An abandoned treasure, tucked away from view, waits for the right person to appreciate its value. The book’s cover may be worn or its pages ever-so-slightly creased, but to the right someone, it’s priceless. Stacked among piles of old novels and Texas tales in David Grossblatt’s store, it may take days, weeks or years for the book to find its home. But once it arrives there, that book, whatever book it is, will have been worth the finder’s wait.
Lake Highlands resident Grossblatt has made a career out of getting “that” elusive book into the right hands. The journey began in 1971, when he made a chance visit to Harper’s bookstore on Elm Street. The experience led him to quit his job as a door-to-door building supplies salesman and follow, well, his nose.
“When I first walked in the store, I was overwhelmed by this aroma of books,” Grossblatt says. “It was very intoxicating.”
Armed with his trusty price guide, Grossblatt explored the shelves and found several Ernest Hemmingway novels for around $5 apiece. The guide predicted these books combined were worth a few hundred dollars. He began buying more books over the next two months, and then took them to a different bookstore to sell them for what he assumed would be a hefty profit.
Unfortunately, his price guide had left out a few important variables.
“It had nothing about condition, dust jackets or first editions,” Grossblatt says. “It had nothing.”
Most of the books were a bust, except for one. The bookstore owner offered to buy “Pioneer Women of Texas” for $50. Considering Grossblatt had picked it up at Goodwill for 19 cents, he quickly agreed.
“At that point, I started teaching myself about books,” Grossblatt says. “I knew I didn’t know anything, and this was an eye-opener.”
He began pouring over the books at a store around the corner from Harper’s, Dick Bosse’s Aldridge Bookstore, and likens his time spent there to an apprenticeship in bookselling. Bosse and Grossblatt took turns visiting estate sales to look for choice paperbacks and hardbacks, and Grossblatt took advantage of the store’s vast resources. He read and studied, studied and read, and eventually he didn’t need a price guide anymore.
Today, all the book knowledge Grossblatt needs is neatly arranged his mind. When he goes to estate sales — a great place to find books, he says — he’s amused by others’ techniques. They often grab books, head to a corner of the house, and begin typing furiously on their handheld computers to find the value.
Twelve years ago, Carol Matesic of JLA Treasures, who runs many estate sales, noticed that Grossblatt kept showing up at a number of her sales. She began using him as a reference to find the value of some of the books.
“He can spot a good book from across the room,” Matesic says.
Certainly, Grossblatt is searching for first and rare editions that could collect a pretty penny, but he’s just as likely to walk out of an estate sale with books that might not fetch even $20.
“Within a few minutes, I can pick out the books that not only have value, but that people are looking for,” Grossblatt says. “They don’t necessarily have a lot of value but are very sellable.”
One example of this is books by author Elizabeth Goudge, who writes cozy stories about village life that appeal to women. Grossblatt keeps a wide selection of reader favorites in his booth at Forestwood Antique Mall and also sells select volumes through his eBay store. And if anyone asks him, he’s happy to hunt for that desirable book.
Grossblatt’s knowledge on collectibles isn’t limited to books. In fact, his ability to price glassware at an estate sale garnered Grossblatt both a great story and one of his best finds.
“I know a lot about a lot of different areas of collectibles,” Grossblatt says. “Just enough to be dangerous.”
For helping out at that sale, Grossblatt was told by the owner to take the copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” he spied sitting on the top shelf. He left the sale and tossed the book in a box with a few others. At home, he realized it was a first edition, but someone had scrawled on one of the pages. Grossblatt’s first reaction was, “Someone has really screwed up this book,” until he read on. The writing on the book turned out to be a personal inscription by the author, Nell Harper Lee.
Grossblatt eventually sold the book for $9,500 to a modern literature dealer, who then turned around and sold it for $13,000. Later, he spotted it in a catalog with a price tag of $35,000.
Some people might think that Grossblatt got the raw end of that deal, but he says he doesn’t much care about the money. All he wants is to make enough to support his passion.
“I guess I could say I love my books, but I love selling them and putting them in the right hands,” Grossblatt says. “That’s where I get my greatest pleasure.”
Looking for an early edition of an American classic? Perhaps a book that’s out of print? Visit David Grossblatt at his booth in Forest Wood Antique Mall, 5333 Forest, or call him at 214-732-5090 or 214-320-4922.