The Art of Book Fairs | Page 9 | Newberry

The Art of Book Fairs

It is now July 5, and we are officially discouraging donations to the Book Fair. This means we have instructed the guard who watches the security monitor on where to find the button marked “Death Ray”. But we are still a little nonchalant about it, so we’ve instructed him not to push it unless banana boxes or large amounts of National Geographic are spotted.

What I mean to tell you is that I still refuse to be put in the position where I have to say “Sorry: I can’t take your Gutenberg Bible; someone got in first with 350 paperback romances.” So I am not packing any weapon more offensive than my smiling face, and will accept your donations if you must donate right now when every extra box of books means precious minutes stolen from our sale preparations. I am not wholly convinced about the power of curses and imprecations, so what I say about you as you pull away from the dock should not be considered dangerous.

Enough of this: I will never really know how many of you care enough not to bring books in. If you really care, you’re breathless to find out how many trucks backed up to the dock and dumped books all over me on July 3.

More than I needed, but not as many as I feared, as a matter of fact. There was some excellent Psychology, several bags of paperback mysteries, and a devious soul who seemed to sense when I was out of the room and loaded 18 big old boxes of books on the dock without my noticing. We were given the 100th Anniversary Etch-A-Sketch (along with a how-to book “Seeing Animals With Mr. Etch-A-Sketch” and a souvenir champagne glass from the 2001 Presidential Inauguration.

In fact, I got a little of everything: one set of encyclopedias without any boxes around it, one man who wanted all his bags back, and one charming chap who was perfectly happy to be giving us his collection of CDs, but on second thought wanted to go through them again to see if there weren’t a few he might want to keep. If only, if only someone had brought books in a banana box, I could have completed by Book Fair Bingo card for the day.

Several people brought me framed prints and paintings, so we ought to have a nifty framed art section this year. I should explain that this is one of the Book Fair’s best carnival games. Step up and make your choice and see if you win the jackpot. See, basic waiting room prints are simple enough. These can be priced by subject and frame. Lighthouses, trains, puppies, kittens…these are generic and will find their buyers. Someone who wants an old sailing ship hanging on the wall will always walk by.

Original paintings and prints are tougher. First, nine times out of ten, the artist will not sign the thing legibly: that’s not artistic. Second, even the ones with legible signatures are difficult to price. Artists with websites can be coy about what their art is worth, while professional art price websites expect you to pay professional art seller fees to get such information. Through extensive online research, I have learned that this Duck Stamp print (a signed example of the print and a copy of the duck stamp that printed it) is worth somewhere between $25 and $350. This rather stark minimalist painting is by a Polish artist whose paintings can be bought online for prices between $75 and $3500. What’s a Book Fair manager to do, especially if he has to keep interrupting his research to unload sixty or seventy shopping bags from the back of an SUV?

What he does is guess. And therein lies your opportunity. See these four sketches, all by the same artist? I’m thinking of going $35 on each of them. The Book Fair gets $140 if you buy all four, and if you look them up and find they’re worth $300 apiece, that’s just your karma coming through. (And if they turn out to be worth $5 apiece, that just shows you shouldn’t have asked for all those bags back.)


I was going to donate my Gutenberg Bible but some guy named Martin Luther wrote on many of the pages so I figured it was ruined.
I hate when that happens! Mine has little pictures scribbled all over it by some Cranach.

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