In the News

Sci-Fi from the Stanley Simon Estate Breaks Records in Swann Literature Auction

New York—Science fiction ruled on May 15 at Swann Galleries’ auction of 19th &... read more

MoMA Announces Major Acquisitions from the Merrill C. Berman Collection

New York—The Museum of Modern Art has acquired more than 300 masterworks of The... read more

Sunday Comics & "New Yorker" Covers Lead Swann's Sale of Illustration Art

New York — Swann Galleries will offer an auction of Illustration Art on Tuesday,... read more

Original Tintin Art by Hergé May Bring $720,000 in Heritage's First European Comic Art Auction

Dallas, TX - An extraordinary, 12-panel page of Original Tintin Art by Belgian cartoonist... read more

Highlights of Christie's Spring Sales of Books & Manuscripts to be Held on June 14

New York—Christie’s announces the spring various owner sale of Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts... read more

"Medieval/Modern": Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books Will Open Exhibition to Complement Art Basel

Complementing Art Basel 2018, Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books will open its doors for... read more

New England Society Book Awards Winners Announced

New York—The NES Book Awards are made in four categories: Art & Photography, Fiction,... read more

World Record Comic Book & Art Auction Surpasses $12.2 Million at Heritage Auctions

Dallas, TX - Chicago’s largest public auction dedicated to vintage comic books and original... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Las Vegas: Rare Books Hotspot

Along those lines, she recently sold Hamilton on Public Credit, an important book in the history of economics and Americana by Alexander Hamilton, for over $100,000 and a printing of The Federalist Papers from the New York Packet newspaper for $32,000.

Away from the hustle and bustle of Sin City’s strip, the world-famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop attracts thousands of visitors daily. Since its television debut in 2009, Pawn Stars, a reality show focused on the shop’s dealings with customers, has become a cultural phenomenon. Occasionally, rare books get some camera time. Rick Harrison runs the shop with his father, Richard Harrison, affectionately known as the “Old Man,” and his son, Corey. While he may exude a gruff exterior, the business allows Harrison to nurture one of his passionsbook collecting. He recently estimated his personal collection at about five or six hundred books; one of his favorites was acquired right off the shop floor.

“I have a book written in the early 1500s on metallurgy and alchemy that was owned by Sir Isaac Newton. It turns out that the notes in the margin are actually by Sir Isaac Newton,” he said.

That book purchase appeared in season 4, episode 8, which aired on January 31, 2011. The book in question is Agricola’s De Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum, and in the episode, the “Old Man” purchased it for $7,000 (a very good wager, considering the seller’s claims about its provenance).

Only a few of the pawned books ultimately stock Harrison’s libraryin a March 2013 episode, Harrison bought an incunable with later illumination for $2,500, saying, “It’s no secret that I love antique books”and most are for sale each day. The occasional celebrity stumbles in for a purchase. For example, in season 4, episode 32, which aired on June 6, 2011, viewers watched George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and former political advisor, buy a first edition of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Tourists, however, are the majority of his clientele, and Harrison said that is part of the fun of his business.

“I get some serious buyers,” he said. “We get about five thousand people a day, so some of them have some money. It’s such a diverse crowd. And you get a lot of wealthy tourists that go absolutely bat-shit crazy and need cash real quick. They don’t want the party to end.”

Other antiquarian book-buying options in Vegas include Academy Fine Books, Las Vegas Fine Books (formerly Greyhound’s), Plaza Books, Dead Poet Bookstore, BookLovers, Westgate Books, and Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America member, Amber Unicorn Books. Founded by Lou and Myrna Donato in 1981, Amber Unicorn specializes in out-of-print cookbooksthey have about twenty thousand of thembut the shop also carries a strong selection of general non-fiction, fiction, and first editions. Myrna Donato said there is a big market for rare books, but getting a large enough supply to meet demand out in the desert has been a struggle.

“Most of our antiquarian and older stock is brought to us by the public or through estate sales,” Donato said. “We have regular customers that have us search for the harder-to-find titles that they can’t find in stores. Our sales are strong and would be better if we had a steady supply of this type of book coming in on a regular basis. Our customers are made up of 65 percent local, 30 percent tourist, and 5 percent Internet sales. These customers are both readers and collectors and are from all walks of life and from many countries around the world.”

So whether you’re attending one of those ubiquitous conferences (or weddings) in Vegas, or trying your luck at blackjack, finding a fine book is a good bet in this town.

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His new book is Raising the Stakes: True Tales of Gambling, Wagering & Poker Faces, available at his blog, PokerTraditions.com, Amazon, and BarnesandNoble.com.
Page 1 | 2 | End