Local library features book appraisal program

March 20, 2005|by Marie Gilbert/Staff Writer

Doug Cochran was a soldier in Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army when he came across an interesting find.

Sorting through debris in a bombed-out house in Germany, a soldier in his unit picked up a book, glanced at the cover and threw it across the room. Cochran picked up the book, took one look inside and decided to keep it.

The book was filled with photographs of Adolf Hitler and his rise to power.

"Many of the photographs probably have never been seen before," Cochran said.

The year was 1943. On Saturday afternoon, the Hagerstown resident decided to see if what he discovered more than 60 years ago had any value.

"To me, it's very valuable," Cochran said. "I'd never part with it. I just wanted to hear what an expert had to say about it."


Cochran was among the 20 people who attended a book appraisal and presentation on book conservation at the Washington County Free Library.

The event was sponsored by Friends of the Washington County Free Library. A $5 ticket entitled the purchaser to have one book or one set of books appraised and to attend the lecture. According to member Mary Summerville, all proceeds will benefit library programs, including the summer reading program for children.

Summerville said the volunteer group decided to offer a book appraisal "because we thought there was a niche for it. The response has been very interesting. We'd love to offer this again. Sometimes, these things have a way of catching on."

The program featured appraiser Michael J. Osborne of Columbia, Md., and Jan Riker, a used book dealer, also of Columbia.

During the program, Osborne offered some insight into book appraising.

"Appraisals are usually undertaken for several reasons, such as insurance purposes or estate purposes to determine a fair market value," Osborne said.

The condition of the book, as well as its completeness, edition, shelf presence and design, are important in any appraisal, Osborne said.

For owners and collectors of old books, Osborne also offered some tips on book conservation.

"The environment around the book is a major concern because unacceptable levels of temperature and humidity will accelerate deterioration," he said. "It's also important to keep books out of direct sunlight."

Osborne said even dust and dirt from handling the books can adversely affect books, "so dust regularly."

And if a book needs repair, "don't do anything that can't be undone," he said. "When in doubt, take it to a professional."

Betty Eves of Hagerstown said she found the program to be very helpful. She had brought in a book that had been in the family since the 1940s, "The Red Pony" by John Steinbeck.

"This book has been read and reread by several generations," Eves said. "I would never sell it, but I was curious about its value. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about what I have. I hope they do this again."

Jean Usary of Hagerstown also was pleased with the opportunity to meet with an appraiser. She brought in "The Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan.

"It belonged to my father," Usary said. "It's been in the family for over 40 years and had never been appraised. This program is a wonderful idea. I've learned a great deal today."

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