No, honest! There was this blurb right there on the cover. “This is a one-of-a-kind book because there’s no other book like it!” Someone put a lot of thought into that.
The Book Fair is enjoying a week of education, and here it is, only Wednesday. I’ve had a record collection come in with more information on Midwestern polka bands of the 1950s than I can truly assimilate. Did you know there was a “Chicago Polkas” record label? Kind of a turquoise color with the skyline on it: their albums and 45s are somewhat rare, and I can see why. These have been played and played and played until I’m surprised there’s any groove left. I even have a polka 45 by Lorraine and the Sonatones, who recorded for Sona Tone Records. I get the impression that nobody else did, but I may find out more as I go through the box.
Nice collection of Sue Grafton’s alphabetical mysteries, one of which is rather sneakily signed. It’s R is for Riccochet, and she has managed to fit her autograph into the top of the R on the title page. I like it when authors get creative signing their books (besides the odd handwriting, I mean.) Arthur Hailey, you might like to know, occasionally drew a little face inside the loop of the y in Hailey. (Jim McMahon and James Ellroy are among those authors who occasionally signed their names on the insides of the dustjacket instead of on a page. This is getting TOO creative.)
One of those absolutely gosh-wow surefire collectibles came in this week: an educational project from about 1944. The child could cut apart the pieces, put them together, and create a clock that would teach how to tell time. It did this by having a comic book character’s face pop into a window when the hands came to a certain time, whereupon the correct time would appear in a word balloon coming from the mouth of another comic book character. Oscar (a duck) and Friday (a horse) were the stars of the show.
Well, it had never been cut apart and assembled and, upon investigation, proved to have been the work of Fawcett Publications. So among the funny mice and ducks helping tell the time, there were also Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, and even Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Ah, the dollar signs lit up in my eyes. All those Marvels and in such nice condition!
That’s when I checked prices on the old e-and-Bay, where there were no fewer than 24 copies of the Comic Clock for sale, each and every one completely uncut and still with its original envelope. This did not teach me so much about collectibles—I already know that sometimes you get the prize and sometimes the prize gets you—but it did teach me something about build-it-yourself educational toys. (Did NO child in 1944 have the inclination to construct the clock? Maybe it was a marketing error: a child who could assemble this thing was probably old enough to tell time already.)
I am, as always, grateful to all those of you who bring me these opportunities to learn more about the world around me. And to those of you who dropped off books on Tuesday, a day when Superstorm Sandy was supposed to make parts of Chicago unavailable, and I actually got a call from the city warning me that high winds might make the neighborhood dangerous: nice try. I already know that neither wind nor snow nor storm nor gloom of city government can keep you from delivering books.
We covered that in Murphy’s Law 101.