The Annual Gold Rush Book Fair
Tom and Marilyn Tubbs of Main Street Antiques and Books of Nevada City.
By Karen Wright
The 8th Annual Gold Rush Book Fair was a cool place to be on a hot summer's day in the Gold Country. The best thing about having the fair in Grass Valley, California, is that it is only two hours from our store in Virginia City, Nevada. With gas prices what they are, any way we can save gas in the truck is appreciated. We had the monster Suburban loaded down with bookshelves and eighteen boxes of the best of our books. This was our first serious book fair and we were really excited.
Evidently, forty-nine other book dealers thought it was a great idea as well, as that is how many participated. The dealers, their entourages and friends, and the general public strolled the aisles of the rustic, high-ceilinged Nevada County Fairgrounds looking for great book bargains, and many, we included, found them.
On advice from another bookseller friend, we stayed at a great little motel near the golf course called The Alta Sierra. It has a couple of drawbacks in that it was about 15 miles from the fairgrounds up in the hills and took 20 minutes or so to get to. That meant that we had to drive the gas-guzzling truck an extra sixty miles twice to get to and from our room, but it was really quiet, the view was lovely, and had a nice little porch on the back where one could sit and watch the abundant wildlife; deer, Canadian geese, dogs, kitties, and bunnies. They also accepted pets and were very helpful, even to loaning me a card table when I discovered I'd forgotten mine. They were also quite reasonably priced and hospitable.
Both Nevada City and Grass Valley have wonderfully restored and reused downtowns. Oh, they have the occasional tacky T-shirt stores that every tourist-oriented town has, but mostly they have really nice, high quality shopping, some good restaurants, and lots and lots of bookstores. In fact, Grass Valley has a great book cooperative called Booktown Books & Tomes, and many of their booksellers participated. The Nevada City and Grass Valley area is now officially designated as "The Gold Cities Book Town." This designation came from the originator of the Book Town concept, Richard Boof from Hay-On-Wye in the U.K.
The evening before the fair there was a welcoming get together for participants at Toad Hall Books in Nevada City. Toad Hall, owned by Gary and Clarinda Stollery, was not a seller this year at the Gold Rush Fair, but they graciously sponsored the cocktail party. They have a really interesting conglomeration of books; mostly antiquarian and collectible children's books, books about Scotland and Scottish ways, and high quality general literature, as well as some nifty vintage cookbooks.
After the cocktail party, booksellers traipsed upstairs to the historic Masonic Temple for a deliciously prepared Italian wine dinner by Summer Thyme, a nice little restaurant in Grass Valley. We sat across from and chatted with Tom and Marilyn Tubbs who have Main Street Antiques and Books in Nevada City. John and Susan Hardy of Hardy Books in Nevada City, Grass Valley’s next door neighbor, are both on the Gold Rush Book Fair Advisory Council, and produced the show. I was happy to see a few young book dealers in the crowd instead of just us old fogies.
The Annual Gold Rush Book Fair
Lost Horse Books of Nevada City (left) and Michael Good Books of Woodacre.
After the dinner, John Hardy introduced Michael Good of Michael Good-Books of Woodacre, California, as the Honored Guest Bookseller for the Year. This annual award is for "Ethical Leadership and Scholarship in American Bookselling." Mr. Good, who, in his youth, tried several different jobs including construction and art, finally realized his future lay in antiquarian books. He talked at length about his years as a bookseller. Michael started as a young man in Scottsdale, Arizona, at Carleton McDuffy Books and then moved to San Francisco where he found employment with John Howell Books and Holmes Book Company, where he managed Holmes' Oakland store for many years. He said of his mentor, Holmes, "He taught me a lot about books and a little bit about Jack Daniels."
A few years later, Michael and his wife Sandra, who is a talented bookbinder in her own right, started their own shop in San Anselmo, California, which after some years of open shop, is now open by appointment. If you'd like to see their website go to Michael Good Books.
Saturday morning, booksellers gathered early to cruise each other's booths and get first pick of the best stuff. There were some fabulous books offered by every one of the exhibitors.
I know I shouldn't have favorites, but there were two stalls that I loved. One is Lost Horse Books owned by Debra Klever-Dobbins from Nevada City. She carries Books for the Equestrian, and cowboy and other non-fiction books, in other words, mostly horsey and mule books. As an old cowgirl and horse and mule lover myself, I was entranced by some of the incredibly rare and antiquarian horse books she had on her shelves. Another stall I really liked was Handsome Books from Berkeley, and mostly because they were so, well ... handsome. They specialize in 19th & 20th Century decorative bindings. I found some great Colt Firearms books for my Colt collector client at Bud Plant & Hutchison Books from Nevada City, and Friends of the Nevada County Library had a number of really fine tomes for really good prices. I blew it there, though, by not grabbing two really fine Erté books when I had the chance. I turned my back and whoops ... some other lucky book dealer got them.
We renewed some of our old acquaintances; PBA, of course, with Greg Jung and Bruce McMakin, Steve Blackmeer from Chanticleer Fine Books in Sonoma, Lori Hughes the Cookbook Book Lady from El Sobrante, CA., Bookchuck from the Grass Valley Book Town, and Foster Fine Books, Postcards, and Ephemera from our own nearby area, Minden, Nevada.
About 10 a.m. the doors opened to the public and a slow, but steady stream of customers came in to browse and buy. I think the weather might have been too hot and gas too expensive to roust out as many customers as one might have wanted.
There is always one incident at these shows that stands out. It never fails. About 3 o'clock, one of the local book dealers came by our booth to warn us that there was a known book thief wandering the aisles. He said that she didn't usually try to steal anything expensive; she just couldn't not try to steal something! Each book dealer in his or her turn was warned and knew what she looked like, and she was very carefully shadowed in every booth by every bookstore owner and by a few extra eyes along the way. She was a frumpy little woman with a funny old hat and one could almost feel sorry for her the way people tailed her. She seemed sort of oblivious and had to look at almost every book in every stall; I wondered if she knew why she had so many watchers.
The Annual Gold Rush Book Fair
Ken Sanders Rare Books of Salt Lake City (left), Bud Plant & Hutchison Books of Grass Valley.
Along about 4:30 we all began to get antsy to pack it in. We made a last minute visit to a seller who had a book we really wanted then began to re-pack boxes and break down shelving. As we were all packing up, the guy from the 2008 Central Valley Antiquarian Book Fair in Sacramento came by with forms to ask us to do the Sacramento Book Fair in September. If you are interested, email Jim Kay at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're itchin' to do it but our only hesitation is the gas from our place to Sacramento, and I'm sure we're not the only ones worried about that. Boy, it's getting hard to go anywhere!
We loaded the Suburban, said goodbye to friends and went on down the road. We broke even, and might have made a bit of money if we hadn't just HAD to buy a few books! If you are interested in doing this fair in the future, contact John Hardy at www.goldrushbookfair.com.
Have a good summer and keep up the good bookselling work.