Thursday, November 12, 2009

Should "Musty Odor" Be Included... Book descriptions on Ebay!

When I search for books on Ebay, I am very conscious of the price I'm paying for an item. I'm a teacher, and though I am fortunate to have what I have, my income basically pays my bills, with a small amount of extra for an occasional series book now and then! I can't pay large amounts of money for a book- I just don't walk in those circles. So price point is important to me. As a result, I try to look at descriptions of items sellers have on Ebay or Bonanzle, and then make a good decision regarding a purchase.
This past week, I purchased from several dealers 10 of the 12 Connie Blair books. The series was published by Grosset and Dunlap between 1948 and 1958, and is recognizable among collectors for having a color mentioned in each title. I received my first book yesterday in the mail. The Ghost Wore White was listed as a first printing which it was. The pages are indeed white as described, and the dust jacket is nice in a mylar protected cover. However, on the back inside endpapers there is a slight warping (very slight) and some white spots that appear to be mildew. The book also is emanating a strong musty odor. Looking at the book, I would assume it spent some time in a damp basement, and even if it did not get wet, dampness has begun to affect the book. I can see how a seller who does not specialize in books may not have caught the mildew spots, as they are very small, but how can you miss the odor?
It would seem to me that if a strong odor is in a book, a seller should lower the price, and let the buyer be aware of its presence. I paid 31.00 for the book, and I would have reconsidered the purchase if I had known what I know now.
Am I disappointed? A little. I still have a first, and it won't look bad. I'll have to see if there is a way to get rid of the odor. As a seller, I want to be sure that I give people a solid description of what they are buying. We all deserve this!


  1. I looked at completed listings on eBay, and if I am right about which auction, the seller should have known better. This person sells books all the time, so I am not inclined to be too forgiving. Of course it could just have been an oversight which happens when a seller has a high volume of sales. Sometimes I accidentally leave out details that should have been mentioned. However, to me, a strong musty odor is a very bad flaw and something I notice right off. In my opinion, there is no excuse for not mentioning it.

    I cannot stand books that smell bad. I try to avoid the early 1940s Grosset and Dunlap books (unless a first is only available in that edition) because the paper is now in such bad shape that those books give off an unpleasant odor.

    I had a partial set of Dana Girls books in dust jacket that had a musty odor and were warped. I wanted to sell the books on Bonanzle, but I couldn't do it with the musty odor. This may sound bad to some people, but I removed all of the jackets and sold the books on eBay in bulk at a low price, mentioning the musty odor. To me, those books were worthless, but I was not going to give away the jackets which were nice. I have gradually been acquiring bare tweed Dana Girls books that do not smell and have been placing the jackets on them. Whenever I decide to list those books, I will state which ones have mismatched jackets, but I may not give the full story on why they are mismatched, which is my doing. When I sold the smelly books, a reseller bought them, and I can't imagine why that person wanted to sell a bunch of smelly, warped books. I guess because they were cheap.

    For me, I would rather have a slightly mismatched book and jacket than a book that smells bad. This will also sound bad to some people, but I have some books in my collection that have slightly mismatched jackets because I did not want the smelly books and swapped them out with books that did not smell. I think I did that on one or two of my Cupples and Leon Mystery Stories for Girls series books.

    It is very hard to remove a musty odor from a book, and I have never had much success. I find that cigarette odor normally fades completely after enough time has passed, but the musty odor never leaves. I have heard that the mold/mildew stays alive and continues to emit the odor.

  2. I have purchased a few books that had cigarette or musty odors that had not been advertised as such, and have had good luck removing the odor with this method. Wrap the book in a cloth or a paper towel and place it in a sealed plastic bag with a third of a cup or so of baking soda. Let it sit for a couple of weeks. Wrapping the book in cloth or paper towel prevents it from coming into contact with the baking soda.