This advice is probably suitable for all vintage children’s books, not just Blytons, but we’re all about the Blytons on this blog! A lot of this is just common sense, and it’s not going to be a “go to this shop and look on this shelf,” sort of thing, because that’s much too specific and you most likely don’t live near any of the charity shops I frequent.
I like charity shops for a few reasons, really.
One is they’re fun – you never know what you might find. An amazing bargain or a hideous pair of shoes you just have to laugh at.
Two, you can often get a bargain – I don’t think I’ve paid full price for a book in years, in fact if you asked me to pay £7.99 for a paperback I’d probably laugh at you in a not very polite way and then trundle off to Tesco, Amazon or the charity shops to find it cheaper.
And three it’s nice to know my money is going to a good cause.
Anyway; these are just some of my observations from the past few years of hunting for books in charity shops.
WHERE TO LOOK
To me, every charity shop is worth looking in. If you’re a regular around your local ones you’ll probably start getting a feel for which will give you the best chance of finding a Blyton, but you just never know who’s going to suddenly donate a box of books from their attic, it may just be they choose the one you don’t normally visit.
I tend to find Oxfam (particularly their book/book and music stores) and Barnardo’s (again particularly their book only stores) some of the best charity shops for Blyton books.
The nearest Barnardo’s Books to me is in St Andrews and it’s really good, if annoyingly small and cramped. The number of times I’ve been tripped over as I crouch on the floor of the children’s book stand is ridiculous, and on a busy day you practically have to queue to look at each section. There’s a regular Barnardo’s in Dundee, and although it’s mostly clothes the book section’s not bad (unlike our Red Cross shop which doesn’t do books at all!?)
I was super-excited when an Oxfam Books re-opened in Dundee (we had an Oxfam that did everything, then went to books and music, and then closed a few years ago, but now it’s reopened in a new location). I can spend hours in that one between the children’s books, the fiction and the antique section as it’s so well organised.
Save the Children, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research can also be quite decent, in my experience, while Shelter, Sue Ryder Care and Debra are often poor in terms of books, but I always look just in case and on occasion I have been pleasantly surprised.
Of course it all very much depends on location and the staff in each store. Donations vary widely depending on where the shop is, and the sort of people who live around it. For example, the charity shops in Broughty Ferry, one of the more affluent areas of Dundee tends to have better stock than, say, the Hilltown shops which are in a poorer area. Likewise St Andrews is a wealthier sort of place and as such the charity shops have more quality stock.
Inside the shops, there are sometimes lots of places to look. Some have a dedicated children’s section, usually the Blytons are found there, if the shop has a lot of them there might be a whole box somewhere. You’re more likely to find modern paperbacks, complete with updated texts, but they’re often not that expensive. Children’s books, unless old, tend to be priced more cheaply than grown-up books.
Older hardbacks might also be found in an ‘antique’ or ‘vintage’ section, or on special display shelves or glass cases. You can often ask, too, if there are any Blyton books that haven’t yet been put out on the shelves.
The price of a Blyton book will vary from shop to shop, place to place as well as being based on the usual factors of condition, rarity and age. It can also depend on which staff member wrote the price inside it!
The more book-focussed shops, with the more knowledgeable staff, tend to have the higher priced books (sometimes even over-priced, dare I say it!) while shops that don’t know a book’s worth often just price it low to sell it.
Location also makes a difference, shops in the classier streets of London, for example Richmond, will have higher prices to go along with their more affluent customers, compared to those in less well-off areas.
Haggling in charity shops is a bit of a dicey area – after all the money is going to charity, but at the same time that doesn’t mean you should be ripped off when you’re shopping there. If you genuinely think a book is overpriced, and you have good reasons for it, do say something. Stef spoke to someone in the St Andrews Oxfam book store, about a Malcom Saville she felt was overpriced (they’d priced it as a first edition when it was actually a book club edition) and she ended up getting it for a lot less than the original price. As long as you’re polite and aren’t just looking to pay less for the sake of it it’s worth at least inquiring about the price. Sensible staff will be happy to make a sale rather than leaving an over-priced book on the shelf. (For a fuller discourse on charity shop haggling, here are a few good posts on one of my favourite blogs.)
If you’re anything like me, a list is an invaluable tool when out book hunting. It’s worth noting which books you’re needing, so if you see something you’re not left swithering about whether you’ve got it or not (thus avoiding the annoyance of ending up with multiple copies, or worse, missing your chance to fill a gap in your collection!) If you like collecting early editions, a list of what you have (with edition and condition noted) can also be handy, so you can easily decide whether or not to replace your current copy with an older one, or a battered copy with a neater one. You can handwrite that of course, though printing out a list or saving a copy to your phone is probably easier.
Doing a bit of research can help you make those tricky decisions too, either before you go shopping on while you’re there using your smart phone, assuming you have one. I often find myself consulting the Cave of Books to see if the book I’m excitedly clutching is a genuine first edition or not.
If you’re not sure about the pricing you can check sites like eBay to see what it’s going for there (that’s a very rough guide, that doesn’t say anything about the true worth of the book, just what you’re likely to have to pay for it elsewhere.)
If you’re not like me and you don’t like a good rummage through a charity shop, (you strange person…) but you still want to support a good cause while adding to your Blyton collection you might like Oxfam Online, there are plenty of Blyton books (though in my humble opinion a lot of them are rather too dear!) Some charities also have a presence on eBay, and private sellers also have charity listings where a set percentage goes to a designated charity.
So there you have it. My guide to charity shopping for Blyton books. If you have anything useful to add please leave a comment!
Happy hunting 🙂