why I haven’t. Sounds like a dream day.

    And what a wonderful tidbit about the price. Oh, yes, I was raised to cut those little corners. Now, I’ll pause before I do. You’re so right–we all know what books cost–what’s the big secret?

  10. Catherine

    Love the graphics here. It must have been a fab afternoon!

    My friend has a small library in his apartment and it is my favourite place to sit and breathe quietly.

  11. Bobbi

    I loves me a good book fair. I went to a much smaller one here in France and the older gilded children’s books were breathtaking. So artfully designed, right fancy. I miss my books.

  12. Paul Lamb

    I’ve spoken with several book sellers who say that different buyers look for different qualities in used books. Many, they tell me, want pristine books, but many others look for marginalia, notes, inscriptions, dog ears, and other signs that the book has been through many hands and had many lives. One even said a particular customer favored books previously owned by smokers, believe it or not!

    1. Teri

      You’re right, Paul. And this is why the book people are all so fascinating — well, this, and the fact that they can discuss books in so many more ways than I can.

      When my brother-in-law passed away, we brought home boxes of his books. He was a smoker and, sadly, those books have to stay in our garage, that’s how strong the smell is. And me with my mother who died of emphysema, I just can’t take the smoke smell…. Which is too bad because he loved literary fiction and owned some great books.

  13. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    Give me a book fair over the Super Bowl any day! Wowza!

    I’d have loved the Harry Potter section though. I still think you should give the series a second chance. Great stories and wonderful characters.

    And I have to wonder how much my collection of autographed books would go for? I have signed books by J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, John Irving, S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders… swoon), Elizabeth Berg, and Joyce Carol Oates. And of course, Betsy Lerner.

    Great books aside though, I’d still have spent much time congregating around the open bar.

  14. Angela LaForest

    I love my collection of first editions. It’s small but growing! Anyone touches them, they catch hell in my house…lol

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