Behind the dog-eared technothrillers, yellowing bodice rippers and whodunits sold at Scottsdale’s Civic Center Library sits a case glowing with collectible books.
The downtown library put collectible sale books on display last month. A signed Ansel Adams, a Nathaniel Haw thorne worth thousands of dollars and lavish art books sit apart from the hoi polloi of the book world. All books in the collection were donated.
"People are really excited about this," said Michelle Brooks, supervisor of library volunteers.
A leatherbound edition of "Don Quixote" goes for $50. "Wyeth at Kuerners" can sit on your shelf for $45. The six-volume "Works of Charles Lamb," by t he 18th-century English essayist and poet who collaborated on children’s books with his insane sister, is offered at $65.
Last month, the library at 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd. acquired a display case. Before then, "we didn’t have any place to display them because they are too valuable to leave out," said Debbie Tang, special projects and facilities manager.
Prices range from $25 for "Art Treasures of the Hermitage" to $200 for Adams’ signed edition of "These We Inherit: The Parklands of America."
"I’m not really an Ansel Adams fan, but I started looking through it and thought, ‘This is a nice book,’ " Brooks said.
It’s also a bargain, selling for $200, although references list its worth at $600. Librarians consult appraisers and use www.abe.com, an online resource for used, rare and out-of-print books, to determine what they’ll charge.
"We try to stay a little bit under the middle," Brooks said. Proceeds from sales go into a revenue account supporting library programs, Brooks said.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys" was appraised at $2,000. The 1852 Ticknor and Fields edition can be identified by a misspelling on page 21. "Else, while his arm was lifed to strike . . ."
"It’s the most valuable we have in our collection," Tang said. "People just parted with it without knowing how valuable it was."
The library staff is anticipating a high demand for special editions such as the Hawthorne, so they are working out the details of a fair sale method such as a silent auction.
About 400 items are in the library’s collectible inventory. Displays are rotated on the first day of every month. A three-ring binder at the volunteer desk in the Book Corral contains descriptions and prices of volumes not displayed. Everything is in collectible condition. They won’t sell books with notes in the margins or highlighted portions.
Mustang Library at 10101 N. 90th St. has sold collectible editions for about a year, although they are not on display. That library has raised about $24,000 in sales, Tang said.
"We’ve had a lot of book dealers coming in to see what we have," Brooks said.
George Chamberlain hasn’t been one of them. The proprietor of The Antiquarian Shop at 4242 N. Scottsdale Road for more than 40 years, Chamberlain said it’s not unusual for libraries to sell collectible editions.
"All the major universities do it," Chamberlain said, including the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. "They all do it, usually in one big sale. I probably will not go down. I don’t generally buy in competition to people who might be customers."
Brooks said donating collectibles to the library can be a great resource for bibliophiles. Someone who has amassed an impressive collection, but whose children aren’t readers, will know their books are going to people who will appreciate them, she said.
"You don’t want to see these things in a yard sale," she said. "The book is still going to another book lover, and it’s generating money for the library."