A few days ago a friend called to ask if I wanted some Oz books he'd found at a local book sale. He said there were fourteen of them so I assumed it was a set of Baum titles. He didn't tell me the titles but he said they were older editions probably all from the 1940s. I asked how much they were and was told five bucks for the lot. I said, "Sure!"
My friend called back a bit later and said he'd been misinformed - that the books were $5 each. But if I was gonna take all fourteen I could have them for $50. I said, "Sure," again. This is what I got.
Needless to say I am quite pleased. All but one (a 1950s edition of Wonder City) are indeed from the 1940s; most have gift inscriptions from 1944 to 1946. They are all in quite nice condition and nearly all have their pictorial endpapers. There are three first editions: Captain Salt, Scalawagons, and Lucky Bucky as well as a 1944 first printing of the Evelyn Copelman edition of Wizard from 1944.
I'm quite excited for my little treasure trove - but I am beginning to think the value in Oz books is starting to come crashing down. I am seeing so many now. In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Oz books were hard to find. One seldom walked into an old bookstore and saw a row of old Oz titles. Now I see a few at least in most every old bookstore I go into. And it's not just in San Diego. When Eric and I were driving across the country this past Christmas I saw quite a few Oz books along the way in Antique Malls and bookstores. The internet and eBay are overflowing with bargains! Multiple copies of Thompson first editions in dust jacket for under $300 - half the price such books would have been five years ago. All I can assume is that supply has caught up with demand and the Ozzy market is saturated.
Clearly very fine first editions, signed books, and the like hold a certain value - but from the prices I'm seeing online and in bookstores I doubt I could sell books I bought in the late 1970s for what I paid for them back then. There is a very decent first edition of Hidden Valley of Oz on eBay right now going for under $18 and no one is even bidding. There is another lovely (and overpriced) first edition in dust jacket going for almost $500, too. No one is bidding on that one either.
So while I'm really pleased with my little trove I do wonder what's happening to Oz and book collecting. Never has it been so easy and so affordable to build a decent collection. Sadly so few people seem to have an interest in doing so. That said, it's nice to have friends who will call when they find Ozzy treasure!