Rare finds sometimes surface at Macon's annual old book sale

A couple of years ago when Sheelah Hall opened a romance novel she’d picked up at the annual book sale in Macon, more than a love story spilled forth.

“I got home and was going through the books I’d bought and the shark’s tooth just fell out,” said Hall, who lives in Dry Branch. “It was about an inch long.”

Odd as it was, Hall’s unusual find is but one of the strange and not-so-strange treasures that sometimes surface in the sea of books at the Macon-Bibb County Friends of the Library Old Book Sale.

The book-lover’s bargain mart, which opened for its 41st year Thursday morning, can be a trove of obscure items that readers have tucked between pages and forgotten.

Dan Avent of Macon has been buying books at the sale for more than a decade. Not too long ago, a friend went with him.

“He was in line with me, flipping through a book and he said, ‘Hmmm, here’s 20 bucks,’ ” Avent said.

“You can find a first-edition book or you can find a book that’s been signed by somebody or something stuck inside of it,” he said. “It’s kind of a challenge to try to find something like that.”

Most of the stuffed-away articles left in books — recipes, paper dolls, photographs, postcards, obituaries, grocery lists, cash, checks — are sifted out when sorters price the donated books. One year, a library volunteer found three $100 bills.

Occasionally, the finds are more sentimental.

Jim Beach, who has worked at the Central City Park sale for three years, once found an ancient graduation invitation and a photograph of a high school baseball team. Beach went online, tracked down the name of the fellow on the invitation and made a call to a number in Juliette.

The man’s wife answered.

“That’s my husband. He died last year,” she said.

Beach recalled, “She was just thrilled to get this old stuff.”

John Mathews, one of the organizers of the event, which runs through Sunday afternoon, said, “If people come to look for a bargain, they might get more than they think they’re gonna get.”

“We’ve had some interesting things,” Mathews said, “but it usually has to be something you can fold to put in a book. I mean, who would think you’d find a shark’s tooth in a book?”

Mathews once unearthed a picture of a family on vacation at the Grand Canyon. To this day, he has no idea who the family was.

“It was the husband and the wife and the two children, and they were standing with the canyon behind them, up against the rail. It must’ve been from the 1950s,” he said.

Sandra Thurston of Flovilla, one of about 300 or so book hunters in line waiting for the sale to open Thursday, said, “I found a really old Valentine’s card once — no money.”

“I guess if you buy real old books,” she said, “you find real old things in them.”

Bill Chappell of Perry can attest. In one book he bought at the Macon sale not too long ago, there was an FDR campaign bookmark from the 1936 presidential election.

Another time, Chappell bought an L. Frank Baum “Oz” series book for $1.50. When he started reading it he found a $20 silver certificate inside.

“I found the Emerald City,” he said. “I don’t expect to find anything. It just happens. You never know what’s in the book you’re reading.”

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.