Gene's Books
Stafford, Kansas

Deep in the heart of Kansas, a small piece of history was created when Gene Medenwald uploaded A Checklist of the Vertebrate Animals of Kansas by George D Potts and Joseph T Collins onto the AbeBooks.com database on 21 September.

The 1991 first edition, priced at $34.47, marked the first time AbeBooks’ online inventory had reached the landmark number of 100,000,000 listings – just over 10 years after the company was founded in June 1996.

Offered for sale by Gene’s Books, an experienced Internet-only bookseller in the small town of Stafford (population 1,344), the book published by the University of Kansas is a typical example of the hard-to-find gems that can be easily found at AbeBooks.com

Gene had bought the book, which is signed and inscribed by George Potts, at an estate sale in Concordia, Kansas. It has now been purchased by AbeBooks.com as an item of company memorabilia.

“I have been buying and selling books for most of my life,” said Gene, who also deals in rare sheet music. “I started the business formally in October 2000. I specialize in Americana and early Kansas history but in reality I am a general bookstore.

“My books go all over the world – even the ones about Kansas. Just recently, I am sold a book about Quantrill, a Civil War raider, who led the burning of Lawrence, Kansas. That went to someone in London, England. About 20 per cent of my sales go overseas. I love being a bookseller. It’s incredible to think that this book made a little bit of history for AbeBooks.”

Learn more about Gene and his bookstore:

How did you get started in bookselling?

I've always wanted to own a bookstore but never had the courage to take on the massive overhead involved in a brick & mortar establishment. Then the Internet came along and two years ago I tried selling my seconds, etc., on eBay and was successful but found it to be very cumbersome. E-mail friends suggested AbeBooks. I've had to buy a larger home with a big dry basement for my ever expanding inventory so it is working well for me.

Bookselling is not the easiest way to make a living. What keeps you doing it?

I love it! I've been self-employed for 30 years in quite a number of enterprises. I've learned there is no easy way to make a living -- so I may as well do something I enjoy. The greatest joy is making new friends via e-mail and the telephone -- visiting with customers and those with Want Lists. I'm still part-time and I know I miss a lot of good phone calls but soon I will be able to quit my other biz and be full time.

What is your specialty?

My specialty is anything printed on paper that will fit on a shelf, which reflects my reading habit, which is eclectic. I have a complete collection of Janet Evanovich including all her paperback modern romances. I also collect certain modern first authors as well as Balzac, Nevil Shute, Erich Maria Remarque, and . . . Well, I DO try to let go of a few for sale.

Do you collect anything else?

Nifty old cars. Have had a '51 Ford convertible, several XKEs, currently drive a '76 L-82 Corvette which I restored. My son drives a 400 cu. in. '76 El Camino that I bought at a police auction for $200 and restored for him. . . . have my eye on a 1950s MGA fixed head coupe . . .

Do you have a shop pet?

My night manager is Moe The Mighty Mouse Muncher, an 18-pound alleycat with Siamese markings and crossed blue eyes. He routinely walks right into table legs. How he sees to catch a rodent I don't know, but he's a very adept mouser.

Do you have any legendary stories you tell about incidents in your store or as a bookseller?

I once got somewhat of a frantic phone call from an author's secretary. She was a bit disturbed as her boss had just accidently given away their last copy of his first book, which they needed for a conference with the publisher, who didn't have a copy either. I was able to "overnight" my copy to them in time for their meeting. I could write a book . . .

What is the most unusual book you ever bought?

The 1892 second edition of Midnight and Noonday by George D. Freeman. A rather scarce first person account of life on the Kansas prairie and the story of a wild west bank holdup at noon in Caldwell; the sheriff formed a posse, caught the robbers and hanged them at midnight! It was purchased by a Seattle bookstore owner who grew up in Kansas, who had it rebound in leather for a customer, also a native Kansan.

What books do you recommend?

Everything by any of the Ancient Greeks. They are the all of everything; the foundation of Western Civilization. The gods & goddesses, heroes & heroines; especially those abridged and illustrated for children. Frederick Faust, writing under many pseudonyms, based many of his American Westerns on the plots originally created by the Ancient Greek poets.

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