VNSA Book Sale is Here!

Books, Romance and Original Hamburger Works

Brent put his right arm around me and I cuddled into his side as he balanced the umbrella. We sat closely together on an upside-down plastic crate, trying to stay out of the drizzle. It was dark as we waited for the doors to open on last year’s 61st annual VNSA Book Sale held on the Arizona State Fairgrounds.

We arrived an hour before the doors opened and got a great place in line, which snaked back on itself several times. It was Sunday, the second day of the sale when everything is half price, and even in the dark and drizzle, people kept coming and coming, most pulling or pushing some conveyance that could hold lots of books which are usually priced at $1, $2 or $3.

I used a fold-up basket on wheels and Brent had a fold-up frame on wheels with the plastic crate and an empty cardboard box. He used bungee cords to secure the contraption. Other people wheeled suitcases and even shopping carts. We had packed our carts in his truck the night before so we could scurry out of the house in the wee hours.

Most people who had arrived early seemed to be camping out. As the sun came up, they packed up their stuff and returned it to their cars before the doors opened.

Past purchases of books on writing, grammar and memoirs at the VNSA Book Sale.

The sale is always held in a large metal building on the fairgrounds and the books are categorized into sections, such as Fiction, biography, Science, children’s, sports, cookbooks, History, fine art, and even a cordoned off area housing rare books.

Prior to opening, security folks manned the front door and a guy with a megaphone reminded everyone that once the doors opened, we should not run or push. Some folks are very serious about being first in to grab up the goodies, especially the book re-sellers. With most books priced at .50 cents, it’s hard not to stock up.

For 12 years, Brent and I have made a tradition of going to the annual book sale. People fly in from all over the country and quite a few resellers bring their pricing scanners to quickly see if a book is valuable before they place it into their cart. This two-day sale happens every year around Valentine’s; for 2018 it’s being held Saturday and Sunday, February 10-11, 2018. Tomorrow is our date!!!

Last year, snuggling with Brent in the cold as we anticipated the treasures we’d surely find, and holding our hot coffees while nibbling bagels, was the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world at that moment than with Brent at last year’s sale.

While we go there together, Brent and I will split up the minute we enter the building. We may cross paths during the next four or five hours, but mostly we’re concentrating on books and stepping around people. Years ago, we carried walkie-talkies to stay connected among the thousands of people in the huge space. These days, cell phones do the trick.

Another trick of the sale; we carry a bottle of water and bananas or trail mix to keep our energy up. I use a cross-body purse for hands-free book shopping!

I made a little extra space in this bookcase for more books!

At last year’s sale, when they prepared to open the doors, everyone moved forward with anticipation. The security team held us just outside of the doors for a few minutes while an announcer teased us from inside counting down 10 – 9 – 8 -7 -6-5-4-3-2-1 until we were finally pushing/pulling our carts and suit cases over the threshold.

Security wanted to look into bags and carts and purses, etc., but my cart was open and I didn’t have to slow down. First stop was the Art section to look for art books (some to cut up for collaging), then I moved to Communications and picked up quite a few books on writing and grammar, some I already have, some for friends, and some I’ve never heard of.

During the sale, a local news anchor provides color-commentary over the public-address system, making jokes and and keeping everyone updated on lost children or the availability of shopping carts, which go fast.

I spent most of the morning in the Autobiography/Biography section, looking for books on American history and American presidents. Books are laid out on tables alphabetically by author, and boxes of books are under the tables, so I made sure to go through those thoroughly.

No worries about filling up your cart. They have a “Holding” area for keeping books so you can continue shopping.

At one point, I saw Brent in the Sports section, talking to two guys I recognized from his Phoenix Varmint Callers club. I smiled, waved and kept walking.

No time to talk with 300,000 books awaiting.

By 12:30 p.m., we were ready to check out. We got in line and talked with the woman behind us. She was slight and pretty, with short gray hair and blue eyes. She had been at the sale the day before and waited in line for an hour and a half. She told us she resells the books and showed us her scanner, a curvy apparatus the size of a large women’s razor.

She and her husband used to buy and resell books, but she was starting again on her own after his death. A friend of hers, she said, also bought to resell, and he told her she could easily make six figures. He made $275K reselling books. Not just from the VNSA book sale, obviously, but that’s a good living for working with books. If she pays 50 cents for a book and resells it for $8, then it’s easy to see how a profit can be made.

For the last few years, since e-readers came on the market, people have been saying the book is dead. Not according to the crowd of folks who attend this sale. I usually spend $130, but only spent $80 last year. Brent spent $73.

Each year, Brent and I continue our annual Valentine/Book Sale tradition by having lunch at the Original Hamburger Works in downtown Phoenix. Once we arrive home, our ritual entails removing the very sticky (and annoying) red price tags from the books. Stickers on the cover, spine and inside front page are hellish to remove. I always wet a rag and clean the books as I remove price tags. They are usually dusty after being stored all year.

Today, in preparation for tomorrow’s book sale visit, I surveyed books in every room of the house so I won’t buy anything we already own, and I culled some books to make room for tomorrow’s haul!

Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night can keep me and Brent from getting into the VNSA book sale and loading the back of his truck with hundreds of new friends.

Happy Early Valentine’s Day to all you book lovers. See you dark and early at tomorrow morning’s book sale!


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Cindi Brown


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