Folio Weekly: Tell me a little about what you do.
Desiree Bailey: I run a used-book store, and I have fun here all day long. I really do. People who come in here want to be here.
How did you get into books?
We read all the time growing up. My big weekend event was going to the library and we could pick out whatever we wanted, as much as we wanted. We would go on vacations and take bags of books with us, and I’d stay up at night under my covers with a flashlight, reading.
Are used books investments?
When the Julia Child movie came out, all of our cookbooks sold out [immediately]. I went to reorder the used ones and they had tripled the prices because the market was in such demand. It was cheaper for me to buy them new.
So trends set the tone for your sales?
Yeah. We are constantly adapting. We’ve been buying a lot of gluten-free cookbooks recently.
Why do some books that look identical vary so much in value?
There’s a difference between first edition and first printing. First edition is the first time it’s run. If they don’t change any words but they keep printing it over and over, it stays first edition. It’s the first printing that’s really valuable because it’s the first run.
What’s the practical difference?
Gone with the Wind is a really easy example. [The first printing was] in May 1936. It was so popular, they printed again in June, and they kept going, and by the end of 1936, there were a million copies, all first editions. But the May 1936 ones, they have the most value. Somebody can come in and say, “I have a 1936 first edition,” and it’s worth maybe 10 bucks. But the first printing is worth between $60,000 and $85,000.
What books fetch the most money, in your experience?
On a consistent basis, first editions and leather-bound books. To Kill a Mockingbird is really hard to find in leather. Atlas Shrugged and all the Ayn Rands are hard to find [in leather]. We’ve had some signed first editions from Truman Capote and Ray Bradbury, a signed first edition Hemingway.
What’s the most rare book that’s come across your desk?
One of the coolest and probably the oldest book that I’ve seen come through is from 1754. Very tiny, every page was a different size, it was very odd. It was written by anonymous artists and craftsmen who were the best in their trade at that time, and it was all of their secrets. [For example] what’s the best way to do a fresco, the best way to do a watercolor? So I’m sure, based on the year 1754, there were some really big names in there. Masters. But since it’s anonymous, they agreed to submit all their techniques.