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Buk Collecting Addiction (1 Viewer)


Someone on the list mentioned starting to collect Buk rarities. Here is my two cents...

I started with the New Year's Greetings. They are beautiful little items and are not too pricey. These were the first "rare" books that I collected. I called them rare, but in reality they are not that uncommon, bt on a shoestring budget, they are damn nice. Once I had the full run, then I upgraded all of the post 1994 by adding the hardcover editions. I don't have the money, or I'd add them all (Pre 1994 hardcovers of these are always signed and are a bit more pricey. These were nice as they were not meant to be sold and only sent out as gifts. After you have those, start by getting the most recent hardback books and then working your way back. There is a copy of "Betting on the Must" HB 1st for about $15 (last I checked). I'm not the seller, but if I did not have the signed Edition, I'd jump on this.

Of course, I had all of the paperbacks in current editions so I was not missing out on great writing while waiting on the "finds".

If you are considering collecting, then, of course, you'll need the biblio by Krumhansl and the price guide by Fogel. Krumhansl is almost perfect, only missing a few entries (War All The Time: A Poet #5 is one of them.) Also, the inclusion of items like the early Wormies where buk os the featured poet, is questionable. Fogel was not 100% accurate when it was released and has become more outdated in the last 6 years, but it is still excellent. There are a few typos in there. An example is "Not Quite Bernadette" where he lists it at $110/$175/$325 when it should have been $1100/$1750/$3250. Also, some of the prices like those for "Peace Amongst the Ants" from 1969 was probably accurate at the time, but after that was published, a cache of these showed up and have flooded the market a bit. Back in 1999, it was quite hard to find and would sell for $200, not it sells for $75 on a good day.

Those of you on the list that love reading Buk, but do not get the collecting aspect, may not like this post, but I know that there are others out there that are interested in adding the nicest, earliest edition to their growing collection. Al Fogel pegged it right when he called it a bit of a disease or addiction.

I'd love to hear anyone else's collecting stories.

Bill (I'm Bill Roberts and I'm a Bukaholic)
I have gone on at length elsewhere about my happy/sad addiction to collecting Bukowski rarities. I will state again that someone in my income bracket has no right spending the kind of money I have on rare books. I am not wealthy by any measure, but I went through a protracted period of acquisition that resulted in a pretty decent library, if I do say so and I'm glad for it. It's a good thing my collecting days are winding down because I could not compete with some of the financial powerhouses out there who are pulling the trigger on Bukowski collectables. I try to maintain a Zen approach to life and not care so much about material things, but there's something about all those books with paintings and all those early chapbooks and early little mag appearances that got under my skin and clouded my judgment. My wife is grateful that it's just books and not whisky and whores.

The Fogel price book is excellent as a bibliographic reference guide, however, I've never found price guides to be worth a damn as far as assigning real-life value to a book. There is a price guide that is updated annually by an outfit called Quill & Brush that just slays me. Why bother? The value of a book is not the amount written in a price guide or posted in a dealer catalog. The true value is what you can get someone else to pay for it on the day you want/need to sell it. Bill, do you honestly think that anyone in the right mind would pay $3,250 for a copy of Not Quite Bernadette, or, as he suggests, $8,500 for Signature #1? Not likely.
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I've always been a big reader and I've always collected something (comics as a kid, records as a teenager, Joel-Peter Witkin, photography and art books and prints, and so on as an adult) so it seems pretty natural that I'd end up collecting Bukowski once his writing hooked me.

I read some of Bukowski's "Notes..." columns in the LA Free Press when I was in my teens and remember liking his off-center attitude and perversity. If memory serves, the City Lights "Notes of a Dirty Old Man" was the first book I bought by him. After reading more of his books I bought the Signed and Numbered "War All The Time" when it came out. A close friend of mine had recently bought a used bookstore in San Pedro called The Giant Bookstore and offered it to me at wholesale so, obviously, I couldn't resist. Then I bought "You Get So Alone..." with the print bound-in when it came out.

My friend's bookstore was in pretty bad shape financially and he was very close to losing the business. He had hosted a few signings there and gotten pretty good turn-outs so his wife thought "Why not invite Bukowski?" She knew he lived in San Pedro and "You Get So Alone" had just been released. Well, Bukowski doesn't do signings, or so John Martin told her, but he gave her Bukowski's telephone number so she could ask him herself. She called him and explained that the store was in bad shape and would appreciate it if he could come and help out the store as well as support his new book. He agreed to do it since, it turned out, The Giant was a favorite of his (it was one of those big old musty bookstores with a million titles... 99% of it crap but with a few jewels hidden amongst it's shelves). John Martin was amazed (but pleased) that Bukowski agreed to do it and sent down a ton of books, many of them hardcover and most of those first editions (at the time I guess that Black Sparrow hardcovers were not big sellers). I believe that this was the only time that Bukowski ever did a pre-planned in-store signing.

I was in a perfect position to instantly expand my Bukowski collection from a few titles to a substantial number of signed firsts. Since I was helping out at the signing I was allowed to be first in line so that I could get my stuff signed and get on with the things that needed to be done. I bought ten or twelve books (on credit... mostly hardcover firsts and most of which I still have) and waited for Bukowski to arrive. He showed up with Linda right on time and with a box full of books and records from his own stash that he donated to help out the store. I picked up a sealed copy of "90 Minutes in Hell," the second and third issues of "Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns," as well as a few other, less spectacular items from that box (I wish I'd have been more familiar with his catalog at the time... I suspect that there might have been some pretty rare items in the box that I had not a clue about). He was scheduled to stay for two hours but ended up staying almost five. We closed the store after four hours and sat around drinking beer and chatting for another hour.

Needless to say, after that experience I was a "Bukowski Collector."

A bit later, once I had paid off my friend for all of the books he had fronted me, I found my way to the Baroque Bookstore and met Red. He was very proud of his association with Bukowski and, if he liked you, he could be a really nice guy. I'd drop in to see him every month or two, sometimes just to say hello, and I got to know him pretty well. He knew I didn't have a lot of money so, if he was in a good mood, he would throw something in when I bought anything from him. And so my collection grew.

I briefly met Bukowski a second time at Red's bookstore. I was there shooting the shit with Red when Bukowski walked in. We said hello and I mentioned that I had met him a couple of years before at the signing. He said he remembered me but I suspect he was just being polite. Red kind of shooed me out the door after a minute or two and that was that.

I went through a year-or-so long stretch where I had virtually no money to spend on books and didn't go to Baroque Books for maybe a year and a half. One day I was going to be in the neighborhood anyway so I thought I'd stop by and say hi to Red. I was shocked to find the store empty. It was one of those places where you had the sense that it had always been there and would always be there in the future. I asked the woman at the newsstand down the block when and why the store had closed and she told me that Red had died several months before.

Later there was ebay. I added some pretty nice stuff through ebay. Got several sweet things from you, Bill.

My collection consists mostly of signed hardcover trade firsts, signed and numbered editions, a few lettered, a few with prints (unfortunately none with paintings... they were already priced through the roof by the time I even considered buying any), all of the New Years Greetings (except "Art" - anyone care to send me a copy?), some proofs and advance review copies.

I haven't bought any Bukowski in about a year and a half. The way prices have been I doubt that I'll be buying much in the future. I have two young sons now and spending ridiculous amounts of money on books seems pretty irresponsible. I plan to leave my Bukowski collection to them. Let them fight over it... hell, they fight over everything now so why not?

Just wanted to add that one thing I can say in defense of buying and collecting rare books is that compared to a car, a computer, or just about any high-ticket item you might buy, the books are there for you to enjoy for as long as you have them and, more often than not, they are of more value as time passes.

Umm, this went way beyond the response that was asked for...just started typing and it rolled out...sorry...hope I didn't put anyone to sleep.
What year was the signing at Giant? I assume '86, since you say So Alone was just released. Where in San Pedro was the store (if you remember)?
Yeah, the signing probably would have been in '86. The Giant was on 6th St. a few blocks up from Ports o' Call, about a block or a block and a half south(?) of Pacific. The store failed within about a year of the signing.
chronic said:
The Giant was on 6th St. a few blocks up from Ports o' Call, about a block or a block and a half south(?) of Pacific.
East of Pacific probably (Pacific runs North/South). That's all galleries, studios and restaurants now, and there's still one independent book store hanging on in town; Williams' Books at 443 West 6th St.
Yeah, you're right... probably was east. I always think of the coast in California as running North and South even though I know that's not the case. It was on the harbor side of Pacific. I don't get to SP much anymore unless we're catching the boat to Catalina. My mother-in-law owns a house in Avalon so we go three or four times every year for cheap vacations.
bospress.net said:
I started with the New Year's Greetings. They are beautiful little items and are not too pricey.
Bill, what was the last year that the NYG was sewn rather than stapled?
In 1984 some copies of "one of the old boy" were stapled. I think that there were no more than 100 like that, with the rest stapled. Not sure. Maybe that was the last? I'd need to check further to be sure.

Yeah, I like the older ones like Tough Company that feel more hand made, with letterpressed covers, hand sewn, etc... The later ones have a bit of a mass produced feel to them.
I think it's appropriate for my first post to this forum to be here, specifically, cause my Bukowski collecting habits have directly influenced who I am. Sounds kinda dramatic, I realize, but it's true. I've always loved books since I was a kid: their structure, content, and appearance. When I stumbled upon Burning in Water... in 1987, and read those poems, and then found that colophon in the back of the book, I knew I was hooked in two ways - as a reader and a collector, and I decided then I had to have a copy of every book Bukowski published.

I didn't know then what an impossible want it was, or what it would lead to...specifically, away from chasing books and more to making them.

Anyways, as far as collecting stories go, my biggest regret was passing on copy #50 of Post Office with a painting in it, for $500 less 20%, in 1990. That same year I bought a pastel self-portrait that came from Red's store for $75, so I guess that kinda made up for the Post Office blunder.

But more than money can buy, this collecting thing has brought me some great friends - lifelong friends - as well as my press, and some literary acquaintances that I never imagined I'd ever have.
synaesthesia.press said:
Anyways, as far as collecting stories go, my biggest regret was passing on copy #50 of Post Office with a painting in it, for $500 less 20%, in 1990.
Arrgh! Don't feel too bad though... I passed up a copy of "Flower Fist and Bestial Wail" with a full-page inscription for $15.00. I wasn't all that familiar with the early titles at the time and money was tight. The book had obviously had a glass of red wine spilled on it at some point and it looked pretty bad so I passed. I thought about it and went back a week later to buy it. This big hairy bear of a guy named John was working there and helped me look for it but it had disappeared. He said he knew that it hadn't been sold and that it had originally been his copy. We talked a little and he mentioned that Bukowski's story "The Great Zen Wedding" was about his wedding.

I told Red the story the next time I saw him and, aside from looking at me like I was the biggest fucking moron in L.A., he informed me that the big guy I had been talking to was Big John Thomas.
Damn, maybe we need a new thread: The Ones That Got Away.

Passing on good deals can be a bitch, but having great things in hand, then letting them go because you have to for financial reasons...ouch. But I suppose in a way it may be better to have had them for a while. I don't know.

All I've ever sold that were irreplaceable were manuscripts, and for some reason, I never miss those when they're gone.

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