Collectible Conversations: Albums That Should Be Seen and Not Heard

There are several reasons the LP format has endured for six decades, and is in fact back in ascendance. The warm, full sound of vinyl may be at the top of that list of reasons, but another big factor involves the visual aspect, not the aural. The square-foot LP cover is a nice, big canvas on which could be featured not only relevant info about the recording but beautiful, provocative or bizarre imagery.

Many LP covers are iconic: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was so recognizable that The Mothers of Invention and others parodied or imitated it. The Clash and other artists recreated the pink-and-green graphics over black-and-white photo of the 1956 Elvis Presley album. Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell and so many other popular artists’ works are memorably packaged.

But we want to talk about the other side of album art, the record covers that are so bad they’re good (or, often, are just…so bad.) Perhaps it’s inept or insane illustrations. Maybe it’s culture clash or has out-of-date kitsch appeal. Or our favorites: celebrities who are not singers but who couldn’t resist the opportunity to record an album to prove to the world that they are not singers.

Operations Director Jan Cornelius and I will be hosting a Collectible Conversations presentation Thursday evening, August 30, in which we’ll show some examples of the bad LP covers we’ve collected over the years. And, contrary to our presentation’s title, we will be so bold as to play a few snippets (snippets are all we can stand) of some of them.

Here are just a few “highlights” from the collection:

  • Sebastian Cabot, Actor – Bob Dylan, Poet
  • Mr. T’s Be Somebody or Be Somebody’s Fool
  • Heino
  • Music to Suffer By

We love to talk about bad LP covers, but we love inflicting them on others even more! Our Collectible Conversation featuring bad LP covers takes place on Thursday, August 30, at 6:00 p.m., in our Flagship store’s Collectibles section.

Collectible Conversations: Movie Posters of the ‘50s & ‘60s

When buyers at our Flagship store recently acquired more than 250 original movie posters, mostly from ‘50s and ‘60s films, they realized they were looking at some pretty special pop culture treasures.

Many of the posters were science fiction, including Night Creatures, The Return of the Fly, and Barbarella. But they ran the gamut of genres: spy movies, Three Stooges comedies, disasters, and more. The visual imagery on many of these posters is often stunning and, is in some cases, iconic.

Dallas South District Trainer Ben Jousan and I will be hosting a Collectible Conversations presentation on the evening of Thursday, June 28, in which we’ll show many of the posters and discuss the collecting of movie posters.

I asked Ben a few questions about the bounty of movie posters.

How often do stores see vintage movie posters come in?
We get the occasional bedroom fare with contemporary films or video games promo posters, but we don’t often see original one-sheet poster art for movies. We don’t always have a dedicated space on our sales floor to feature posters, but when we see such an amazing group of unique items, it forces us to rethink our layout on the floor to inform customers of our unique product mix and encourage them to sell these kinds of things to us!

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Mystery Books That Are Book Mysteries

Most mysteries still feature private eyes and cops, but people from all sorts of professions are getting into the sleuthing act: priests, hockey players, hair stylists—and quite a few from the world of books. Writers, of course, are readers, and they love hanging out in bookstores and libraries and thinking, “What a wonderful setting for an unsolvable murder!”

Below I have gathered a few mystery books I’ve enjoyed that are also book mysteries. Check them out and let us know of any of your favorite book-mystery mystery books we didn’t include.

Booked to Die
John Dunning, 1992
Booked to Die was the first of five books in Dunning’s series featuring detective Cliff Janeway, who also just happens to be a book collector and bookstore owner. The series is set in Dunning’s hometown of Denver, where he has worked as a newspaper reporter and owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore, which specialized in second-hand and rare books. There’s a lot of collectible-book knowledge and lore in this series—enough that we have often recommended Booked to Die to HPB’s pricers.

booked to die

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Collectible Conversations: The History of Dallas in the 50s & 60s Through Books

For the December presentation in our monthly Collectible Conversations series at the HPB Flagship in Dallas, we welcome Dallas historian Bob Reitz. Reitz will discuss his growing up in Dallas in the 50s and 60s using books as his reference points. Bob gave an earlier Collectible Conversations talk specifically about his life in bookstores and his 37 books about bookstores from his collection.

Coll Conv 8 31 3

We asked Bob to give us a little preview of his upcoming talk.

When did you first feel that Dallas in the 50s and 60s was a special place and time?
In January of 1954, my father’s insurance company transferred him to Dallas from upstate New York. We had a new house built in the Casa View section of northeast Dallas. Cotton fields were being plowed under to create homes for newly returned servicemen beginning to start families after World War II. I started first grade and finished high school living in the same house. I still have a small group of friends from these times. Growing up, it seemed normal to have new movie houses, drive-ins, libraries, swimming pools and a thriving downtown. I never realized as a kid what we had in these unique and special times.

I’ve always thought that besides your family, your neighborhood makes the biggest difference in your life. I didn’t grow up smelling salt water from the ocean or seeing snow-covered mountains on the horizon. I grew up on the rolling blackland prairies in a large urban city straddling the Trinity River.

I know you own many books on the subject. Is there one that may best encapsulate the era for, say, a 20-year-old reader from Milwaukee?
Probably the most thoughtful book about this era in Dallas is by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright (who graduated from Dallas’s Woodrow Wilson High School). The cover of his book In the New World:  Growing Up with America from the Sixties to the Eighties (1989) reads: “It’s both a story of one man’s coming of age in 1960s Dallas and a provocative account of the end of American innocence, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights era.”

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For HPB’s 45th Birthday: What Else? 45s!

In honor of Half Price Books turning 45, we feature some great 45 rpm singles from their heyday in the fifties, sixties and seventies. (Wait until 2050 for the birthday when we feature 78 rpm records.)

When are 45s gonna become cool again? Or so uncool that they’re hip? Who cares—we love 45s! They sound big and in-your-face, and we see so many rare, sublime and forgotten treasures come through our doors.

45s are cheap, too! Most are in the 50 cents-to-a-dollar range in our stores. Here are a few that are a little more special.

ElvisPresleyElvis Presley – “That’s All Right”/ “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
1976, RCA Victor 447-0601 promo in RCA sleeve MCST 40462 (UK) picture disc
Elvis recorded these songs in 1954 (the single’s label says 1955) at Sun Studio for his first single. Also available, a promo reissue of his 2nd single, “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”
Both are in Very Good condition.—$15 each Continue reading

Becoming America (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

In honor of  Independence Day, we feature three books emblematic of the nation’s growing pains. The first, written near the country’s beginnings as a democracy, is a seminal work that helped define our legislative branch. The second, written thirty-four years later in 1821, provides detailed descriptions of the lives of Native Americans of that time before so much changed in their world. And the third selection provides a rare contemporaneous account of the Underground Railroad. Ironically, all three of these editions were published in the United Kingdom.

For this Fourth of July, along with your fireworks and hot dogs, find a little time to explore our country’s history in books!

A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America
John Adams
1787, London. Printed for C. Dilly, in the Poultry
First Edition. In original binding.
$10,000

Constitution

Adams intended to write a single volume. The first, published in London, was so successful that Adams was encouraged to write a second volume, and then a third. The book promotes a mixed government, in which “the rich, the well-born and the able” are separated into a senate, unable to dominate a lower house of representatives.

Our copy is in remarkable condition, considering its age and historical importance. The book is fragile but complete. There is an owner inscription from 1787, and a presentation inscription from 1909. Continue reading

And the Prize Goes to… (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

The Pulitzer Prize program was initiated in 1917. No award for fiction was given that first year, but prizes have been handed out in all but eleven years since 1918. The winner in 1918 was Ernest Poole, who won for His Family. Poole and quite a few other Fiction Pulitzer winners are all but forgotten now (our stores don’t get many requests these days for books by Margaret Wilson, Martin Flavin or Josephine Johnson—all Fiction prizewinners).

But other award-winning novels have stood the test of time and are on students’ reading lists and/or their parents’ must-read lists. Here we feature some collectible editions of Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction books which can be found on our shelves!

GoneWithTheWind

Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Macmillan, 1986. 50th Anniversary Edition.
Awarded the Pulitzer in 1937

This anniversary edition of the timeless Civil War classic is in a slipcase that features a photograph of author Margaret Mitchell. It’s at our Cincinnati-Northgate store—$20. Continue reading

Biographies of Heroic Lives (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

It’s Biography Week, which is a good time to read about the life of someone exceptional, someone notable for doing something heroic. (I also thoroughly enjoy reading about the lives of drunk musicians, hideous parents and reprehensible scofflaws, but we’ll save those for another occasion.)

We feature three fine editions of books that contain the stories of people who inspired other people.

RosaParks
Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today’s Youth by Rosa Parks
Lee & Low, 1996. First Edition, signed by Rosa Parks!

This is not, strictly speaking, a biography or memoir, but in her responses to questions from young people, Ms. Parks relates her experiences as a key figure in the civil rights movement from her initial 1955 bus protest on and how those experiences shaped her life. Her bold action taken on a bus in Montgomery not only inspired legions to join the civil rights movement, but it also continues to inspire Americans both young and old.

This book, signed and dated 11/24/96 by the great American icon, is priced at $250. Continue reading

Variety Is the Spice of Vinyl (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Records are a great entertainment value. Most of Half Price Books used LPs are priced between $3 and $8, and we have thousands at $1-2 clearance prices. We also have great prices on our new vinyl.

But enough about great prices. Let’s talk variety: The wonders and oddities in every genre that a music-lover like me can find in a record bin are endlessly alluring. From R&B to C&W, from techno to disco, from doo-wop to bop, there’s a great world of music to be discovered and uncovered on vinyl, and all in endlessly fascinating packaging.

My vinyl playground is the Dallas Flagship store, and here’s a potpourri of records that recently captured my attention there. They’re all above our average LP price, but they’re all above-average records.

Prince

Prince – Fury
2006, Universal Records MCST 40462 (UK) picture disc
As we approach the anniversary of his untimely death, let’s start with the consummate genre transcender, Prince, who bridged R&B, pop, rock, funk, soul, dance and psychedelia to become one of the most influential (and enjoyable) artists in popular music history. “Fury” is a cut from Prince’s 3121 album, his comeback to the top ten of Billboard’s Albums chart.
Near Mint—$30

HomerJethro

Homer and Jethro Fracture Frank Loesser
1953, RCA Victor LPM 3112, 10”
You may well expect the show-tunes of Broadway songwriter Frank Loesser to be uncomfortable on the playlist of a comedy-bluegrass duo. Loesser himself wrote in the liner notes, “They have shot at my eight little targets with great humor and characteristic skill. I guess the joke’s on me but I love it.” This unlikely mash-up doesn’t disappoint. Homer & Jethro do their thing on “Once in Love with Amy,” “On a Slow Boat to China” and other Broadway classics. The songs seem quite at home in the novel setting.
The record and cover (and the music) have held up very well over the past 64 years—$20 Continue reading

It’s Geek Week (like every other week at HPB)

If you’re looking to express your geeky side with pride—and why shouldn’t you?—Half Price Books is the place. Our stores seem to have a never-ending supply of games, comics, action figures and other items designed to help you geek out.

Here are just a few highlights we’ve learned about that are currently in our stores around the country. “A Geek Week Sneak Peek,” I guess you could call it. If you are interested in any of them, contact The Buy Guy.

Lee---X-Men-1-(2)[1]X-Men #1 King-Size Special
Signed by Stan Lee!
Has a little bit of rubbing and wear to the bottom of the spine, but no other damage or signs of wear.
At our Mentor, Ohio store: $100 Continue reading