Sunday, September 16, 2007

'Tis the season

for yard sales. Actually 'tis almost past the season, but they're still going strong. Even though it's a Sunday, I figured there would be plenty of yard sales today because yesterday was a washout and it's absolutely gorgeous out now. So we went out this morning and spent about three hours roaming around finding cool stuff. A pretty Polish stoneware teapot, a pin, some video games. I go to yard sales regularly, and have my own every couple of years, and I've found books to be incredibly hard to sell at yard sales, and I rarely buy them when I go. Condition is so important and most books at yard sales are the dregs- the battered, the old, the ugly, the water-damaged, the torn.

Once in a while you find a curiousity like the 1923 Fannie Farmer cookbook I found yesterday, but having bought it for a mere quarter and spent a few minutes ooo-ing and ahh-ing over the quaint, outdated recipes I have no idea what I'm going to do with it now except put it into my next yard sale. I consider myself lucky to find anything even readable. I found a somewhat old (1983) hardcover for 50 cents that I'm going to give to the library where I work, but that's it.

Oh and sometimes I buy books because I plan to trade them, but you've got to be careful with that. Books at yard sales are by definition not current so be careful not to buy yet another copy of that best seller from three years ago which is now flooding the book-trade market. I almost considered using my husband's Blackberry to check the swap site I use before I buy books for trading purposes but that's a little retentive even for me. I bought an Anna Maxted paperback (in very good condition, natch) for $1 at a sale thinking, hey, chick lit is popular, right? and then found out there are already 50 copies of it on my favorite swap site. Darn. But then you never know. A week or so later I got a Terry Pratchett novel at another sale, and I traded it within 24 hours.

Once I decided to finally settle down and read a certain lengthy literary novel written by a famous South American writer after I realized I'd bought two different copies at two different yard sales. I guess I wanted to read it a lot more than I thought I did!

As far as selling, presentation is so important. If you just throw them in a box, forget it. Most people aren't going to weed through grocery bags and smelly cardboard. Remember you're selling. Lay them out nice on a table, and only offer interesting books in good condition. And be flexible and remember it's about community spirit and goodwill, not just about making money. I've given away books rather than sell them sometimes when it's something like a poetry anthology going to a child. My husband and I are having a yard sale in a few weeks and I'm trying to decide if it's even worth it to sell books at all. The most you can charge for most paperbacks is $1 and I get better value trading them even if it costs me a little upfront to mail them out.

It's all recycling and it's all better than throwing them out. As far as donating books, working in a library cluttered with unwanted donations has soured me on donating books, because I don't want to do to someone else what's been done to the library I work in. So I'll continue to work the used book market in my own way.

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