picture of Barbara Brabec

The Harry Brabec Book Collection,
now available on Amazon. Many collectible out-of-print editions!

One shelf of Harry's Book Collection,
featuring many books on big bands, jazz, circus, history, and more.

Harry Brabec, Bibliophile

Music was Harry's mistress, but he also had
a lifelong love affair with books.

More about Harry's Book Collection and
Barbara's Initial Amazon Marketplace Observations

"I am surprised by the poor quality of many of the used and 'collectible' books being offered on Amazon. So many are ex-library books, or have torn or missing dust jackets, are soiled, or have underlined text or inscriptions that detract from their value. Without question, the quality of most of Harry's books, even those that are more than a half-century old, is far better than what is being offered by many other sellers on Amazon." - Barbara Brabec

Finding "Gold" on the Living Room Bookshelves (a PDF article)


My husband's tastes in reading were completely different from my own—and his interests were quite broad, as the category list on the previous page proves. Now that he's gone, and I am getting older, I feel the pressing need to lighten my life by ridding myself of things I no longer want or need. While I hate to part with things Harry loved, at the same time I feel I'm honoring his memory by trying to find appreciative readers for some of his books.

On one hand, I can just hear him saying, "What! You're selling my books?" But on the other, I know he wouldn't want me to be burdened with nearly a thousand books I'm never going to read, and, being a practical man, he would be glad to know I'm getting an excellent return on his investment while also trying to get his best books into the hands of readers and collectors who will appreciate them as much as he did. In fact, Harry would have been stunned, as I was, to find that some of his rarest mint-condition books were worth up to $250 each and would actually sell at those prices in a poor economy.

Harry bought some books second hand if he couldn't get them any other way, but mostly he bought books new, and then kept them in like-new condition after reading them. The only reason some of his books have less-than-perfect dust jackets is because we moved many times during our 43+ years together, and some of the older books knew many different packing boxes and bookshelves.

Harry's parents couldn't afford to buy books for him when he was young, so it was a thrill, he said, when the bookmobile came around to his school. As an adult, he wanted to own as many books as possible, and he treated all of them with loving care. I've always liked to highlight content in my books so I could find the best parts later without having to reread the whole book, but Harry never turned down a page, never made a mark in one of them and rarely cracked the spine of a book. If I so much as picked up one of his books, he'd sass me about handling it with care. In fact, each time I asked to borrow his huge Webster's dictionary, he'd joke that it would cost me a quarter because then he knew I'd be careful turning the pages.

I had never read more than perhaps a dozen of the books Harry bought (and he never read ANY of mine), but seeing the colorful spines of all those books on our shelves all those years was very comforting to me. However, I had no idea what a rewarding experience it would be to list Harry's best books on Amazon, because this meant that I had to handle each book and actually look carefully at it, inside and out, in order to write an accurate description of its condition for listing on Amazon. I suddenly found myself interested in reading several of those books before parting with them.

And after seeing how poorly most of the used/collectible books were being described by sellers, I decided I would write the best descriptive listings of any used book seller on Amazon. Buyers won't be buying a pig in a poke when they look for my seller nickname [BARBARA-BRABEC-BOOKS] because my listings not only describe each book's true condition in minute detail (including any flaws, because I don't want unnecessary returns), but they also include brief content information since almost none of the product pages for out-of-print books on Amazon have any content information or reviews. And very few have even a customer-shared image. So I've scanned all the covers and uploaded a photo for each book I'm listing if no photo appears on the product page. In most cases, my photo appears on the product page. When it doesn't, it's because Amazon's policy is that they can't publish a seller's photo on the product page unless they created that page to begin with, and many of these pages were originally created by retail booksellers. But Amazon's new policy now allows sellers of Collectible books to include an image of the cover with with their listing.

Something in particular that I've noticed about Harry's books from the 50s and 60s is how beautifully designed and printed most of them are. The quality of book publishing has certainly changed considerably in recent years as many publishers have been forced to cut corners to save production costs, unless the book has been authored by someone famous, of course. But in earlier decades, publishers often spared no expense to turn out a lavishly illustrated and designed book that included gilt printing on the spine of a cloth-covered book (now it's mostly just paper-covered "boards") and perhaps decorative end pieces and photographic fronticepieces along with a fine dust jacket.

Something else that surprised me while studying Harry's books is the fact that he had several signed books in his music books collection—autographed copies he never brought to my attention, for reasons I can only guess. He was a very modest man, and maybe he probably thought it would be bragging to show me these books. For sure, I know that he appreciated those autographed books because many of them were obviously written by musicians he knew or had worked with at one time or another. I'm keeping a couple of these signed editions because the inscription to Harry was so touching and meaningful to me, but for those buyers who get one of Harry's signed big band or jazz books, I figure they will be getting a book with double the collectible value because Harry was a well-known musician and drummer himself. Now his life and musical times—times that are gone forever—have been documented for posterity in my memoir, THE DRUMMER DRIVES! EVERYBODY ELSE RIDES, which has received glowing reviews on Amazon.

Another surprise were the clippings I found in many books. Harry often bought a book after having read an article or review of it, and then he carefully clipped the article and filed it until the book arrived. When he placed the book on his bookshelves, the clipping was filed in the front of the book. In some cases, these old clippings may be as collectible as the book itself and they will be a pleasant bonus to whoever buys one of those books. 

If you're a true bibliophile interested in adding some high-quality books to your collection, you'll love the books from Harry's collection. Frankly, I am surprised by the poor quality of most of the used and "collectible" books being offered on Amazon. So many are ex-library books, or have torn or missing dust jackets, are soiled, or have underlined text or inscriptions that detract from their value. Without question, the quality of most of Harry's books, even those that are more than a half-century old, is far better than what is being offered by many other sellers on Amazon.

My ultimate goal is to get the books Harry loved so much took and such good care of into the hands of buyers who will treasure them as much as he did.

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