Sunday, March 16, 2014

At the Florida book fair

During my annual visit to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Pete, I was, as usual, struck by the prices of books I would love to own but never will. Again this year the biggest price tag I noticed was  for Hemingway's first book, Three Stories & Ten Poems. Few copies of that book were printed in 1923. One dealer wanted $47,500 for his.

The price asked for a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's  Tender Is the Night (1934) was $22,500. Yet a first edition of Thoreau's Walden (1854) was going for $15,000. I don't know know why the Fitzgerald is more highly valued than the Thoreau. Is it a matter of supply or demand?

Bernard Malamud's The Natural (1952) had a price of $2,500, the same as Through the Looking Glass (1872) by Lewis Carroll.

Sometimes the same edition of a book was available from more than one dealer, which meant a little competition that might have benefitted anyone interested in that particular book. Look Homeward, Angel (1929) cost $6,500 in one stall and $16,500 in another. The difference? The latter was signed by Thomas Wolfe.

The complete Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-55) was priced at $17,500 by one dealer and $12,500 by another. I don't know what the difference was. One first edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) by Betty Smith was for sale for $3,750. Another had a price of $8,500. I would have liked to compare the two of them side by side.

One price that really surprised me was $4,750 for J.P. Marquand's The Late George Apley (1937). I would have never guessed anything by Marquand would be worth that much.

Needless to say, I didn't spend four or five figures (or even three) for a book at the fair. I did buy a nice first edition of Larry McMurtry's memoir Walter Benjamin & the Dairy Queen for ten bucks. I bought it to read, not as a collectable.

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