Sept. 30 2009 12:00 AM

Book show brings old friends, books


Football programs, railroad timetables, automobile brochures, old valentines, sheet music, political pins, postcards, vintage magazines and books on books on books. Excited? You might be a dealer waiting on pins and needles in anticipation of the 50th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show.

Since founders Ray Walsh and Ellen Crabtree organized the first show 25 years ago, it has grown from 30 exhibition booths to 71. Twice a year, paper and book dealers drive big trucks from all over the United Stats and Canada to the Lansing Center to showcase the unusual memorabilia they have collected since the last show.

"It’s not just the same old stuff offered," said Walsh, who also owns East Lansing’s Curious Bookshop. "Some dealers don’t do a lot of shows, so this is the first time that the material is offered to the public."

Which is what brings out the collectors. The book and paper show is supported not only by local residents, but also print fiends from all over the country.

Whether you’re a dealer or just a print junkie looking for a fix, the sensation of buying and selling person-to-person with the rare goods right in front of you can be an intoxicating sensation. "Part of the enjoyment of the shows is to seek things and touch them,” Walsh said. “If you buy books online, you don’t know how the person is describing them.”

This time around, Walsh said Curious Bookshop would contribute “Oz” books, more than 40,000 postcards, football programs, Stephen King first editions and movie posters and other promotional materials.

A pulp magazine and book aficionado, Walsh also knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the vendor’s table, tracking down that certain speical edition. "That’s part of the challenge of book collecting — the hunt,” Walsh said. “That’s why a lot of people come to the show, to find things they have been looking for or find something they want to know more about. It’s a learning experience for both the customer and the dealer."

It’s also social event among dealers.

Take, for instance, Steve Magina, owner of Magina Books in Lincoln Park. Not only did his dad genetically transfer his love of paper to his son, but he also ran the same bookshop that Walsh used to visit in the ’70s. "I have been with paper almost all my life,” Magina said. “My dad was a book collector, so I grew up with it around me.”

Magina said he has been doing the Lansing show for the last 15 or so years, only missing a couple. "It’s pretty much a community,” he said. “Everyone has their own little niche, everyone is specialized in something. I try and have something other people don’t have. You get a feel for it after a while."

Magina said his main focus is history, with an emphasis on the military, Michigan the automotive industry and the ancient world. “I have a pretty large selection,” he said. “The shop has around 50,000 titles, including magazines, paperbacks and hard covers."

For the show, Magina will transport about 50 boxes of inventory from the store. His hard cover books can range in price from $5 to $500, depending on rarity, condition and demand.

While online sales have no doubt put a dent in book retail, Magina said the Internet is also a useful channel for bringing his specialized wares to the world. "I think paper and the Internet kind of work hand and hand now,” he said. “I sell a lot of books on the Internet, and now my storefront can go all over the world. I just sold a book to Switzerland earlier this week; it makes it much easier to be a book seller."

Still, the musk of thousands of antique books can’t be pumped out of your computer just yet, so if you yearn for the pungent aroma of earlier times, you may want to take several strolls around the Lansing Center this Sunday.

"Wear comfortable shoes,” Walsh said. “That can be advice for everybody.”

Albom in East Lansing

Author and journalist Mitch Albom will be in town this week to offer his take on the upcoming UM-MSU football game and just maybe save your ever-loving soul by promoting his new book, “Have a Little Faith: A True Story,” at Barnes & Noble in East Lansing.

It’s been 12 years since Albom turned deathbed conversations into a franchise with his book “Tuesdays with Morrie,” but he hasn’t been slacking off, continuing his Detroit Free Press work, hosting a radio show and writing two novels.

Now he’s back to what he does best: listen, reflect and write it down. His new book follows a journey that takes him home to his boyhood rabbi in New Jersey. The book also incorporates his interactions with a storefront pastor in a ravaged inner city Detroit neighborhood. Do I hear Oprah making noises?

Due to time constraints, Albom will only sign copies of his new book.

10 a.m., Saturday Oct. 3. Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 333 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing. Barnes & Noble will begin distributing wristbands for the event on Friday, Oct. 2.