ABAA Show Comes to Bay Area February 16-18
The San Francisco fair attracts a crowd.
By Bruce McKinney
Every other year the ABAA [Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America] abandons Southern California for the San Francisco bay area. They set up camp at the Concourse Exhibition Center which contrary to the Bay Area's reputation is a relative bargain that makes it possible for more mid-level dealers to exhibit. It's a great opportunity for collectors to see first hand a cross section of material, a variety of dealers and dealer approaches. If nothing else it's a weekend PhD in presentation, condition and price that nothing on the web can duplicate. You don't have to buy but you have to go and don't be surprised if you bring home a few items that broaden your collecting perspective. The show begins Friday February 16th at 3:00 pm and runs through Sunday the 18th at 5:00 pm. By day the hours are Friday 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Saturday 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, and Sunday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Parking is provided. [http://www.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=concourse+exhibition+center&near=San+Francisco,+CA&sa=X&oi=local&ct=image]. The location is a robust walk from desirable city locations. Buses run to the site, the city's wonderful street cars, including A Street Car Named Desire, pass along the bay and down Market Street connecting to bus 19 at Hyde for the final few blocks.
Early travel arrangements are suggested, convenient hotels need to be reserved and if you are staying overnight perhaps a restaurant reservation is in order. Because it's Valentine's Day weekend romantics have already reserved most of the tables at the city's best restaurants. [link to city search]
If you attend take some time to organize yourself. The fair is large and the floor hard. Think sneakers. There are about 240 exhibitors and they'll each be bringing a representative selection both to sell and to demonstrate their approach to grading and selection. You aren't going to see every book. In fact you aren't even going to see every dealer so read the show guide to identify dealers who list your interests. Circle their booth numbers on the map provided. Too many choices? Divide them into "have to" and "want to." Note: the show is not organized by collecting focus. It's based on something like shoe-size and moon phase so the map is important. The guide is the key to a successful experience and when you return home it contains the contact information you'll need for your files.
Participating dealers have two objectives: sell material and develop customer relationships. Good customers are difficult to find. They'll hope to sell you a book or two but the show is a success if you become someone they can quote in serious expectation of sales. You'll be under no obligation to buy but may be offered interesting material down the road. These people know where it is. If they know you want it that's a step in the right direction. Here is a link to participating AE members, some of whom list their inventory in AE's Books for Sale. [
Book Fair Calendar]
ABAA Show Comes to Bay Area February 16-18
To have a successful show make a plan.
Consider your approach and objectives in advance. On-the-spot purchases tend to be based on excitement and emotion. More considered transactions, made after the show or at least after looking on line for other copies and what they sell for, tend to look better in hindsight although it's fun to negotiate a 10 or 15% discount on the spot and go home figuring you did well. You may very well do so but not want to look carefully at either the historical records or other copies once you have pulled the trigger. The bullet is not going back into the chamber. Some book buyers only buy at the shows. For them the selection and electricity of big books selling for big bucks all around them is part of the kick.
One way to improve your chances for success is to look at the online inventories of participating dealers before the show. If you find material of interest express this to them by email or phone. Most dealers have 10,000 items or more but bring only representative examples. They will be interested to bring specific material for your consideration. In the meantime do your homework to understand the item[s]. Alternative copies may be listed on Abebooks, Biblio, Zvab, AE, the ABAA's own site and others. AE members can search auction and bibliographic history, create a file and print it out. Knowing what you'll see and knowing its availability and market value will help make an informed decision. And remember that a dealer's willingness to sell at a negotiated price will be a function both of their understanding of its intrinsic value and their expectation of what others will pay. In truth some people will simply pay more but in buying do not pay significantly more than you can sell it for in future. That's not collecting, that's a mistake. If you want to own an item in the worst way someone will help you achieve your goal.
Count yourself lucky if you find a book or two to buy and a dealer or two you can communicate with in the years to come. It may not be apparent while you are browsing but the most important virtues of the great collector are knowledge and patience. It takes an hour to fill a bookshelf. It takes decades to build a great collection. Bring patience, gain knowledge and this will be a great fair for you. It's not to be missed.