What's It Worth? Book of poetry won't fetch much money

Terry K. Maurer, special to the Tri-City HeraldJune 1, 2014 

Books, books, books. It seems like every one of us has books -- and magazines -- and sometimes we feel as if we have too many of them.

In today's What's It Worth?, we answer two readers' questions about their books. One of the authors has a Northwest connection.

Q. This little book was purchased at a garage sale recently. I've always loved poetry, and while it is full of poems and drawings, there's no information about the author, Don Blanding. Does this have any value?-- Rita in Kennewick

A. Don Blanding was one of the more interesting and colorful American literary characters of the 20th century. Born in 1894 in what was then Oklahoma Territory, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and moved to Hawaii in 1921.

In Honolulu, Blanding worked as an artist at an advertising agency and also had his poems published in the Star-Bulletin newspaper.

He published his first book of poetry in 1923 and his fifth book in 1928. By 1948, his volume, Vagabond's House, had gone through almost 50 printings and sold more than 150,000 copies. In all, Blanding published about 20 books of poetry. He illustrated for each of them.

A self-styled "romantic" sometimes called the "poet laureate of Hawaii," he led a diverse life -- traveling the world, serving in both world wars, boasting of having no home and a "girl in every port." For a while, Blanding maintained a residence in Portland. But if he called anyplace home, it was Hawaii.

Later in life, he settled in California, where he became an intimate of movie stars. He designed a Hawaiian flower-based dinnerware line called Lei Lani for Vernon Kilns Pottery. Blanding extensively wrote about his travels, lectured widely and narrated travel films.

Much better known during his lifetime than he is today, Don Blanding died in California in 1957 at age 62. Some of his books of poetry have been in continuous publication since then and they are not hard to find.

Nor do they fetch big prices. Your book, the 10th printing of Let Us Dream issued in 1943, is worth $10.

Q. Given its size, our copy of this illustrated book on the 1893 Chicago World's Fair would be called a "coffee table book." It belonged to my great uncle, who used to tell stories about attending the fair. The condition is not very good, but it is filled with black and white photographs. What can you tell us about it? -- Jean in Richland

A. The dazzling 600-acre panorama of buildings that made up the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago -- the fair's official name -- was called "The White City" and "The Dream City."

It was huge by any standard. Forty-six nations participated, and 26 million people attended. Your uncle certainly had company at the fair; the total attendance figure for the six-month run represented about 40 percent of all the people living in the United States at the time.

The huge Ferris wheel -- the world's first -- was among the most popular attractions. Your relative may have talked about seeing the Buffalo Bill show at the fair. The Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World extravaganza was widely attended -- even though it was not really part of the Chicago Fair.

In what proved to be a gigantic financial mistake, fair organizers had rejected Buffalo Bill's show -- and a miffed Cody set up right next to the fairgrounds. So close, in fact, that many people who only attended that show actually thought they had been to the fair.

Like most world's fairs, almost all the buildings were razed after the fair closed in late October 1893. The only major surviving structure is the Palace of Fine Arts, today Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

This book is in just fair condition, with much wear to the cover and stains and tears on some of the first pages. However, the photographs all appear undamaged. The value is about $50.

-- Terry K. Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com

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