Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Book market watch: I am a Mouse, by Ole Risom

I don't know how many people have walked into the bookstore over the years and told us, while handing over some books they want to trade in, some variation on 'We threw the kid's books out. We didn't figure anyone would want old kids books, and we didn't want to waste your time.' Whereupon your humble booksellers try not to scream or whimper, especially when the barterer adds that the books were in reasonably good condition, but were simply "out of date."

Now, books that are trashed are one thing. I don't like handling torn and filthy books, and neither do most people. But those "out of date" books sometimes are in pretty fair demand in the market, even in just fair condition in some cases. Sometimes they aren't, it's true, but children's books from a generation or two ago that have gone out of print can sometimes go a bit bonkers price wise, at least now and then, because there are a whole lot of people who crave to hold in their hands a copy of a book they loved as a child. Or they crave to give it to a beloved grandchild or something.

Board books can be especially likely prospects because the supply tends to be short. They aren't always printed in big batches to begin with, and babies will chew them into ruin.

As a case in point, in today's stack of used books for which I'm checking market prices is a copy of a Golden Sturdy Book, sort of a board book supreme, almost ten inches tall and almost five and a half inches wide, with sturdy cardboard pages, and wonderful, colorful illustrations by John P. Miller. The copyright is 1964. The title is I am a Mouse, and it's by Ole Risom. Risom, upon checking, did several books along this line.

The I am a Mouse title is in scarce supply, and the prices today pretty much start at $22 and range up from there, with the majority being between $25 and $50, but with several above that. This could change tomorrow (or even later today), but even on the sites that specialize in cheap used books the prices are up in this range.

The prices for I am a Puppy are also pretty good today, but if you want solid gold, find yourself a copy of I am a Bear in good condition. As of post time, on my usual sites there is only one bookseller with a copy for sale, and they're asking ninety bucks for it, and that's while admitting that it's foxed (i.e., has got brown age spots), and the spine is almost worn away and it's being held together after a fashion with tape, "but all boards are intact and beautiful." That's a c. 1967 book, by the way. There's no telling if anybody will bite at that price, but I wouldn't be surprised. I've seen crazier things happen once someone has decided to get his hands on a treasure from his youth.

(Oh, you say you have a copy in a box somewhere? May I politely suggest you try to remember where you put that box?)


Anonymous said...

I just picked up "I am a Mouse" a few months ago at the local thrift shop. My one year old daughter LOVES this book. The second or third time we read it the binding released all the pages (which are sewn together). Does this drastically affect value? I never would have thought it was worth anything, but the drawings are adorable...such a cute story.

Kathryn Judson said...

Dear Anonymous, I'm afraid loose pages do affect resale value rather drastically. In most cases, it makes the book not worth selling, because few buyers will even consider a copy in that condition, and those that do won't pay much for it if there are intact copies available. Sometimes you can't even give broken books away. People who 'donate' them to thrift stores only add to the thrift store's garbage bill, I'm afraid.

In rare cases broken books have sold. If you do try to sell it online, be sure and be honest about the condition. You can break somebody's heart (and damage your reputation) by getting someone's hopes up and then having them be dismayed when they see what they've bought. If they know ahead of time, though, and are prepared to frame it as art, or rebind it themselves, or enjoy it as is, then there's no problem.

On the other hand, if your daughter loves reading and playing with it as is, you've got yourself a treasure.