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Captain's Log: The Story of the Book Seller

Dustjacket Bio

THIRD EDITION, Second State: July 4, 2023

Third Edition, First State: April 1, 2023
Revised SECOND EDITION: July 7, 2022
First Edition, 2nd State: December 5, 2021
First Edition: 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. My focus area is Americana. The Captain’s Log is my book discovery adventure series (nonfiction about fiction).[1]

I track down hard to find books for clients. Every day, I am intrigued due to investigating "a new" ancient find and assessing how society currently values it.

This biographical essay is my story about books. The target audience is the prospective client with one, a few, or a mass collection of books. Am I someone you may wish to contact about your books? This will help to answer that question.

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): I am particularly interested in the history of conflict and its resolution, biography, maps, farming, manufacturing, and science fiction/fantasy throughout the ages. The books can be new or ancient, in any condition, and preferably in English or German. My other interests change daily with the tides as the market ebbs and flows. I only buy books by appointment. Please call (319) 351-3166 to discuss the best options for your situation. Thank you.

Bottom Line, Current list of what I am buying:

Browsers Welcome!

Captain's Book Shoppe

1570 S. 1st Ave

Iowa City, IA 52240

Phone: (319) 351-3166

History of the Detective:

Edgar Allen Poe is credited with being “the “Father” of the detective story” way back in the year 1841.[2] I repeatedly sell Poe stories and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s old-world books about Sherlock Holmes. I prefer to consider myself a bit more modern than the 1800s Strand Magazine Sherlock Holmes. Most old magazines are- generally, worthless, but specific magazines that sparked legends have significant value to certain collectors. (There is a market for everything such as recyclable paper, value depends upon what market you are eyeing.)

Old books have value to some simply for their blank front pages. The blank pages in both the front and back of the book are known as "endpapers (EP)." The old paper from an ancient book can be cannibalized (taken) / used by modern printers to create new documents that look old. "Detecting" modern printed works purposely meant to appear older is standard book and ephemera detective work.

Merriam-Webster defines ephemera as: "something of no lasting significance—usually used in plural." Their second definition states: "ephemera plural: paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles."[3] I interpret this to mean: What a majority of society throws away, sometime later may become collectable to a select few. Magazines share similar traits with ephemera.

Demand for a majority of the "old" magazines by modern collectors is rare. Most vintage magazines are generally not intrinsically worth the storage space they require- but there are exceptions. Original magazine advertisements for collectable products have a limited value to some collectors, but once they have one advertisement the market dries up. If you have a specific magazine with collectable attributes, I will listen to your case. Generally, normally, usually, I will decline accepting the free magazine.

I am a Columbo-type of book detective. I look at and attempt to consider everything. Thus, I am annoyingly slow when assessing book values.

If you are looking for a fast, instant computer answer concerning the value of your modern book, you can use your smart phone/computer.

  • Flip the modern book over and scan or type the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) bar code into the used ISBN window at: Book Search: Textbooks, Cheap Books Online Price Comparison (

  • The website will list what the book is being sold for by various online booksellers. (The site will often list the most expensive listings first.) Example: On December 5, 2021 Addall stated Amazon is listing the H.G. Wells The Invisible Man ISBN 0553213539 for twenty-five cents for the paperback, all the way up to $294.95.

The ISBN is the unique identifier for every title, edition and format. Books published before 1967 will not have an ISBN. The nine-digit ISBN started in late 1966. Thirteen-digit ISBNs began in 2007. [4]

Computers, databases, and smartphones are definite tools of the modern book trade. Bookdealers often pay fees or have "free" access through their subscriptions to Amazon, eBay, and private auction house databases to know what specific items have sold for, their condition, and how many sold. An informed dealer is able to put a bit of predictive analysis into book values based upon what the computerized market is reporting, and through the dealer's past experiences and predictions of the future. You, too, can make your own assessments of book values using the computerized assets that are available to you combined with your commonsense intellect.

If you want a second opinion or get stumped- give me a call. I enjoy a mystery.


Quality books at reasonable prices: Captain's Book Shoppe


Book Detective 101. When was the book printed?

If the book has a U.S.A. zip code, the book was published in 1963 or later. (Zip+4 began in 1983). ISBNs began in 1967. Thirteen-digit ISBNs started in 2007.

Workers in publishing houses occasionally left clues about when and who made or bound the book.

Books before the computer or my birth- fascinate me. They can be stained, battered, and barely holding together. Old, beat-up books are intriguing!

Are old, beat-up books worth a lot of money? (The answer is generally, no.)

Occasionally, yes.

Determining who and when a book was published are important factors to identifying a particular book's monetary public value.

Section One

Story of the Book



Store History:

Quality books at reasonable prices.

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. Mysteries sell. 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.

Operating a profitable brick and mortar bookstore in these economically turbulent and inflationary times is tricky. Acquiring quality books, marketing them at reasonable prices while generating a slight profit to sustain oneself with our client's full satisfaction is our objective at Captain's Book. The process begins with our supply chain. If you are reading this, chances are- you are a potential supply chain link. We acquire interesting books, because we pay our clients fair prices. The definition of "fair" is subject to interpretation and one's perspective, thus the IRS's definition of Fair Market Value is a fine place to start.[5] (More information about book values can be found at Captain's Book Value Tab.)

Occasionally kind souls, donate interesting books that are in great condition which facilitates super deals for our buyers.

What types of books do I buy and sell?

The Nuanced Bottom Line: I only buy books by appointment. 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.

The book shoppe is in a Big Ten college town, but I do not buy or sell college textbooks.

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.



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 entered the U.S. Army in 1985 as a private in the U.S. Infantry. As a Cold War Soldier in West Germany, I read a lot of books while waiting for the Russians to invade. My mission, should the communists decide to attack, was to survive 45 seconds, shooting a dragon anti-tank missile at an invading Russian tank. I literally had a lot of time to read while we waited for the Russian Communists to attack. While we waited, the US Government paid for my bachelor's degree in liberal arts in political science with a minor in German from the University of Iowa. They then paid for my master's in American Military History. Thirty years later, as a Lieutenant Colonel I retired from the Army in 2015. I dealt with rockets and missiles and all sorts of high-tech stuff during those three decades, but I was not a rocket scientist. I was though, an expert team builder in my profession. When technical or tactical issues arose, I was one of many- tagged with building teams of experts to address a specific problem to a successful conclusion. Are books in the same league as rocket science? Both subjects are filled with experts with egos, and then the new folk learning the trade. I have the ability to spot talent for people on a budget while ethically and quietly getting the job done.

I am now a book dealer, primarily investigating books about conflict and conflict resolution. I deal in about any kind of book to keep the business afloat (within legal and ethical bounds). I sell .93 cent paperbacks and hundred-year-old books for a few dollars and am able to keep the book shoppe's lights on. Then there are the special books... Some of the special books are tales for the Captain's Log.

During my later years in the military, one of my 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 book dealers (colluded with them) about referrals. I do not collect a finder's fee.

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

Your book or collection may fall into a category that requires scholarly assessment. I can help guide you to finding the right consultant for your book. Looking at and reading interesting books is why I do it. I do not bill or receive any financial compensation for the initial interview concerning the potential options concerning a book. Consulting or appraisal fees will be discussed during the initial interview if applicable. I do not accept consulting or appraisal assignments without an appointment. There is a $34 daily storage fee for books dropped off without an appointment.

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: ] Soldiering prepared me for bookselling. 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.


The Appraisal


How valuable is a book?

Which books have value, which ones don't?

There is an exception to every rule.

Beat up, old books, generally, normally usually are not worth a whole lot of money. There are exceptions to the rule, but - book condition truly matters. Books without a dust jacket (that should have one), are normally not worth their maximum protentional, rarely are their exceptions to this rule. The button below takes you to a series of resources for book values.

An important concept that is worth repeating: "Age of a book does not determine its monetary value." Numerous publishing houses reprinted the sought after, and critically acclaimed classics. If you have an impressive looking old book, you may want to check who published the book. Craig Stark's list of reprint publishing houses is a place you can start in order to determine if your book is possibly a reprint, disguised as an original.

There may come a time that you are wondering about the current market value of one of your books, or your entire collection. There are numerous reasons a person may get a personal property valuation (appraisal). There is not a single, boilerplate "one size, fits all" type of appraisal. Each client has different requirements. One client may need a valuation to insure a book or entire collection of books for insurance purposes. Another client may want to know the value of the books in order to decide if it is time to sell one, a few, or all. Another client may want to know the current value of a book, and the projected value of the book if it is rebound (repaired). The reasons people seek personal property valuation appraisals are endless. One option people may wish to consider is having their item assessed by an auction house. There are auction houses which offer "free online books, manuscripts, Americana & historical memorabilia auction evaluations."[iiia.] Unlike the auction houses, my professional consulting services are not free.

The summation of book values concerns book condition. Beat up, greasy books, missing pages are rarely worth a lot of money. Book condition matters. If the book is about a subject collectors collect, and it is rare, then a bit more grace is given to beat up books. There is an exception to every rule about books. If you have questions about your book, or collection of books please feel free to give me a phone call. I enjoy discussing the options that may resolve the mysteries concerning a book. There is no charge for the initial discussion.



Vintage books interest me. Bookdealers have various views on what defines a "vintage book" which is the essence of the book trade, variety. Vintage is where past generations of books linger in the nostalgic twilight. Some vintage books are rediscovered by the modern generations and become valuable. Other books do not catch the fancy of the buying public. Vintage is the bookdealer's advertising buzz word for a potentially interesting old book.

Vintage and antiquarian books are from the shadows of our past. A book in ratty condition, maybe monetarily valuable to the collector. 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?

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)

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.

As a historian, old vintage books interest me. Understanding why certain books remain in high demand, particularly the first originals is an intriguing mystery. Many books are recycled thought. Occasionally, there is the rare original thought. Simply put, being a book detective is interesting. I enjoy the mystery of books.

The conclusion to the continuing saga…

I am a person that deals in written text, although I prefer to communicate via voice. The bottom line is I initially prefer telephonic contact over emails and texts. Initial conversation allows us to understand your intent.

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


The Captain’s Log


[1] John Carter defines Americana as: "Books, etc., about, connected with or printed in America, usually, but not exclusively, the United States of North America; or relating to individual Americans...." Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors 7th ed. Revised by John Barker. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1995, p. 23.

[3] Merriam-Webster definition of "Ephemera." Ephemera Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

[4] International Standard Book Number ISBN Website (Accessed December 5, 2021). The International ISBN Agency | International ISBN Agency (

[5] Fair Market Value. It is commonly believed that buyers prefer to buy a book at the lowest possible price, while sellers want to maximize profits (sell at the highest possible price). The area where the two concepts meet is considered the market value. In other words, we perceive there is a fair market value price range for a certain type, or genre of books. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines fair market value as "the price that property would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither being required to act, and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts...." (U.S. Government: Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service. Determining the Value of Donated Property. Publication 561, revised January 19, 2022). The key is both parties are knowledgeable about the item. Second, neither must sell or buy the item. [Originally published in "How Much is a Book Worth - A Book Collector's Guide (January 22, 2022)"

The IRS further defines book collection appraising in Determining the Value of Donated Property. Publication 561, revised January 19, 2022:

"Books. The value of books is usually determined by selecting comparable sales and adjusting the prices according to the differences between the comparable sales and the item being evaluated. This is difficult to do and, except for a collection of little value, should be done by a specialized appraiser. Within the general category of literary property, there are dealers who specialize in certain areas, such as Americana, foreign imports, bibles, and scientific books.

Modest value of collection. If the collection you are donating is of modest value, not requiring a written appraisal, the following information may help you in determining the (Fair Market Value) FMV.

A book that is very old, or very rare, is not necessarily valuable. There are many books that are very old or rare, but that have little or no market value.

Condition of book. The condition of a book may have a great influence on its value. Collectors are interested in items that are in fine, or at least good, condition. When a book has a missing page, a loose binding, tears, stains, or is otherwise in poor condition, its value is greatly lowered.

Other factors. Some other factors in the valuation of a book are the kind of binding (leather, cloth, paper), page edges, and illustrations (drawings and photographs). Collectors usually want first editions of books. However, because of changes or additions, other editions are sometimes worth as much as, or more than, the first edition.

Manuscripts, autographs, diaries, and similar items. When these items are handwritten, or at least signed by famous people, they are often in demand and are valuable. The writings of unknowns also may be of value if they are of unusual historical or literary importance. Determining the value of such material is difficult. For example, there may be a great difference in value between two diaries that were kept by a famous person—one kept during childhood and the other during a later period in his or her life. The appraiser determines a value in these cases by applying knowledge and judgment to such factors as comparable sales and conditions.

Signatures. Signatures, or sets of signatures, that were cut from letters or other papers usually have little or no value. But complete sets of the signatures of U.S. presidents are in demand." Publication 561 (01/2022), Determining the Value of Donated Property | Internal Revenue Service ( (Accessed July 7, 2022).

More Book Value information can be found on Captain's Book Shoppe website tab: "Book Values." Book Values | (

[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 ( (Accessed October 2, 2021).

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


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