SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY COLLECTIBLES
A Lesson For Us All
People have many reasons to sell a collection. The most common is loss of interest; either because they have moved on to other things, or have lost the ability to read easily due to the frailties of old age. Sometimes the cause is economic hardship, and often it is related to a move. Sometimes the collection is too large to move easily; more often there is not enough space in the retirement quarters.
This particular collection in the Cleveland suburbs was owned by a well known member of the Science Fiction community there. The reason he was selling was pure aggravation. This man had an immense collection acquired over a lifetime of collecting. They were all pulps from the 1920's to about 1945. The collection was stored on metal shelves six shelves high in the basement of his suburban home. Behind the house was a large backyard, gradually sloping down to a small stream.
About a month before I showed up to look at the collection, they had torrential rains for three days. The stream behind the house became swollen, coming part way up the lawn toward the house. This had happened many times before, with no adverse effects. What was different this time was that the sump pump that should have taken care of the water seepage through the ground had a failed check valve. This didn't stop the pump from working, but greatly impaired its effectiveness. Consequently, the basement partially flooded, taking out the bottom shelf all around the basement. What I purchased was the 5/6ths that was above the water level.
The real aggravation was that this gentleman had a rider in his insurance to cover the loss of his collection, in this case about $45000 worth. The insurance company would not pay off. They would only pay for sudden destruction. If a tree fell on the house, they would pay. If termites slowly eat away the foundation and the house falls down, they would not pay. This slow seepage was akin to the termites. If he had broken a window to let water pour in, they might have paid off!
His first inclination was to rebuild the collection. On second thought, he decided to chuck it all and he contacted me.
I called him back about 15 years later, just to check in with him. I guessed he would have resumed collecting at some point. I was wrong. He never returned to collecting Science Fiction, and said he had not given it a thought in years. This was a person who had written several non-fiction books on the subject.
This incident had a big impact on my life. When I moved several years later, we had a difficult time finding a house. That was because I insisted on a walkout basement, with good drainage all around. That combination is hard to find in central Indiana, but I persisted until I found one. I wanted to keep 6/6ths of my collection.
RECENT UPDATE. My brother-in-law known onebay as Pulpsguy tells me this individual won several of hisauctions this past spring. So it seems we all eventually come back to pulps at some time.
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