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A Bookselling Adventure

· Bookselling,South Shore,Nova Scotia,Mahone Bay,Antique Fair

The world of selling books over the past 2 years has mostly been one-dimensional. Selling over the internet via Abebooks. Between COVID-19 waves, we have had some people come to the shop, a happening that we love. And so far, everyone who has come to the shop has bought something.

But there have been no events. Two years ago we did Christmas at the Forum, the Scarecrow Festival and the local farmers’ market several times. Nothing in 2020, and it also looked like nothing in 2021. We heard from the organizers of the Scarecrow Festival that there would be no fair this year and an uncertain future. We could do the Christmas at the Forum event but with an 8X8 booth – which doesn’t work for a bookseller.

Then, several weeks ago a message from the Scarecrow folks – a local antique dealer, Four Points Market in Blockhouse (Brad and Ruth) would put on an Antique Fair in Mahone Bay the last weekend in September. Yay!

We signed up as soon as we could. I then reached out to my bookselling companion, Gary Humphries, and he jumped on board.

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I arranged for some professional banners/signage. No more paper ones. I picked these up a few days before the show.

A major “chore” is determining what books to take to a show. I had been putting some books aside for shows and for the Mahone Bay show, just about every nautical book we have. I fill the book case and lay books out that will go on the table tops. Then, I pack all these books into 9 cartons. I have learnt that the books in these 9 cartons, that fit into the trunk of the car, plus a couple of shopping bags for oversize books, that go into the back seat, hold the right amount for the nice tall, slender “travelling bookcase” plus tabletops. The bookcase was donated to the cause by Glenda’s sister Dawn and her husband Bob Howell. The bookcase. Goes on a rack on top of the car.

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On the Tuesday before the show, I dropped my mobile phone and that was that. I did not get an operational phone (and camera) until this past Monday, after the fair was over. This meant, I could not use the Square to take debit and credit cards. Oh Oh, I thought – CASH only.

On Friday, Gary and I went down to Mahone Bay and got everything set up. Same location as last time, which we really liked.

All ready!


A nice day, we got there well in time for the 9 to 4 show.

Sold a couple of books, and then a lady stopped and was looking at a couple of Mi’kmaq books: Friends United - Art by Eight Native Artists and NiiniskamijinaqikAncestral Images The Mi’kmaq in Art and Photography. Turns out she was a grade school teacher from Bridgewater and she wanted to use the books in the classroom. I love seeing books going to good homes and I gave her a nice deal.

Right across from us was a dealer who sold an incredible number of Christmas ornaments over the two days. She had a wooden stand with multiple arms and when someone bought an ornament, she would replace it with another. I said to her “you are not going to run out of ornaments are you?” she said “Nope.” I told her that she should buy a book that we brought along called Inventing Christmas – how our Christmas Came to be by Jock Elliot, Abrams, New York, 2002. She bought the book.

A good day – eleven books sold – but not one nautical book! Two years ago we sold every one.


As promised, it rained like heck on Sunday. The hours were from 9 to 2, and I just did not know if people would come out.

Just after we opened, a tall young man stopped and was looking at the nautical books. I asked him if he was a sailor – turns out he was a crewmember on the Bluenose II. I said to him “you dropped anchor right in front of our property last week.” He replied, “in Hackett’s Cove?” I said “Yes”. He said, “what a beautiful area.” Imagine this – I drop and bust my mobile phone/camera on Tuesday during the day. Glenda’s phone was dead. (She also got a new one last Monday). In the evening, I see the familiar sails of the Bluenose II on the other side of Luke’s Island. Then it drops the sails and motors directly towards our home, dropping anchor only 300 metres away and we can not take any pictures!!! It was beautiful and after dark there were lights silhouetting the vessel. The young man bought Sloops and Shallops by William A. Baker, Barre Publishing, Barre MA, 1966. When I acquired the book, just weeks earlier, I had to look up “shallops”. You too!

Following that sale, it was pretty slow. More people than I thought but no “book people”. At 1:30, I sat down in the chair and said to myself “this is disappointing!” And then we were surrounded, and we sold five more books, to close the day on a very positive note.

So, it turned out to be a good fair for us. Some people said they would contact us in the future either about buying or selling, which is something we look for.

I continue to learn how these fairs work. Cash only worked just fine. I allow customers to haggle and I give them deals (a Monty Python learning). I don’t charge them the 5% HST required on books. It is a hassle and gets into odd amounts and change. So I put in the required HST amount following the fair. Make it easy to do business with!

Also, I leave the more expensive books home. I only put books up on the internet that are $50 or over. I only bring to the fair books that are $50 or under. The only exception were the nautical books. And in the last moments of the fair we sold Chesapeake Bay Schooners by Q. Snediker & A. Jensen, Tidewater Publishers, Centreville MD, 1992 for $80.

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Then we wrapped the bookcase up in a tarp, loaded everything into and onto the car and

headed home, quite happy. Nice to be out and about again!