We rare book collectors and dealers have, apparently, been asleep. While we’ve been aslumber, the meaning of “rare” has undergone a radical transformation guaranteed to startle us to wide-eyed wakefulness.
“RARE NANCY DREW APPLEWOOD THE MESSAGE IN THE HOLLOW OAK Item #200366792295. FROM A SMOKE AND PET-FREE HOME, THIS IS A FIRST OR SECOND EDITION!!! HOLLOW OAK IS A RARITY- I DID NOT FIND 1 ON EBAY INCLUDING COMPLETED AUCTIONS!!!"
Once upon a time, Ebay provided auction records for the prior three months. Far from a reliable indicator of rarity at that short interval, not too long ago the time frame was reduced to an absurd thirty days. Now it’s a mere two weeks.
Hasn’t been seen in two weeks! Alert the media!
I’m not a friend of Ebay but I do know a few serious and savvy collectors who’ve picked up some good material through the site but only because they knew a whole lot more about the book being offered than the seller and asked important, key questions.
On balance, however, Ebay continues to be a rare book source where those who know little if anything about what they have sell to those who know little if anything about what they’re doing. It’s still caveat emptor-land in capital letters.
Now, as it turns out, The Message in the Hollow Oak, Nancy Drew Mystery #12 (1935) is indeed a rarity. But this Ebay seller’s complete description is strictly Earth vs. the Flying Saucers:
“FROM A SMOKE AND PET-FREE HOME, THIS IS A FIRST OR SECOND EDITION!!! THE NUMBER LINE IS "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2". YOU ARE BIDDING ON HARDBACK "THE MESSAGE IN THE HOLLOW OAK" IN VERY GOOD CONDITION- COMPLETELY UNMARKED ASIDE FROM BOOKSTORE PRICE MARKED INSIDE, ONLY THE MOST MINIMAL EDGEWEAR. HOLLOW OAK IS A RARITY- I DID NOT FIND 1 ON EBAY INCLUDING COMPLETED AUCTIONS!!! COPYRIGHT 1999; 4 GLOSSY INTERNALS !!! INTERNALS ARE THE HOLY GRAIL- MOST NANCY DREW FANS HAVE NOT SEEN ALL 4. . IMPROVE YOUR SUMMER BY READING THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE TITIAN-HAIRED INGENUE AND YOUNGEST DETECTIVE IN RIVER HEIGHTS! IMPROVE YOUR NDQ BY SEEING THE 4 RARE GLOSSY PICS INSIDE AND READING MORE ABOUT THE MOST CLEVER (AND PRETTIEST) TEENAGER THIS SIDE OF THE MUSKOKA RIVER AND HER DADDY LAWYER CARSON DREW'S DARLING! I'LL THROW YOU A TIDBIT: DID YOU KNOW THAT ORIGINALLY THE 16 YEAR OLD NANCY HAD A GUN? YES, THE PERFECTLY COIFFED, SUMMER FROCK-WEARING HIGH-SCHOOL GIRL PACKED HEAT! I BELIEVE THAT SHE KEPT HER WEAPON IN THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT (ALONG WITH SHORT WHITE GLOVES, JUST IN CASE) OF HER SPORTY BLUE ROADSTER! NANCY WAS MADE TO BE 18 AND BLONDE (SHE WAS ORIGINALLY 'TITIAN-HAIRED") IN MORE RECENT TIMES. SEE MY OTHER AUCTIONS FOR SIMILAR- ALWAYS CHEAPEST SHIPPING, IN THIS CASE FREE- NEVER ANY HANDLING!!!”
Having plowed through the seller’s all-caps, exclamation point-happy, smoke and pet-free garrulous paean to sixteen year old titian-haired innocent gun moll gumshoes with white gloves, the sharp eyed will have noticed that the copyright date for the copy in question is “1999.” Not even close to the first edition. But “always cheapest shipping, in this case free.”
Contrast the Ebay seller’s description for his copy of this book with the description provided by Tavistock Books, whose proprietor, Vic Zoschak, is a solid, reliable and trustworthy veteran of the rare book trade:
KEENE, Carolyn (pseudonym, here, of Mildred A. Wirt). The Message in the Hollow Oak. New York: Grosset & Dunlap., (1935). 12mo. 1st edition, 7th printing (Farah 1937A-7). iv, 218,  pp. Adverts last 2 pages. Light blue cloth binding with orange lettering (Format #3). Orange topstain. Orange silhouette eps. Dust jacket with white spine, wear & soiling). Frontis + 3 inserted plates by Russell H. Tandy.
Vic accurately provides all that the concerned collector needs to know without needless palaver substituting for knowledge. The most basic and important piece of info is offered, the bibliographical citation. Vic charges for shipping, a small price to pay for dealing with an individual who has invested decades into learning the trade and knowing books.
It’s the difference between peace of mind when buying and having to give a piece of one’s mind to the seller after buying.
If this Ebay seller wanted to know how rare the book actually was, all he had to do was log on to the great aggregator, Addall, where Vic's copy is listed for anyone to see, if he knew where to look. It doesn't get much more basic than Addall, which the trade has been using for years to get an accurate sense of the marketplace.
Ebay remains the wild, wild west. Keep a roscoe in the glove compartment for protection and take off the white gloves when buying rare books there lest they get soiled. That's the real message in the hollow oak.
Hat’s off to Jennifer of the Series Books for Girls blogspot for the lead.