Some hidden treasures show up when books are donated to the Literacy Council of Alaska’s Forget-Me-Not Books. Some of those books are signed by the authors and are valuable both historically and financially.
“Lately, I have been pricing, and selling, some of the more valuable signed books,” said Jackie Stormer, who spearheads this program. “In the past week, I have sold books signed by Buzz Aldrin for $80 and Pete Seeger for $45.”
All proceeds help the Literacy Council of Alaska, whose mission is to change lives through literacy for people of all ages in the Interior. This is accomplished through tutoring for children and adults, adult education, GED program, English language learning and more.
Perhaps the most valuable book currently on the shelf is a large format book written by Lyndon B. Johnson called “A More Beautiful America.” It is personally inscribed by Johnson to Ralph Rivers, Alaska representative to Congress in the 1950s and 1960s. Stormer’s research values this book at $1,025.
Other famous signatures are more reasonably priced. Isaac Asimov signed his book “Robots and Empire” and that first edition is for sale for $175. The iconic actress Katherine Hepburn signed two books: “The Making of the African Queen,” for sale for $225 and “Stories of My Life” for $275.
Sometimes donors bring in books, knowing they are special. But usually, the autographed editions are just spotted in larger donations.
“We are grateful for the generosity of our community,” Stormer said. “Many of our older signed Alaskana books were donated to us from the estate of Evolyn Melville, a few years ago. Her collection also included her father’s books. Forbes L. Baker moved to Fairbanks in 1905 and served as an Alaska legislator in the 1960s. Between the two of them — daughter and father — they must have known every author in Alaska who published in their lifetimes, as we have sold countless books inscribed to one of them by grateful authors.”
Books in the Alaskana collection range from “Two In the Far North” signed by Margaret Murie for $20 to “Iditarod The First Ten Years” inscribed by Al Crane, Jo Crane, Sonny Lindner, Emmitt Peters, Alan Rawlikns and Raine Hall Rawlins for $175.
A John McPhee-signed copy of “Coming Into The Country” sells for $35. “The Flying North” by Jean Potter and signed by Noel Wien, Fritz Wien, Archie Ferguson and inscribed by Noel Wien to Forbes L. Baker sells for $30. Judge James Wickersham has inscribed two books — “A Bibliography of Alaskan Literature 1724-1924” for $40 and “Old Yukon Tales - Trails - Trials” for $25.
Stormer carefully investigates each book, online through AbeBooks, an e-commerce marketplace that specializes in used, rare and out-of-print books, via Amazon and other avenues. She posts information about these books on the Forget-Me-Not Books Facebook page. A full list is available there.
“Some of them have been languishing for far too long on our vault shelves,” Stormer said.
Forget-Me-Not Books is located at 517 Gaffney Road.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.