Dodge Center ‘Bookaneer’ is still on the hunt for paper ‘treasures’ – Reuters
DODGE CENTER — RM Dreier is a forklift operator on weekdays and a treasure hunter at night and on weekends.
For the past few years, the Dodge Center man’s side business trading books, ephemera and antiques online and at events like Gold Rush under the swaggering name of “RM Dreier, Bookaneer evolved as his personal passion for old papers led him deeper into the world of antiquarian books.
He sells books, old advertising pieces, concert flyers, old Halloween costumes and more on eBay, Etsy, Instagram and in person at flea markets or vintage book sales. Dreier is working on creating his own online storefront, which he hopes to launch in the near future.
Dreier, 50, recently sat down with the Post Bulletin to discuss his adventures as a Bookaneer.
How long have you been buying and selling old books and objects?
It’s probably been about eight to ten years since I’ve just found some cool stuff on eBay or whatever. I have always been drawn to paper. …I was a comic book collector when I was younger.
In the late 80s and early 90s I really got into punk rock or alternative music, you name it. I kept a bunch of ephemera, like concert flyers and ticket stubs. When I started returning things on eBay, I realized my affinity was more for paper and books. I’ve always been a reader as a kid or teenager, be it books, comics or whatever. I really started narrowing it down to books and ephemera… things that get printed and get lost in time.
I got really interested in that and learning more about books as objects and the collectible nature of books instead of just returning them.
This interest led you to go beyond flea markets and become involved in Minnesota’s book collecting community. Tell me about this experience.
I went to the Minnesota Antiquarian Book Fair this year at the University of St. Thomas and had a great time. Despite my lack of experience with this sort of thing, everyone was very accommodating and very, very encouraging.
By analogy, I would say it’s like playing softball on the weekend and then you get an invitation to play with the Twins. You’re probably not going to do all of this well, but it’s still a fun thing to do.
Do you like to search for a coin to discover its history and possibly its value?
There are some things that I just have a feeling and just know from experience. Other things that I literally have to research. Sometimes Google just doesn’t have enough information. With this one (holding a Norwegian paperback novel from the late 1800s), I literally had to find a Norwegian website and then used Google Translate, as I couldn’t find an English website. Books can tell stories that are outside the story that lies between the covers. This book tells me about an immigrant population in the United States that needs entertainment. And it’s a book they can read in their own language. … I find it interesting, and the parallels with today.
How did the name Bookaneer come about?
I was just looking for a name to launch on eBay at the time. Because I didn’t consider myself an authentic bookseller, it felt more like, not necessarily hacking, but treasure hunting and then bringing the books to an audience. At the time, I thought it was clever. Later I found out that other people were also using “bookaneer”. So I put my name in there with a comma before bookaneer. It’s kind of a pun because a lot of high-end booksellers use their name. Something like “Ryan Drier, bookseller.” So I thought that was pretty funny.
Where do you find your “treasures”?
Lots of places like estate sales, other dealers at flea markets and auctions.
A lot of times at auctions, especially agricultural auctions, they’ll just say there’s a box of stuff for $1. You give me a box of paper and I’m a happy guy. Eighty percent of it might not be something I really want, but I like to dig into it. A coupon for Dairy Queen from two years ago isn’t going to excite me or anything. If I have a flyer from 50 or 100 years ago, that’s pretty cool, even if it’s not worth much.
How many books do you usually have in stock?
One of the downsides of still having a regular job is the fact that I do this nights and weekends. I frequent estate sales, auctions and antique shops on weekends. It really only gives me nights to fulfill orders, list items, and sort out things that might be worth shooting and posting.
I would say, for a rough estimate of a number, I imagine I spend probably a few hundred a month or maybe every two weeks.
Many people might be surprised that a man who drives a forklift for a living sells old books. How does it all fit together?
I worked in retail for a long time, then the company I worked for fired me and 1,000 other managers across the country. When it was time to re-enter the workforce, I really didn’t want to do retail anymore. I am therefore a forklift operator in Wanamingo, but paper and books are my passion.
My wife and I joked about it. When I was stocking up to go to the antiquarian book fair (Minnesota), I had shelves that wouldn’t fold up. So I had to strap them to the rack above the truck. So I arrive there looking like the Beverly Hillbillies. So we made this joke about me being the Jed Clampett of books and paper. “There is gold in this paper.”
It’s always been something I’ve been passionate about, even though I don’t have the experience of others.
You mentioned that a bookseller told you the story of holding a book in his hand in England in 1972 and then putting it back. After thinking it over, he came back the next day to buy it, but there were none left. He’s still haunted by that book that got away 50 years ago. Is there a book or a piece of ephemera that haunts you?
There are, but it wasn’t a book. It was a papier-mâché dog. It was an ad for Crosley Pup radio. I think it was from the 1920s or 1930s. It was a Bonzo Dog, which was a cartoon character that was also used in advertising. I thought about it, left and came back to pick it up 30 minutes later. And it was gone. I don’t know if I would have kept it or if it was something I was going to return and sell. Either way, it’s gone and I’ll probably never see another like it. This one sort of haunted me.
When you find something cool, how do you decide to keep it for your collection or resell it?
I have a few boxes of pulp sci-fi magazines. Every once in a while I take them out and think I might move them because I don’t do much with them. But I like them too much, so I keep them. There is also a financial aspect to deciding whether to keep or sell a book.
I had an illustrated children’s book, “The First Book of Jazz”, by Langston Hughes. There was some very fine art from the Jazz Age. I probably would have kept it if it wasn’t for the fact that it was as valuable as it was. I think I sold it for $350.
In terms of what I would keep and what I wouldn’t, the things I keep tend to be more on the sci-fi side of the spectrum or jazz or punk rock.
Anything I find I want to keep around the house, I might only keep for a while. And then it’s time to move it to its next home.
Is it a hobby or a business?
It’s balanced. The passion is still there. … That’s what I do in my spare time, because that’s what I like. It’s still fun for me, and it’s something I feel I can still do as an older person. Even in today’s digital age, I think there will always be room for physical media. Will it be the same kind of things we had when we were kids? I do not think so. But I think there is something new.
I think there will always be nostalgic appeal, physical appeal, aesthetic appeal, and historical appeal.
Asked & Answered is a weekly Q&A column featuring residents of southeastern Minnesota. Is there anyone you’d like to see featured? Send suggestions to