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

First Edition: June 29, 2021
Second Edition: December 5, 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).

This biographical essay is 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 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.

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.[i] 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 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 detective work.

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. [1]

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- feel free to give me a call. I enjoy a mystery. (Modern or ancient, we will figure it out.)


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.



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. We acquire interesting books, because we pay our clients fair prices. 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 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 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 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: ] 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?

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 discussing the specifics of book values.

Book Appraisals

Some clients are curious to know if those old books the family currently possesses can be turned into immediate or future cash. Some are looking for advice on where to start. During the first consultation interview, I offer various options the client may wish to consider when determining the value of their books. Please call the store to discuss.

I perform paid book valuation appraisal work.

Walk-In Book Valuation Rates

Book valuation fee for three books published in U.S.A. circa: 1920 or later in English: $10 plus tax.

Book valuation fee for one book with no date of publication, or in a foreign language, or prior to 1920: $50 plus tax.

*Book valuation fee for one book with signature $10 base rate. (Depending upon level of assessment, *see hourly research rates).

Standard Special Project Fees

Retainer Fee: $36 to retain valuation appraisal services.

Daily storage fee: $34 plus tax per day.

Hourly valuation appraisal research rate: $25 an hour.

Report printing and notarization fee: $35

There are numerous reasons a person, family, or organization may desire an appraisal. Clients may want to insure the book or contents of a library. Some may need an appraisal because of bankruptcy, divorce, taxes or other reasons. The appraisal depends upon the client's requirements along with the laws and regulations (such as U.S. I.R.S. tax appraisal). The client and I discuss their situation. We agree upon the work to be performed along with fee schedule.



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?

Rare books are rare. Expert booksellers debate the true definition and essence of what a rare book is. Most agree scarcity is the critical factor. If a full-time, antiquarian book dealer touches it once in a decade, it might be rare. If the dealer processes multiple copies in a decade, chances are it is not a truly rare book. As a bookdealer, I prefer to keep my expenses low. I paid all the city fees, and sign painter one time, thus is says "Rare and Used Book Market Place." Oddly, no one ever asks where my rare books are when they step into the showroom. Occasionally, a few will ask if I am the captain.

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.



Rare Books for the Common Person

When does a common book become rare?

Old books take us back to a time when only the upper class owned books. Before the founding of the United States, in the old lands- it was the church and nobility that possessed books. There were few of them, most were superbly made, and they remain extremely valuable to this day. Ages ago, it was a rare skill to write and to be able to read. As time progressed, industrialization created a growing American middle-class that bought and displayed books in their private libraries. Many of those American books are indeed beautiful, but they were mass produced. Some of the books look like editions found in royal libraries. Some were poorly constructed. Knowing which book or books are collectable and carry value is an art (and in the modern age of computers, part science.) Books are like dogs, firearms, horses, and automobiles. Truly sought after and valuable books do slip into old farmhouses sitting on million-dollar farmland. They might even slip into somebody's apartment or mobile home. We all know, some old shotguns are worth a lot of money. The same is true about books. If you think you have something interesting, please give me a call, you might just have something valuable. Is it rare? Maybe not, but one never knows.

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, suggests that a complete Gutenberg Bible would net around $35 million at an auction. Professionals are not going to base a book value off, 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]


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


The Captain’s Log


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

[i] Drew R. Thomas, Genesis 1841. 1841: Edgar Allan Poe -- The Father of the Detective Story ( (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 ( (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.. (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] Sophia Rare Book Item #3777 is no longer available. On War: Carl von Clausewitz: 9781469947020: 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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