What do we do with our Collections and/or Stock?

September 13th, 2015

As Kuenzig Books prepares for our year-end flurry of bookfairs, Lew Jaffe, a longtime bookplate collector, has just posted a great question to his blog:

What should collectors and dealers do with their collections? What happens if you do nothing?

Lew Jaffe’s original post – Till Death Do Us Part

We commented on his posting,  (found below with a few additions).  Many others have as well, and the result is well worth reading and thinking about.


We’ve twice in the last few years been hired to triage the estates of booksellers who have passed on and left their accumulations to their heirs. The heirs have asked us to attempt to sort thousands of items into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Or, what should be treated specially (valuable or rare), what can or should be wholesaled to dealers or sent to auction, and what should be donated or discarded.

The frustrating thing for us is that often, sans instructions or notes left to the contrary by the collector or dealer, we can be hours (or days) into sorting material only to discover that widely scattered material should more appropriately be kept together. Or that seemingly disparate items belong together (often prompted by an obscure purchase receipt that links things together). While sometimes material bought together should be separated, there is often more value (in our view) in keeping things together when possible. And this often translates into more interest on the part of an institution or potential purchaser.

[ Adding to our comments:

With no documentation, we’re often reduced to sorting big piles:


into “like things”:


This kind of blind sorting causes collections lose their cohesion, but with no direction or pre-sorting or documentation from the collector, this is a common result.   Note to dealers:  don’t leave the results of 20 years of bookselling to your heirs unless you have at a minimum left some basic instructions about who to call when you’re gone!!! ]

Contrast that with a collector we’re working with now, who, faced with a life challenging medical situation is trying to make plans to divest his collection before he passes. He has a catalog of most of his material, complete with purchase prices and sources, and he only laments the fact that he may not have the time to a) find the best home for portions of his collection, and b) that he probably won’t have the time to document his thoughts on why the whole of the collection is bigger than the sum of it’s parts.

The worst part is when something ends up in a dumpster. Most of the records of writer Harry Stubbs (better known as science fiction writer Hal Clement) ended up in a dumpster, which we found out only after buying some material we recognized at a small auction house. We inquired about and chased that dumpster, but were too late. I knew Hal, and I regret not making sure he had plans for his records (including his typescripts, etc) before he died.

So I heartily thank Lew for bringing up this relevant and timely subject again. And for those who have added great thoughts along the way. We’re all in one way or the other in the business of salvaging history. And it’s worthwhile in my view.

John F. Kuenzig

A Money Tree Grows in Brooklyn… somewhere

September 18th, 2014

If we let ourselves be intimidated by the awesome blog of a professional writer, we will never write our own.  While we sometimes exhibit at the same events, we often perceive different worlds. Not this time. We shared Greg Gibson’s world: Leaky roofs and outside toilets.

The new Brooklyn Antiques and Book Fair may not have shown us the deep pockets of the clientele attending Sandy’s Manhattan armory show but it at least brought new faces.  Lots of new faces.

A tree grows in Brooklyn.  The money tree we have yet to find but it is tantalizing close.  The trade often complains about the lack of young faces and interested, engaged customers.  This show had both.  We predict it will just take a little time for these newbies to develop into the collecting addicts we know and love.  And with a little luck and sustained efforts by promoters like Marvin Getman exploring new venues, and booksellers promoting their wares and offering affordable entry points, we’ll continue growing the next generation.

And when THAT money comes rolling in, we’ll all frolic at the beach.


Here are some of the items booksellers and antiques dealers had to offer:



and it shows at the end of the show:

We will be back to Brooklyn and definitely to Peter Pan donuts for their white cream filled donuts.
Next time, perhaps we will share our dozen donuts.

What was your favorite donut – Red Velvet, Honey Dipped, Coconut or something else?

Newbies and Bologna

September 5th, 2014

Photo Credit: ckilgore via Compfight cc

In the beginning, along with a full van of books and hope, there were also packed lunches.

We were newbies to the tradeshow circuit.  By packing our lunches, we did not have to worry from whence the sustenance would come.  Besides, we did not want to spend the time or the money for outside food. Whenever we got hungry we would reach under the tablecloth and the cooler would come out. Bologna or ham sandwiches were the norm – we would sometimes spruce it up and add lettuce and mustard. It had to be something we could hold with our hands and not be too messy.  One of us would eat and the other would continue the customer service.

But then…

We wised up.  John wanted something hot – which never comes out of a cooler. Sonia wanted to try new things, especially in foodie towns like New York City or Washington, DC.  Bologna sandwiches no longer cut it.

Now, we research ahead of time – cheap eats, reviews with kudos – anything and everything we need to know to get a good meal.  Yes, there have been times when we have lamented spending good money on mediocre food, but we rarely miss the bologna.  We’ve even started going to dinner with friends and colleagues after the show and during setup.  The costs are far outweighed by the fun, collegial atmosphere over food and the occasional drink.

For the Brooklyn Antiques and Book Fair in Greenpoint (Brooklyn), NY, besides the Milk Truck grilled cheese option, we have already scoped out possible eateries close to the venue.
Peter Pan donuts as we mentioned before – yes, donuts can be a meal by themselves.
There are also great reviews for Pauli Gee‘s (pizza) 2 1/2 blocks away; Calexico (Mexican); Five Leaves (eclectic) or something more old fashioned like Lomzynianka (Polish).

How do we find all these potential meals? We ‘google’ them. We search for “cheap eats Greenpoint NY”; “best restaurants Brooklyn NY”; etc. Or we use www.tripadvisor.com. But most importantly, we cross-reference. Rated #1 Chinese for a small town will not be the same as Rated #1 Chinese for Boston, MA. Don’t forget to read the comments.

We will see if there is time for all those restaurants. Unfortunately, there are only three meals a day, although in Lord of the Rings, there is also second breakfast.

ABAA interview – who are we?

September 1st, 2014

You see our book listings online. You see us at the shows. But you have wondered how did we become booksellers? Were we born with a genetic disposition towards books? Were we made like in the Matrix and fed book knowledge via tubes? Were we self-made or did it take a village?

ABAA member Michael Ginsberg conducted video interviews which covered “members’ personal histories as well as their involvement in the rare book trade”. Here’s our interview.


Oh, and here‘s something from Business Week from a few years back.


Brooklyn Antiques and Book Fair

August 29th, 2014

Where should you be 10am-5pm September 13th and 14th, 2014? Where can you see scientific instruments and antiquarian books in one place?

At the very first Brooklyn Antiques and Book Fair in a brand new Brooklyn Expo Center at 79 Franklin St. (at Noble) Greenpoint, Brooklyn NY. It is a brand new show but it is being presented by Impact Events Group, Inc. whom always bring together quality dealers, in this case “110 dealers from all over the eastern seaboard selling their best antiques […]  some of the best book and ephemera dealers in the business presenting vintage and antiquarian books on every subject matter […]”. And among those dealers, at least 30 are ABAA booksellers like ourselves.

It is still early so we are not sure what we will bring, but these items are in the pipeline:

We have lots more where they came from but can only bring a van full. If you have specific wants or see something on our website you would like us to bring, don’t hesitate to contact us before the show.

We look forward to seeing you again or meeting you for the first time. We will be right inside the door on an endcap. Come say hello.

BTW, the fair is within walking distance to Peter Pan Donuts (of Tina Fey fame). Bring us a dozen… and you will make John’s day 🙂




Kuenzig Books - Important Books in Science, Technology and Engineering - Artifacts of Science and Technology