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Richard Reilly is in the business of buying and selling books

  • Richard Reilly of Antrim has been buying and selling books, while also doing appraisals for many years, through his side business, The Book Preserve. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Richard Reilly of Antrim has been buying and selling books, while also doing appraisals for many years, through his side business, The Book Preserve. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Richard Reilly of Antrim has been buying and selling books, while also doing appraisals for many years, through his side business, The Book Preserve. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Richard Reilly of Antrim has been buying and selling books, while also doing appraisals for many years, through his side business, The Book Preserve. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Richard Reilly Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 4:42PM

Old books just fascinate Richard Reilly. The way they’re put together, the covers, the subject matter. 

So when he gets a call about a collection that someone wants to either get rid of or just know more about, Reilly is always willing to take drive – to just about anywhere – to see what they have. Long ago, he created The Book Preserve, which offers the service of buying, selling and appraising books, and Reilly has come across a little bit of everything over the years.

If it’s something like a first-edition, first-run of a famous book, Reilly will help them find an avenue better suited to find the right buyer like an auction house, because those kinds of books are extremely rare and will garner a large amount of money.

The rest of them he will look over and use his experience and best judgment to make a fair offer for both parties. He doesn’t always know what he’s buying, and won't until he gets home and researches them, but that’s part of the fun involved with the hobby that he’s had for the last three-plus decades. Reilly does know what he likes and what can sell. The remainder allows for Reilly to expand his knowledge.

“It’s such a gut feeling,” he said. “You just get a feel for what it is, and a lot of it is learning on the fly. It’s very instinctual.”

And this is just what Reilly does on the side. He’s the owner of Richard Reilly Painting, based out of Antrim, a family business that he started in the 1980s and now runs with his two sons and nephew. That all started when a neighbor asked him to help paint. Reilly soon realized he enjoyed it and was good at it, so he started working for himself.

“You end up helping someone and it’s your life 35 years later,” Reilly said.

But when he’s not slinging a paint brush, Reilly has a true passion for books. When he gets asked to look at a collection, it’s usually one that was owned by a relative who passed away and the person in charge of their belongings would like to find the books a good home. “Everybody collects something,” Reilly said, so he will go and wade through what could be a handful of books or shelves upon shelves of them. Sometimes he immediately knows he’s going to make an offer, while others just don’t have anything that make it worth buying. If it’s something he wants, the discussion on a price can emulate what happens on “American Pickers.”

“I usually buy them on the spot 99 times out of 100,” he said. “The key is knowing when things can be sold.”

He’s heard all kinds of stories along the way. From when a person met the author and got a signature to when they first bought the book and where. Not only does it give a personal touch to every collection, but it can also help with research.

While Reilly will do appraisals, mostly what he does is buying and selling. He’s created quite the clientele list so when he sees certain books within a collection, Reilly knows he’ll be able to get rid of it. He also uses Ebay for works that have a following.

“If you’re trying to sell something, someone’s got to want it,” he said. 

But it’s the unknown that keeps Reilly doing it all these years later. It’s not something he’s going to get rich from, but the excitement of walking into a person’s home and rummaging through a collection is what gives him that feeling.

“These books really had meaning and purpose,” he said. “You’d be surprised where I’m willing to go.”

While the subject matter of the book is important, as is whether it’s rare or not, the most important factor is the condition. Even if it’s the most rare book in the world, it’s just about worthless if the condition is less than acceptable.

“Condition is everything,” he said. “If it’s not good condition, you’re trying to gussy something up that’s just not there.”

Way back when, Reilly won a box of stuff, including some books, during a ping pong game and took it to the Hollis Flea Market. He sold the contents for about $100 and was hooked.

“There was no internet then, so you had to feel your way through it,” Reilly said.

He’s picked up a lot of knowledge – and some tricks – that have given him more insight to what he’s looking at, and for. Old town histories, books about Native American tribes, stories about specific regiments in the Civil War and all things Checkers are just a few of what Reilly has found that people want. 

“The more specialized the better,” Reilly said. “You’re always looking for a one-of-a-kind item.”

He has come across school meeting minutes from the 1830s, and if Reilly had his choice, he’d deal exclusively in paper, like maps, posters and postcards.

And Reilly even though the goal is to make some money, he offers a price that he thinks will satisfy the seller, while also leaving some room for him to get his money back and keep a few items as well. There’s a morality clause he lives by in all his business dealings.

“You hear ‘what do I do with these things? and ‘how much are they worth?’ all the time,” Reilly said.

It can take many conversations to set up a time to see a collection, sometimes even months or years to finish off a purchase, Reilly said. But again, that’s part of the mystique associated with the line of work. He’s constantly learning on the fly and many times, shooting from the hip when it comes to dollar amounts and making a deal.

“You’re always surprised. You never know what you’re going to run into,” Reilly said. “It never stops fascinating me.”

He’s a member of the N.H. Antiquarian Book Sellers, and has a barn (and half a garage) full of books.

Even if a potential seller has given Reilly a rundown of what they have, he always wants to look for himself. There are so many books there is no possible way he could know everything about every book.

“I love it, love it to death,” Reilly said. “You just won’t make a living doing this.”

No matter the subject, Reilly will look through and read a little bit of each book he purchases. When it comes to appraisals, there is an hourly fee, but not to have him look at a collection.

While the books are fascinating, and he loves painting, it’s really about the people. Reilly is a people person and that’s never going to change.