The Collectors Auctioneer  


Fine Books  ♣  decorative arts    


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Lot Details for

"The Last Book Sale"

(Photos and Details at the bottom of this page)


It's early May, and the weather is heating up in Archer City, Texas.  I find myself standing in a massive building with row after row of books -- hundreds of thousands of them -- and this is just one building of three which I will be auctioning for Mr. McMurtry.  Standing there in building #4 of Booked Up, my first feeling is one of being overwhelmed by the large volume of books.  "Where do I even start?" I think to myself. 


My second thought comes shortly after as I begin to examine the shelves more closely, preparing them for the lotting and tagging.  "Many of these books should be sold as single- item lots -- they're too valuable to sell in a shelf-lot," I thought to myself.  But then, the more I looked, the more I realized that if we were to try and pick out each book worthy of single-item lotting, then we would have to hold an auction every day for at  least a year and produce a 200 pound catalogue.


On and on I went, lotting building #4, then #3, and finally #2.  Shelf after shelf, I pick up a book here and there.  Here's a signed first edition, there's a $100 book, here's another, here's a $400 book....


So, keeping my consignor's interests in mind, I approach Mr. McMurtry with just one example of the many high-value books, "You know, there are so many of these higher-value books in these shelf-lots.  You would get more money for them if you let me pick out at least a small portion of them to sell individually."


McMurtry looks at the one example I bring to him out of many thousands, "No.  Leave them where they are.  Let's keep the quality of the shelves high and hope the bidders look closely enough to recognize the value."


Shaking my head, I reply, "So many valuable books here...." 


"Why don't I just pick out around 100 books to sell individually just as a sampling for the bidders of the types of books we have in the shelf-lots" McMurtry says.


Nodding in agreement, I reply, "Well, you've been a book-scout for 50 years, so people will know that any books that you pick out are rare or unusual...."


"I'll pick out few for you to play with" he says with a grin.


Thirty minutes later, I see a stack of books on the table of building #2, and I begin to lot them individually.  After numbering them, I walk over to Booked Up building #1 where I find Mr. McMurtry and say, "Well, there are 90 books there.  I'm going to call them 'The McMurtry 90' -- how about that?"


"You want me to find 10 more?  Let me find 10 more and make it an even 100" McMurtry says.


I reply, "Even better.  A nice round number."


It only took him a few moments to put another 10 books on the table in the other building, and the "McMurtry 100" was complete.


Now, for some who have seen Mr. McMurtry in brief interviews here and there and have never met him in person, they may think that he is grumpy or short with people;  but the truth is that he is one of the kindest, most humorous and accomodating people you will ever meet.  It's probably true that he does not savor formalities and isn't in his element in a "formal" interview on camera.  He's too laid back for all of that fuss.  And it was over one of several dinners, to which he graciously treated me, that the subject of the Goodspeed's sign came up.


I had seen the old Goodspeed's sign stretched out along the floor of building #1, and I had read about it elsewhere.  The sign is a real piece of bookstore history, and I wanted it from the first moment I saw it.  I knew McMurtry had the sign for many years and never had thought much about selling it.  It was a special decoration among many others in his Booked Up store.  But what if...what if...


"What about the Goodspeed's sign?"  I asked as I cut my steak.


"I had thought about offering that in the sale...."


"That would be incredible" I quickly replied.  "There's only one, and I think many collectors would be interested in it.  I love that sign!"


"Let's add that to the auction" he said with a hint of enthusiasm.


The auction kept looking better and better with each day.  From the high-quality shelf-lots and the "McMurtry 100" to the Goodspeed's sign, it was clearer and clearer to me that Mr. McMurtry wanted this to be a special auction.  That's what I wanted too -- and that's exactly what we're going to have. 


Now we leave it you, the bidders, to scan each lot carefully;  because the closer you look, the more value you will find.  These aren't shevles full of filler;  this is one of the finest stocks in the world.


Below, take a look at the breakdown for the auction of over 1500 lots.  You will find a general idea of the number of lots, the number of books in most lots, and the like.  As for categories, most of the books are categorized right where they are in the buildings.  If you are looking for a particular category, then don't worry:  what you're looking for is bound to be there (and probably in large quantity).




The Shelf-Lots


Just over 1400 shelf-lots will be offered over the two-day auction.  While the lots vary in size, holding the sale to two days required that most shelf-lots contain around 150 books.  Most books are hardcover, and the overall quality of each shelf lot is quite good.  Each lot typically contains around 8 shelves with some having more and some having less.



The McMurtry 100


100 books, selected by McMurtry for various reasons, will be auctioned individually.  Not all of the books are high-dollar books.  Some were chosen as books that Mr. McMurtry, through 50 years of book-hunting, has scarcely seen (such as a book by Dostoyevsky's daughter).  Some are both rare and valuable.  To view the "McMurtry 100" along with his comments, please visit the Catalogues page, or click here.  (If the list is not yet available, please check back soon!)



The Goodspeed's Sign


See photo, below.  The sign is made of metal and there are a few cracked letters and a portion of the last "S" is broken and lacking.  The sign is approximately 16 feet in length and 3 1/2 feet in height.



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