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

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

Just some old stuff… (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Bet you didn’t know that March 2 is Old Stuff Day! (Seems like every day is Old Stuff Day around my office—my house, too.) It made me start thinking about all the discoveries we’ve made in the buying areas of our stores across the country. Sometimes, it’s a memento left in a book. Most notably, there was an old book a store had had for a while in a backroom; tucked inside it was a lock of hair pinned to a 1934 obituary. We tracked down a descendant of the deceased and returned the precious keepsake. Sometimes, it’s a book that looks like nothing much but turns out to be extremely scarce, like the second edition of Calvin’s Commentaries, its centuries-old cover worn and plain, found in the bottom of a box of “old stuff.” (While we had it on display, someone stole it and then returned it, with a note attached that said he’d only wanted to be able to hold it for a while.)

cover

Not long ago, a store employee came across the book pictured above. We took a closer look. At first (and second and maybe third) glance, it appeared to really just be old stuff. Its cover was mottled and faded, bumped and spotted. There was no title, author, or other information featured on its cover. Its pages were foxed and browned, some to an extreme. But, hey, the book was published in 1833, almost two centuries ago. You might expect some fading and foxing. 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.

Celebrate Science Fiction Day and Asimov’s Birthday: Rarest of Rare Collectibles

Isaac Asimov’s exact birthdate is not known, but Isaac celebrated it on January 2nd, so that’s the “official” date. It also has been made Science Fiction Day in honor of this prolific writer who is considered one of the Big Three in the sci-fi genre. (The other two are Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke—no slouches, but they didn’t get Science Fiction Day on their birthdays.)

Asimov wrote more than 400 books and won the Hugo Award four times and the Nebula Award once. He wrote several series of books, notably the Foundation series, but also the Robot and Empire series, and, as Paul French, the Lucky Starr series for younger readers. He wrote numerous short stories, popular science nonfiction books and articles and provided the name and editorials, beginning in 1977, for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Busy guy!

Our Fort Wayne, Indiana, store has a 1986 Easton Press leather-bound edition of Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves. This science fiction standalone classic was originally published in 1972 and won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel. This copy is in Very Good condition, with a minor bump on the top right corner. Its price is $45. If you’re interested in purchasing this book, contact The Buy Guy!godsthemselves 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

H.P. Lovecraft: Rarest of Rare Collectibles

We’re getting ready for Halloween, and that doesn’t just mean putting the final touches on our zombie and Princess Leia costumes, it also means getting out our favorite creepy stories to set the mood. In our stores all around the country, books by Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe are popping up on displays. Some of those displays include collectible books, and there are none finer than the two classic collections of H. P. Lovecraft works we’re featuring here.

Our Greenfield, Wisconsin, store was fortunate enough to have received a visit from the nephew of a very early Lovecraft enthusiast, Paul Klingbiel. Two Arkham House Lovecraft books were among the many books Uncle Paul had years ago, over many weeks, shipped to his science-loving nephew Robert. Now those two Arkham House treasures are being offered to our customers.

The Outsider and Others, by H. P. Lovecraft
Arkham House, 1939. First Printing.
The book is in Very Good Plus condition. The dust jacket, which is price-clipped, is in VG condition; there are several closed tears and paper loss to top and bottom of spine. $3,600

outsiders 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.”

Continue reading

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