Collectors get a read on the value of books

Festival: In Bel Air, collectors take their gems to be appraised by the `Book Guys,' in hopes of turning up a treasure.

May 23, 2004|By Patrick Tyler | Patrick Tyler,SUN STAFF

Allan Stypeck, Anticipation built early as festivalgoers gathered at the Bel Air Book Festival to have their books appraised by the Book Guys, Allan Stypeck and Mike Cuthbert.

The syndicated radio show broadcast was one of dozens of activities at the festival, which was billed as an effort to promote literacy in the community.

Under a large white tent at the entrance of the festival, about 50 people waited to have their literary treasures appraised.

Some unwrapped their parcels to reveal antique books with splotchy covers that the owners handled with care. The crowd assembled for the live taping of two episodes of The Book Guys.

Two women were in the tent more than an hour before the show's taping in hopes of getting a book appraisal.

As show time approached, producer Warren Wigutow went to each hopeful collector to determine whose books would be featured on the show.

"I am looking for books that the hosts will find interesting," Warren said. "They aren't always valuable."

Among those that Wigutow selected for the program were local illustrators, poetry books and first-edition novels. About 1 p.m., the radio show began taping - almost 45 minutes behind schedule.

Stypeck and Cuthbert took their seats and began their appraisals.

Stypeck is a senior appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers.

Connie Beims, a guest author at the festival, was surprised when Stypeck told her that a book she brought with a note from George Washington written on the first page could be worth between $7,500 and $15,000 if the signature is authentic.

Beims, who was bequeathed the book, along with more than 2,500 others, by a friend, said: "I am realistic. It would be very nice if it was Washington's signature, but what is more important at this point is to get the book into the proper archives." Beims said that she plans to donate the book and have the authenticity checked.

Suzette Jackson brought books illustrated by her grandfather, Paul Honore, who lived in Port Deposit in the 1930s and 1940s. The colorful block prints were described by Stypeck as, "What I think the world looks like after a three-day drunk."

Not for sale

Jackson said that she has no plans for selling the books, which she collected by exploring old bookstores, flea markets and the Internet.

Bill Wossowski brought a variety of art books to the appraisers. They ranged in value from $300 to $1,000. He said he began collecting in 1991, while working at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

After the first 54-minute show, Stypeck and Cuthbert took a break before taping their second one.

`Great books'

"We love to travel to new cities to do the show," Stypeck said. "It's refreshing because we see great books everywhere we go. It's something everybody can appreciate."

Before the show began, Cuthbert briefly taught the audience about radio format, warning them against dead air.

"There's an old radio saying that goes, `A radio broadcaster only hears two things,'" he said with a smile from the front of the tent, "`his own voice and dead air.'"

The first guest on the program was a Mark Twain impersonator, whom Stypeck saw in the crowd before the show was taped.

The man spoke of Twain's history in print and embodied his attitude and wit. When asked how he arrived at the festival, Twain replied, "By invitation of course."

In the crowd, the hopefuls waited patiently after the first show for their chance to have their books viewed by the experts. "Who knows?" said Bob Hoff, "You could have a fortune in your lap and not even know it."

The Books Guys can be heard in Harford County on Bel Air's WHFC 91.1 FM from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesdays.

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