Bright Young Booksellers: Ryan M. Dreier

Credit: Marie Grace

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Ryan M. Dreier, proprietor of Bookaneer in Minnesota.

How did you get started in rare books?

From a young age, I've been enamored by paper and books. There's a (more than likely apocryphal) story about my grandmother presenting me with a pile of books and a pile of toys as a baby and I went straight to the books. From hanging out at the library, collecting comic books as a kid, to accumulating punk flyers and zines as a young adult, books have always been a part of my life. Having spent time in the world of comic books and records, I started to realize the collectible aspects of books and ephemera.

I started going to auctions, estate sales, and library sales realizing that I had an eye for collectible books.

I enjoy the treasure hunting aspect that I experience when I go to an estate sale or book sale.

When did you open Bookaneer and what do you specialize in?

I used to sell a lot of collectibles online such as toys, records, and other stuff along with books. Eventually, I started narrowing my focus to books and selling as R.M. Dreier, Bookaneer about nine years ago. In my earlier days, I was “flipping” every book I could find that I did not want for myself. Since that time, I've shifted my focus over the years to seeking out truly collectible books and ephemera.

As far as specializing, I focus on the things that I find interesting, but keep an eye out for what I think will sell to my repeat customers. That being said, I consider myself a generalist.

What do you love about the book trade?

I love the passion. I love seeing people get excited about a particular book or piece of ephemera. When I’m talking with people one on one at a book fair or flea market, I enjoy interacting with people that are passionate about books, whether it’s the physicality of the books, such as bindings, or someone nostalgic about how they learned about a specific book or how they felt after reading it. I love hearing the stories that people have on their own book searches.

I also really like how inclusive the book trade is. I have appreciated the encouragement that I have received from other book sellers.

Describe a typical day for you:

I still work a Monday through Friday full-time job as a forklift driver. Evenings, I usually take pictures and list books and on weekends, I make time for estate sales and listing books. I have been collecting books for a long time, so when I can’t make it to a sale, I have plenty of books to source from.

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you’ve handled?

Of course, there's quite a few. One of my favorite items that have passed through here was The First Book of Jazz by Langston Hughes. It has some really great mid century illustrations that are evocative of that '50s jazz style. I really appreciate when a well-illustrated book crosses my path. 

What do you personally collect?

As far as personal collections go, I am drawn to sci-fi, pulp, advertising, mid to early 20th-century illustration, punk zines, and flyers. The beauty of being in the trade is that I can collect items and enjoy them for a small time and move them on to more permanent homes.

One of my favorite things is found items inside of the books. I have found letters, notes, newspaper clippings and other ephemera. I think of it like a time capsule and gives context to the collection, especially if I have purchased a large collection from one source.

What do you like to do outside of work? 

Since this is not my full-time job, collecting and scouting for books is what I do for fun. I enjoy antique shows, auctions, flea markets, and book fairs. I also enjoy live music, traveling with my wife and vegan cooking, 

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

I feel that the established book trade is doing a pretty good job of adapting to the changing marketplace and social media landscape. The book dealers that I encounter seem to be making good use of social media.

I think that there is room for other collectibles that fit within the book and ephemera realm that have been overlooked in the past. For example, catalogues, and advertising and familiar items like scrapbooks.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

The Minnesota Antiquarian Book Fair was my first book fair, which I did in July of this year. I will more than likely do that fair again next year and perhaps another one or two. I have sold at a few Gold Rush Antique Shows in Rochester, MN, and I plan to keep doing that as well. 

In lieu of a catalogue, I maintain an Instagram account (@rmdreierbookaneer) featuring my currently available items.