All roads lead to Eureka

My entry into the world of selling secondhand books came after I purchased a large number of boxes of books off TradeMe and stored them in my shed. I took six banana boxes at a time to local markets where I also sold my plaster paintings, but realised that I could achieve more if I just sold books. The main problem was that books are heavy so I didn’t want to be packing up every night for a two or three day event. It inspired me to hire halls around the North Island for a week to 10 days to stage my own $3 Book Fairs. Today marks the opening day of my latest Fair – a whole fortnight at Eureka, between Hamilton and Morrinsville.

There will be 700 boxes laid around the Eureka Hall. Unlike any other book fair I’ve ever seen, my boxes are all colour coded. Non-fiction is pale green, and fiction is dark green; large print is blue, westerns are brown, romance is red and science fiction is black.  

The fiction boxes are all labelled A – Z and some prolific authors have their own named boxes – eg, Maeve Binchy, Lee Child, Bryce Courtenay, Clive Cussler, James Patterson, Katherine Mansfield, and Danielle Steel.

I have a separate section for New Zealand authors. This currently has about a dozen boxes where readers can find anything from Nicky Pellegrino to Dame Fiona Kidman, Maurice Gee to Ruth Park.   From time to time I put collections of New Zealand authors on TradeMe but there doesn’t appear to be much interest in them unfortunately.

I also currently have collections of the Kennedy and Churchill families, spies and spying books, and Barry Crump.  

The children’s section is all yellow with board books, picture books, chapter books and teens as well as non-fiction. These books are two for $1. I prefer to keep the children’s books at such a low rate to encourage parents to invest in their children’s future. I am saddened when parents arrive wearing expensive clothing and tell their children they can have two books, no  more.

We also have an orange or interesting table. Many of these books wouldn’t be bought if they were viewed from the spine, but displayed on an interesting table they immediately draw attention. My purple table contains a wide range of books which are more expensive than $3.  

I buy in books from two major suppliers (one a charity) and recently went down to Mangakino to collect about 30 boxes of books from a school that had closed down. (A concerned local wanted to save them from recycling.)

I went down to Trentham for last year’s controversial sale of the National Library collection and brought back about 10 boxes of books. I think I paid $10 a box. I saw several pallets full of boxes of bibliographies. There were also a lot of old computer textbooks. What I found most interesting were the history and religious books – one of my clients is Professor Peter Lineham, and I sold him two boxes of books from the National Library. Much of the history was American and UK, and such detailed works that they would primarily be useful only for academics. I noted a lot of loan cards in many books which indicated they hadn’t been borrowed for 20–30 years.

I’ve held book fairs around the Waikato, Tirau, Maramarua, Mangaweka, and Waikino in the Karangahake Gorge. The main limitation on my expansion plans is the cost of transport. As the income is limited I can only afford older trucks which usually end up with rust problems. I am planning on getting an HT licence (which is a major expense in itself) and then buying a truck which will hold well over 200 boxes.

It’s amazing how tough these banana boxes are. I’ve had most for well over five years and they have performed very well.

The space taken up in my shed is now probably 80 percent books and I also have a shipping container entirely filled with books.  

It’s taken four days to bring in and lay out around 700 boxes in the hall at Eureka. There’s also about 100 extra boxes of unsorted books. There’s a lot of physical work setting up a book fair but by the end of it hopefully the boxes are a lot, lot lighter.

The $3 Book Fair in Eureka is held from today (Monday, August 29) through to Sunday, September 11, and is open each day from 9am-6pm. The Eureka Hall is located on the corner of Hunter Road and Morrinsville Rd (1298 Morrinsville Rd, SH 26) between Hamilton and Morrinsville. There’s a nice picnic spot under the trees and a coffee cart operates weekdays from early until about 1pm.

Trudi Gray runs the $3 Book Fairs. She retired after 20 years in the NZ Army over 30 years ago. She could simply retire but the book fairs keeps her brain in working order.

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