Captain's Log: The Story of the Book Seller (Dustjacket Bio)

A Bookseller’s Story

June 29, 2021

Some call me Captain Jeff the Bookseller.

I am the other Jeff (not to be confused with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos).

I was once an American Soldier (for 26 years). Now, I sell books.


I deal in recycled thought.

Occasionally, I deal in the rare original thought.


The Captain’s Log

The Book Adventure Stories



I am a book detective. I investigate, acquire (sometimes not in that order) and sell for a slight profit, interesting books. On rare occasions, I read the book before I sell it! I enjoy discovering past and current truths. The Captain’s Log is my book discovery adventure series (nonfiction about fiction).


What types of books do I buy and sell?


Bottom Line: I sell all genres of used fiction and non-fiction books to include professional academic journals and maps. On occasion, I sell select new books and a few pieces of sheet music. Even rarer, I acquire, buy, and sell a rare book or two. Rare books are rare. On my budget they are extremely rare.


My primary interest is American military history, but that is another story.

Currently, my best-selling items are science fiction, fantasy, religion/spirituality, history, biographies, mystery, and true crime. Eclectic (broad and wide-ranging to include the odd) topics are also great sellers. One never knows what can be found in the shoppe. Vintage and antique (antiquarian) books move rapidly in and out of the store - generally never getting listed online.


The market ebbs and flows with the tide of consumer (and my) interests. I deal in what ethically pays the bills. I enjoy selling science fiction but am not a Ferengi expert that has read every work by Ray Bradbury.


Edgar Allen Poe is credited with being “the “Father” of the detective story” way back in the year 1841.[i] I repeatedly sell Poe stories and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s old-world books about Sherlock Holmes.


Doyle’s Holmes is the classic disorganized detective - which is often the state customers find my shoppe. Stacked books from clients wanting an investigation tower along the walkway. When my store is pristine, every book perfectly aligned on the shelf, business is financially boring. When the store has boxes of books randomly placed here and there, clients go into a buying frenzy. I prefer to consider myself a bit more modern than the 1800s Strand Magazine Sherlock Holmes. I am a Columbo-type of book detective.



Store History:

Building the Book Empire


Captain's Book Shoppe LLC was formed in 2017. The brick and mortar storefront opened on 10 June 2018. The first few years were ones of experimentation to determine what sold, and what did not sell. One constant trend was that people liked and bought mysteries. Every year before the predicted first blizzard, clients came into and continue to come in the store looking for what I call comfort fiction- a good mystery or thriller. Clients look forward to hunkering down for a few days and weathering the storm with some escapism books. The known constant that makes bookselling enjoyable is the guaranteed daily mystery. Every day is filled with an intriguing book that I have never seen. I am often asked where and how I acquired all of these treasures. Those answers can be found in my blog series: The Captain's Log.


Book Appraisals

versus

Assessing Book Value


An appraisal is a written document (with photos) that can be used as legal testimony regarding value of a book or books. Fair market value is defined as the cash or cash-equivalent price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller (retail used bookstore), both being informed of the relevant facts, and neither being compelled to buy or sell. As a bookdealer, I know about a portion of the book market and book values for certain books. I do written book appraisals for local clients after a twenty-five dollar retainer fee is paid.


Before we get to the paid appraisal phase, there is the free of charge book assessment phase. Some books may not be worth the cost of a written appraisal. Secondly, I do not have a passion for Shakespeare or Robert Louis Stevenson and may simply pass on appraising impressively bound, mass produced books. They may have value, they are simply items that don't peak my curiosity. Edgar Allan Poe is a different story.


Vintage books interest me. They hold the clues to understanding the mysteries of our time. What an author chose to write and omit fascinates me when I compare those thoughts to different time periods. As a historian, I am more interested in the battered, highly read and marked up books. Old battered books are interesting because it is a sign that a person or multiple people actually read that book. How persuasive was the book during that and subsequent time periods?


As a bookdealer, I generally ignore battered, soiled books because there is little chance they will sell for a retail profit. Soiled, vintage tattered books take up warehouse or retail display space with minimal chance of breaking financially even. Each square foot costs money. It takes time (which is money) to accurately list each book defect, photograph it and then list it online.


Which books have value, which ones don't?

There is an exception to every rule.


Occasionally, hard to find, expensive First Editions books cause collectors to covet Book Club editions. Why certain "Book Of The Month Club" books increase in value over time, and others are worthless is a fascinating topic. Subject matter, and book condition matter.

Determining book value is a fun mystery to solve. When clients bring me their books the first thing I determine is if they are looking to sell the book to Captain's Book Shoppe LLC or if they want to know the approximate value of the book. It is a critical nuance. Honesty is the key. Book dealers develop a reputation in rural Iowa. If they are fair, knowledgeable, and honest; the business may survive and could potentially thrive. Bookstores are like restaurants, most will not survive. "Around 60 percent of new restaurants fail within the first year. And nearly 80 percent shutter before their fifth anniversary."[ii] Why good books don't increase in value is similar to the mystery of why some great bookstores or good restaurants fail. The market is fickle. It is a never ending mystery similar to Soldiering. Why some perish and others do not has a bit to do with luck and _______. A vast number of people are curious to know if those old books the family currently possesses can be turned into immediate or future cash. During my first free consult, I give them tips so they can do the work themselves and refer them to other local, and internet sources they can use. Initial book value assessments are free. Most clients are simply looking for a book value assessment.


Some families when determining the value of their estate, prefer a written appraisal for their book or books. I charge $25 an hour after the initial free assessment phase. As a general book practitioner, I refer clients to specialists that appraise their types of extremely valuable books. There are simply too many books and languages in the world to be an expert in everything there is to know about all books. How many lifetimes of study would it take to know such a thing? Once we go down the paid appraisal road, I will not attempt to market or buy the appraised books. Just as Iowa farmers would never sell their farm to the appraiser, I don't attempt to buy books I was paid to appraise.


I wasn’t always a bookseller; in fact, I only started selling books in 2017, thus I am somewhat new to this venerable profession of bookselling. Before I sold books, as stated before: I collected them. I was also a professional soldier for three decades. (Government math means I left active military service at a pay rate of over thirty-one years, but my pension is at twenty-six.) Details matter with government bean counters and when evaluating and describing fine books on the internet. Soldiering taught me to never underestimate those that I encounter. I look at each book - wondering what story it tells.


I am a general book practitioner. I make no claims at being a Romulan battlecruiser book expert. I make a fair living selling escapism, fantasy, and on occasion perceptions of our real world. My clients are the experts that school me on a wide range of topics, from bookmaking, printing, repair, authors, and even Romulan starship battlecruisers. I deal in quality books at reasonable prices. If you have questions, call, or stop by the store.


During my later years in the military, one of my greatest skills was assessing a problem or task and finding the right person or team to successfully address the issue. If you have an interesting book, I may be able to find you a buyer or recommend other reputable experts that may offer you a second or third opinion concerning your book. Ethically, as a bookseller, I have not spoken to these dealers (colluded with them) about how they conduct their book craft.


“The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient." St. Augustine. Humility is an indispensable attribute… #NT4S[iii]


As a collector that has purchased fine books for three decades, some dealers, over time, continually impress me. I recommend the dealers from whom I buy books from when I am on vacation. There is also the group of book experts that have mentored me along my way of self-discovery.


Soldiers do not talk about classified technologies or missions. As a bookseller I do not tell public tales about my clients. [Read more about Captain’s Book Shoppe LLC Privacy Policy: https://www.captainsbookshoppe.com/privacy-policy ] I know how to maintain confidentiality. I traveled the world and enjoyed remaining anonymous while browsing around bookstores, bazaars, and markets. Thus, I sell books in the manner that I prefer to buy books.



How valuable is a book?


Books increase and decrease in value over time. A specific book may indeed have value, but it takes time to find a buyer willing to pay premium prices. The book dealer that knows who is buying and fairly brokers the deal between seller and buyer is who I am and continually strive to be (Be, Know, Do: Extrapolated from U.S. Army Leadership Manual FM 22-100, August 1999). I confidentially connect people that are ethically selling and buying books. Successful transactions by satisfied clients creates more leads and an ever growing book network.


Some books have immense value. The Bible is the most published book in the world. Used Bibles are common and often have sentimental value, but generally carry minimal retail market value. The Gutenberg Bible is generally thought to be the most valuable book in the world. Experts believe Johannes Gutenberg printed approximately 180 Bibles in the early 1450s in Mainz, Germany. (Book dealers discover facts after public court cases about the real publishing numbers when the authors, publishers, and investors are in dispute. Such was the case with Gutenberg and his business partner.) The last known sale of a complete Gutenberg Bible was in 1987 for a reported $5.4 million. Today, History.com suggests that a complete Gutenberg Bible would net around $35 million at an auction. Professionals are not going to base a book value off History.com, but you get the idea of how the legends and lore of bookselling can evolve.[iv]


Experts and professional collectors generally specialize. The specialists know where the exceptionally rare and valuable books are located. New finds of ancient and valuable books are rare. When such instances occur, warfare, theft or forgeries are the initial factors a bookdealer must consider. The more intriguing the book, the longer it may take to assess.


A rare book is traditionally defined as "any book which has an enhanced value because the demand for the book exceeds the supply, usually because of its importance, scarcity, age, condition, physical and aesthetic properties, association, or subject matter. If there is no demand for a book, it will probably not become a rare book even if the other factors exist. It is of little or no value if no one wants it. Demand can change as interests change." (Source: U.S. National Park Service, Conserve O Gram 19/1 July 1993)


Sophia Rare Books in Denmark recently listed the ten-volume first edition military classic Vom Krieg published in the years 1832–1837 for $48,500. Yes, certain old books do have a monetary value. Book collecting is not only for the wealthy. There are numerous versions of the book which in English is called On War by Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831). There are roughly eleven different recently published English versions of Clausewitz’s On War that a military book collector could acquire without expending vast sums. German is not an easy language. Nineteenth-century Germans had difficulty reading Clausewitz. Thus, the translation is an art all unto itself. Some translations are better than others. Amazon normally has a listing for a new On War English paperback for $5.00 - $5.95. Today Amazon is listing used On War paperbacks at $1.27. Typically, when I have On War in the shoppe- it is simply a used book. Often, what we collect is not rare and may not have a great resale value. Collecting can be low cost, but rarely will your kids be thrilled when trying to turn it into cash after you depart.[v]


Provenance


Yes, I have read Clausewitz a couple of times. I have also read the Bible more times. I do not consider myself an expert on either Clausewitz or the Bible. Neither Clausewitz nor the Bible are a part of my business model. If thousands or millions of books have been published, the used book must be in pristine condition to have any real profitable resale value. A battered old Clausewitz in English from the 1970s or The Bible may have sentimental value, but there is generally no real monetary value for a battered old book. The exceptions are if it can be proven that a historical figure owned the book (provenance). Then maybe the book might have a bit of resale value. Such matters are fun to investigate. Such verifications are tricky and take time. I am sort of the Thomas Magnum type of book detective that never makes a great deal investigating a case- while my friends get roped into helping with the investigation.[vi]


While most old books do not have immense value, there are always the exceptions. The exceptions are what adds to the book hunting intrigue. There are indeed Bibles that are worth a lot of money to certain collectors. Biblical history is not my expertise, military history is. If the Bible was published in the year of our Lord 1900 or later, I am not inclined to assess your Bible. Thank you, for your understanding.


I do not assess or buy ancient foreign language books, though there are exceptions. I do assess books that are in German. Books from the Middle Ages that contain illustrations maybe more than just an old beat-up book/Bible. They were written in multiple languages. Colorful and illustrated prayer and ceremony books from the Middle Ages (1500s) termed Book of Hours in English do generally have value. If you stumble across one of those, you probably should have it assessed to determine what you have. Sometimes old books do have value.


Can books be restored?


Books are like automobiles which generally decline in value over time. An old book, just because it is old, does not mean it has immense intrinsic value. Books are made from plants such as trees or cotton (even hemp) and on occasion during the ancient times: animal skins. The natural laws of science dictate those dead plants and animals decay over time. The truth is most old books on the shelf are rotting into decomposition just like the 1964 Ford Mustang sitting in the rain. How well a book survives the ravages of time depends not only on the quality of manufacture but also the conditions it was stored in and how it weathered over time. Book condition matters. It is, in my opinion, one of the most critical factors for book value.


A rusted-out Ford 1964 Mustang with flat tires and broken windshield can be restored for a price. Every town in America has craftspeople that can bring an auto back to life. Most American community colleges or technical trade schools offer auto-body courses, engine repair certifications, and degrees. How many people do you know that can bring a book back to life?


Book repair and restoration are rare artisan skills. Material and labor costs generally make bringing a book back to its original qualities impractical. Few old books have vast value simply because the books are old. If you are looking for inexpensive old books to practice book repair or restoration, stop on by the book shoppe. I will likely have some old books that you can bring back to life to practice your craft. If you repair or restore books, please consider showing me your work. I may have clients that I can refer to you.



The conclusion to the continuing saga…


Book people are fascinated by the same great questions that humans have asked for centuries. We love to open an ancient book and read what those before us contemplated, asked, and knew. These are the adventures …


Some call me Captain Jeff the Bookseller.

I am the other Jeff (not to be confused with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos).


I deal in recycled thought.

Occasionally, I deal in the rare original thought.


Follow The Book Adventure Stories

@

https://www.CaptainsBookShoppe.com/blog

The Captain’s Log



[i] Drew R. Thomas, Genesis 1841. 1841: Edgar Allan Poe -- The Father of the Detective Story (worlds-best-detective-crime-and-murder-mystery-books.com) (Accessed June 26. 2021).


[ii] Jarret Bellini, The No. 1 thing to consider before opening a restaurant March 15, 2016 Here's the REAL reason why most restaurants fail (cnbc.com) (Accessed October 2, 2021).

[iii] Martin E. Dempsey | LinkedIn (Accessed June 7, 2021).

[iv] Andrews, Evans. 7 Things You May Not Know About the Gutenberg Bible.. https://www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-gutenberg-bible (Accessed March 15, 2021). “During the Soviet occupation of Germany at the end of World War II, the Red Army organized “Trophy Brigades” to seize priceless cultural artifacts from museums and libraries. The Russians considered the plunder an act of revenge for Germany’s own looting and war crimes, and they eventually confiscated millions of books and works of art. Chief among the booty were two copies of the Gutenberg Bible, which were taken from the German Book and Script Museum and the University of Leipzig. The Soviets denied any knowledge of the missing Bibles’ whereabouts until the 1980s, when it was revealed that they were being held in libraries in Moscow. Since then, the German government has made several unsuccessful attempts to secure their return. In 2009, a Russian government agent stole one of the looted Bibles and tried to unload it on the black market for $1.5 million. The man was later captured, however, and Russian authorities recovered both volumes.”[iii]


[v] https://www.clausewitzstudies.org/index.htm Sophia Rare Book Item #3777 is no longer available. On War: Carl von Clausewitz: 9781469947020: Amazon.com: Books(Accessed June 28, 2021).


[vi] Google-Oxford English Dictionary definition of provenance:

  • the place of origin or earliest known history of something. "an orange rug of Iranian provenance"

  • the beginning of something's existence; something's origin. "they try to understand the whole universe, its provenance and fate"

  • a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality. plural noun: provenances "the manuscript has a distinguished provenance"

provenance definition - Google Search (Accessed August 8, 2021).[v]




Added: July 2, 2021:

Where To Start if you have a Bible Question.





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