“Hey Buddy, Wanna Buy an Encyclopedia?”

Remember these?

One of the downers of running a pre-loved books store is the number of used books one sees that have, quite simply, passed their sell-by date. It is just conceivable that Guidepost Annuals will live on–after all, how can stories of angelic intervention really get old–but the Twentieth Century Books of World Records, the yearly Reader’s Digest Estate Planners, and the encyclopedias … well, the sun has set on the Brittanic empire.

Try telling that to the sweet people who lumber through our shop doors, sagging beneath the weight of a box of  encyclopedias. Here are a few of our favorite “sales pitches”:

“I’ve got some real valuable old books here, from 1943, the whole set! Except for V. How much do you give for antique books?” These were World Books; on finding we did not deem his haul valuable, the gentleman protested, “But in the middle of the war and all, nobody knowing who would win, it’s gotta be worth something!”

“Hi. I brought you a 1976 set of alphabetized encyclopedias, and I’ve got a real good idea of how you can sell ’em. Find people born in 1976 whose names begin with those letters, and advertise these as gifts to their families!” (This customer was disappointed to learn she would not receive half the assumed purchase amount in cash.)

“I’ve got a set of encyclopedias in my car; can you use them? I’ll just give them to you.” When we suggested she put them on the front porch in our free bin, because with Christmas coming people would be happy to have these hardbacks to make trees and angels, the woman’s eyes took on a cunning look. “Oh, well, if people can use them, then can I have trade credit after all? I figured you’d just throw them away after I left.”

And a customer who, being told we couldn’t use them but she could leave them on the porch for people to take for free, huffed, “Well, where’s the nearest dumpster?”

Do not go gently into that good night….

(The Big Stone Celtic Festival is Sept. 22 in downtown Big Stone Gap, VA! Google Big Stone Celtic for program details.)


Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

5 responses to ““Hey Buddy, Wanna Buy an Encyclopedia?”

  1. Susan

    Ah Wendy, I’ve got such a set of encyclopedias (maybe 1960s). My kids will probably get rid of them on my passing and more power to them. BUT when I think of what my parents and my family did without to further our knowledge/education, I can’t get rid of them. My folks literally pinched pennies to get all seven of us through school and most of us through college. The self-sacrifice they exhibited!

  2. Diane S. Loftis

    I would love a set of old encyclopedias! I was quite saddened with the news of Britannica ending print publication. Furthermore, I am not a huge fan of the newest e-books trends- my heart aches knowing that people actually prefer having the digital copy of a book, as compared to holding the actual hard copy in their hands. There is a small antique shop here in my city. My boyfriend and I visit it at least once a month. I have noticed a few vendors whom are selling complete sets of encyclopedias.. but a price way over that at which I can afford as a single mother. For me, encyclopedias bring back fond school day memories! I would love to be able to teach my son the beauty that these references have to offer. With that said, if you ever feel kind enough to ship me a set of the freebies that folks are willing to throw away. I would accept them gratefully in a heartbeat! Trust me, I have yet to find such generous folk here in Florida whom are giving the sets away for free. ❤

    • Diane, if you could stretch to shipping, I’m SURE we could send you a set. Drop us a shop email with your address. I suspect shipping would be about $12 by Media Mail. (And we need to wait for a set not missing V; that’s what usually happens.)

  3. James Ryan

    I have exactly what you want. Full set bought in 1990. Excellent condition.

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