Hammett- Maltese Falcon(first in DJ)

j b krygier jbkrygie at cc.owu.edu
Mon Mar 25 07:54:40 EST 2002


DCHOCK7 at aol.com wrote:

> I thought the bidding on the ebay Hammett was disappointing; very little
> interest from ML collectors(the book sold to a last second bidder at $300,
> the apparent reserve price). Do most collectors have a copy of this title? I
> thought that this item(which, from the scan, appeared to be in fairly good
> shape) might reach $500. It is, along with the Gatsby, one of the two "gems"
> of post-1925 ML collecting. I wonder if this signals a general decline in ML
> prices after three years of strong upward movement.

The prices of MLs seem to be a touchy issue among ML
collectors and sellers - collectors complaining about high
prices and sellers complaining about collectors not willing
to pay appropriate prices for scarce copies have generated
a bit of tension on the ModLib list at times...so I tread
carefully.

A couple of thoughts:

I would certainly have to plead poverty (like Scot) as one
real reason for not bidding on such a title.  I assumed
that Hammett collectors would bid the book up and that
they didn't surprised me a bit.  But besides this sadly
practical matter:

eBay is not a great indication of what a ML is worth.  A
banged up DJ-less copy of some common title will be bid
up to $30, while a VG/VG copy of Styron's "Confessions
of Nat Turner" ended up in my hands for $3.50 (about a
month back).

Also: the 'Maltese Falcon' is available in a HC version - the
HC version is not that scarce (altho the Hammett collectors
routinely bid copies up on eBay).  It seems like many ML
collectors are just happy to have a title, and are not shooting
for all 1sts.

This is more of a stretch: for me, at least, the original goal
of the Modern Library - to provide decent cheap books to
'common' folks still applies.  I don't consider myself to
be a cheap person (I can provide credit card balances to
prove this), but one of the most enjoyable parts of collecting
MLs is tracking down scarce copes for a few bucks.  I have
found enough real gems this way that I am very reluctant to
pay Toledano value.  I am not saying that MLs are not worth
Toledano value - indeed I think in many cases (pre 1940) they
should be worth even more than the Guide value.  But I just
dont get the same thrill paying Guide value as I do when I
find a rare ML for under $10.  I guess this is sort of like my
northern Wisconsin uncle who hunts bears with a bow and
arrow.  He just doesn't get the same thrill hunting with a
gun, if that analogy makes any sense at all.

If I had difficulty in finding scarce but cheap MLs, I might
change my mind.  But there are alot of ML bargains out
there hiding on dusty bookstore shelves and even on eBay.

Finally - I do know that there is a difference between a
newish collector (like myself) who still has many titles to
find and years to go, and a collector who is looking to fill
in the last few gaps in the collection.  I still hold out hope
that I will find my flex copy of 'The Maltese Falcon' for
$10.  If this hasn't happened in 30 years, I will pay full
Guide value for it!

John K.







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j   b   k r y g i e r

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