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 Maybe it’s culture clash or has out-of-date kitsch appeal.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.

Meet the Artist: Louis Zoellar Bickett II

At HPB Hamburg Pavilion, we receive large amounts of paper history from Appalachia, books on local history, books signed by famous local authors and artists, and books that are just brimming with fascinating information about Kentucky. To showcase this wealth of knowledge, we’ve carved out a nook in our Collectibles section to display the many wonderful books we have for sale. Stop by our store to check it out.

Recently Kentucky lost a notable historian and artist, Louis Zoellar Bickett II. For a sense of the personality of the man I give you a short piece from the obituary he had written himself before he passed: “…went home to glory, crossed over, passed away, was carried to paradise, fell into the arms of Jesus, gave up the ghost, petered out, kicked the bucket, croaked, faced the music, bit the bullet, left the building, did not go gently into the night, and died Sunday, October 29, after engaging a long battle with ALS: ALS 1, LZB 0…” His most notable work is a collection that spans more than three decades that is simply known as The Archive. This collection indexes thousands of pieces of ephemera, which for Bickett was proof of concept that the people who owned them existed and acts as an eternal witness to the weight of a person’s life.

At the beginning of March, Aaron Skolnick got into contact with our store to inquire, like most folks, whether or not we’d be interested in buying a vast part of the more personal collection of his late husband, Louis Zoellar Bickett II. Over the course of the next three months, we received hundreds of signed and inscribed books that began to tell a piece of the story of this voluminous curator. Many of these inscriptions speak with great warmth of this human who infiltrated their lives in some way or another. Some of the more notable authors include Maya Angelou, Wendell Berry, Allen Ginsberg and Luke Smalley.

You can find a sample of the collection for sale listed on our store page in the Amazing Finds in section. Simply put: This is a mere fraction of the enormous collection of items sold to us, and if you’d like to see them all, swing by or give us a call and we would be more than happy to talk about it and even ship the books to you. I am humbled by the resonant impression of vibrant “here-ness” that the man known as Louis Zoellar Bickett II left on reality in my own Kentucky home.

Mirry Childs, Shift Leader, HPB Hamburg Pavilion in Lexington. KY

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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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

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

Washington, Lincoln—and Adams, Too! (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Presidents’ Day began as a holiday to mark the birthday of the Father of Our Country, first President George Washington. It was later expanded to include the beloved 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. They’re most certainly worthy recipients of a holiday, but we’re thinking it’s time to also give a little love to Father George’s successor, second Prez John Adams. (Especially since he got cut from the hit musical Hamilton.)

And what better way to honor John Adams than to show off a first edition copy of this important 1787 book explaining his theories of the government of this country?

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.
$10,000johnadamsAdams 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.

This copy, available at our South Arlington store, 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.

Interested in purchasing this piece of American history or learning more about it? Contact the Buy Guy!

Steve is the”Buy Guy” at Half Price Books Corporate.

Christmas Past Makes a Great Christmas Present

The literary work most associated with Christmas is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but, really, all of Charles Dickens’ works somehow seem to fit the holiday season, so we would like to take this opportunity to feature a very special array of British editions of Dickens’ novels, mostly first editions illustrated by Phiz, and a couple of other very special holiday collectible editions.1-thechimes

The Chimes
This 1905 J.M. Dent deluxe edition of the second of Dickens’ famous Christmas books is bound in vellum, with lovely decorative gilt to the spine and front board, showing holly, ivy and cherubs in an Art Nouveau style. Illustrated by Charles E. Brock. $225

2-nicholasnicklebyThe Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
First Edition, mixed issue. Chapman and Hall, 1839. Twentieth-century half morocco binding by Zaehnsdorf of London. $1,200 Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!: Rarest of Rare Collectibles

On his 70th birthday, Mark Twain gave a speech to friends gathered at Delmonico’s Restaurant. To mark the occasion, he noted that the age of 70 is “the time of life when you arrive at a new and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach—unrebuked.”

On the same occasion, he joked about his very first birthday: “I always think of it with indignation; everything was so crude, unaesthetic, primeval. Nothing like this at all. No proper appreciative preparation made; nothing really ready. Now, for a person born with high and delicate instincts—why, even the cradle wasn’t whitewashed—nothing ready at all. I hadn’t any hair, I hadn’t any teeth, I hadn’t any clothes. I had to go to my first banquet just like that.”

It got better for Mr. Twain. He lived a long and happy-but-cranky life, very productive and much celebrated during his time. Continue reading

Banned Collectible Books (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Again this year, in honor of Banned Books Awareness Week, we present a couple of perennial reading-list favorites that have been censored and banned.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
First Printing, Little, Brown & Co., 1951

In 2015, one of our two featured books during Banned Books Awareness Week was J.D. Salinger’s first book. That copy sold out of one of our Minnesota stores, and this year a Texas store has acquired another first edition in Very Good condition.

The Catcher in the Rye has remained a popular and critical favorite since it was published, appearing near the top of the “greatest American literature” lists of Time, Modern Library and many other listmakers. Many school districts and libraries have restricted or banned it for profanity, sexual references and for being “negative” and because it “undermines morality.”

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Birthday (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

In honor of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ birthday, we present an assortment of collectible editions, just a few examples from his prodigious output. His wrote novels ranging from science fiction to westerns to mysteries—and, of course, the Tarzan books.

Our South Lamar store in Austin, has acquired several early Grosset & Dunlap reprints of Burroughs novels, including The Mucker (1921), The Chessmen of Mars (1922), Pellucidar (1923), and The Eternal Lover (1925). All of these books are in dust jackets, in Good to Very Good condition. Prices range from $40 to $75. Another volume, not issued in a dust jacket, is The Illustrated Tarzan Books No. 1, published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1929, a graphic novel with 300 black & white illustrations by Harold Foster. Boards are heavily rubbed and bumped. Its price is $40.

The store also offers a 5.75” x 3.5” card, signed and inscribed by Burroughs “To Preston Sawyer, Best Wishes, Tarzana Jan. 4, 1929.” There is a certificate of authenticity that describes Sawyer (1899-1968) as a journalist for the Santa Cruz Sentinel and an avid collector of autographs and other memorabilia. The autograph card is priced $350.

001Books.jpgOur Flagship store in Dallas also recently took in a number of Edgar Rice Burroughs hardbacks, published not only by Grosset & Dunlap, Canaveral Press and McClurg, but also by Burroughs’ own publishing company. Highlights include a first edition of Escape on Venus (1946), as well as early reprints of A Fighting Man of Mars, Pellucidar and Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. Prices range from $50 to $100. Condition is Good to Very Good. The Flagship also got a bunch of ERB paperbacks and a 1942 big-little-book edition of Tarzan the Terrible ($40). Continue reading