Bidding and Drinking

This past weekend, we stayed local. Or local-ish. The farthest we traveled was to a backyard BBQ on Long Island. The rest of the time was spent doing book stuff. With the basement reorganized, I have more space for books to sell on Etsy. So, that means shopping time! I love shopping time.

I typically find my books in two ways — local estate sales and auctions. The local estate sales are fun, because 90 percent of the fun of buying vintage books is snooping around rich and/or eccentric people’s homes. Steve loves it, too. We have seen some very, very cool houses over the years.

The downside are rude estate agents, who want to haggle over each and every dumb book. Honestly, most of the books that I pick up are decorative. They’re not first edition Hemingways or anything. And since I often sell worthless books by the foot, I want to get a ton at one time for cheap. Sometimes, I get an agent who is like: Okay, you want books? You can have this whole room of books for $200. Other times, some crazy lady will spend ten minutes inspecting each book, and demand a $100 per book.

When I really want to just get a shit-ton of books, the best way to get them is by auction. There, I get books by the hundred, not one by one. The auction websites will show a few pictures of a bookcase of books. And then you bid on the entire shelf. If you win, the deal is that you have pick them at very specific time/day and you have to take everything on the shelf. If there’s a box of tissues on the shelf, you have to take it, too. So, if you win all the books, you are also cleaning the house for the owner. Since I often get an entire bookcase for one dollar, it can be worth the effort.

On Wednesday night, I got into a bidding war over some decorative leather books that aren’t actually that valuable, but do very well on Etsy. Got them. On Friday night, after two glasses of wine, I won eight lots of books from an estate across the Hudson River from us in a sleepy little village called Dobb’s Ferry. Even with those glasses of wine in me, I knew that I just purchased a shit-ton of books but didn’t really understand the scope of this disaster until the next day.

I paid $167 for all of the books (including tax and auction premium), and I could see by squinting at the little pictures that at least one of those books was an early edition Louisa May Alcott and that book alone would justify the purchase. The problem wasn’t that I spent too much. The problem was the quantity.

With a 9:45 pick up time for the books, I woke up the boys to help. I had a feeling that we were going to need their help, as well as Jonah’s car. I was right.

But let me just say, this house was adorbs — a 5,000 foot 1920’s Tudor on a winding, tree-lined lane with ancient stone walls. One of the original suburbs outside of Manhattan, the train in town gets you into Grand Central in 30 minutes. The house had an attached greenhouse and arts and craft movement tile around the fireplaces and inserted into the floor. The owners were antique collectors with lots of hobbies, but they let the place go over the years. The estate people gossiped that the owner’s son had hauled out 5 dumpsters of trash before they get into the place.

After briefly geeking out over the little panes of glass in the windows and the wood paneled library, we got to work. It took four of us an hour and half to cart out all the books, as well as all the other garbage on the shelves. The two cars were full to the brim and so heavy that we were worried about Jonah’s car scraping the ground.

We celebrated with a nice brunch in that cute little town.

And then we drove home. I did triage in the driveway, filling up five contractor bags with clippings, destroyed books, catalogs, and cheap cookbooks. And then I spent hours bringing the rest down to the basement.

Now, I have enough books to keep me busy for months. Until I make a big dent in these stacks, I am not allowed to drink and bid.

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