Tuesday, August 7, 2012


The Best Time I Got a Book for Christmas

My mother gave me the book on Christmas Eve, saying “It’s really not a big thing. Don’t get too excited.” Mom is excellent at undercutting her own gift giving. Regardless, I was delighted to unwrap the gift and find a battered hardcover copy of my favorite childhood novel, Anne of Green Gables.

Inside the front cover were two inscriptions. “For the library at the Ancestral in memory of the lovely weeks passed there, M.P.S., July 1908” and “Marion Beatrice H—–, December 25, 1929.” I don’t know anything about the original owner, but Marion was our next door neighbor and a friend of my mother’s. She died when I was young, and my clearest memory of her is as our last stop on Halloween. Every year she bought a huge bowl of candy and gave fistfuls of it to my sister and me, her only trick-or-treaters. She had a sister, a nun in Hawaii, who brought us chocolate-covered macadamia nuts when she visited, but no other living family.

My parents bought Marion’s estate, including a barn visible from my backyard that was slowly being reclaimed by nature. Turned out Marion’s family never threw anything away; they put it in the barn. It took my father a year to clean it out. Most of its contents went into the trash, but my mother kept a few things — a rustic table and some old books for decoration. Which was how Anne ended up in my parents’ bedroom for 20 years, resting underneath an antique metronome.

Mom had noticed the title while dusting and wrapped it on impulse. The card tucked into the cover read, “I just found this book and thought of you and the pleasure this story brought to us as we watched the series together on PBS. Hope you enjoy it with [your daughter] as much as I did with you.” It was such a last minute gift that it wasn’t even wrapped in Christmas paper, but in the Sunday comics.

In the calm before the storm Christmas morning, I sipped coffee and googled “Anne of Green Gables 1908,” the year on the title page. My mother said it probably wasn’t worth anything, since it didn’t say "first edition." I told her it was probably old enough to be worth something at least, and besides, I found online research soothing.

I went to an old Antiques Roadshow appraisal and was pleased to see that the picture on the page matched the book in my hands.

I read the transcript, feeling increasingly like I was having an out-of-body experience. The owner had bought the book to give to her daughter, who had loved the PBS series. This is the part of the appraisal that best encompassed my mental state:

GUEST: Oh, my gosh.
APPRAISER: So you've got a real treasure and a book that you love.
GUEST: Oh, my gosh.
APPRAISER: And I really am grateful you brought it here to the Roadshow.
GUEST: I had no idea.

The appraisal was for $12,000 to $18,000 dollars.

I ran upstairs, shook my husband awake, and flailed all over the bedroom for about ten minutes. There may have been some jumping on the bed. Then I calmly carried the computer into the kitchen, where my mom was drying the breakfast dishes.

“Hey, Mom, remember you told me the Anne of Green Gables wasn’t worth anything?” I dramatically turned the screen towards her.

She squinted. “Oh, twelve hundred dollars? That’s pretty good”

“Mom.” I tried not to giggle hysterically. “You missed a zero, Mom.”

“Oh. Huh.” She was silent for a minute, then hugged me and said, “Merry Christmas!”

“Don’t you want it back?” Since I’m pretty sure "you didn’t mean to give me a gift worth a compact car" was implied.

“No! It was a gift.” Pause. “Just don’t tell your siblings.”

Lyette Mercier is a writer in Boston. She's hoping her siblings never Google her.

55 Comments / Post A Comment


I love this so much. So does this make you the Rilla of the family?


@thebestjasmine I hope so, because that would mean her husband was as hot as Ken Ford. *sigh*

Daisy Razor

@Bittersweet Ha, @thebestjasmine has met my husband, so she knows that is sadly not the case.


@thebestjasmine Yeth.


@travelmugs rilla-my-rilla indeed!


A great soul. @n


So awesome! I have a copy of Anne from 1954 I bought in Nova Scotia, it's tattered and probably worthless but I love it.


The best book I ever gave for XMas was a copy of this book about elephants they used to sell when I was a little kid in the gift shop at the Philadelphia Zoo. When I was a wee boy, my parents bought it for me there because even small, I knew elephants were awesome - and it was the book I mainly used to learn to read, the first I could read on my own.

Obvs, it was lost to the ravages of time. So a couple years ago, I tracked down two copies online, bought them both, and sent one to my mom, with a picture of the 2nd copy on one of my bookshelves, and a note saying that now we'd both have a copy of the book she used to teach me to read forever (we both love books a lot).

Best gift i ever gave. I just kind of quit after that, I can't top it.


@leon.saintjean: Yesterday, my very grown up brother told me, a propos of nothing, "You know, I think I really like elephants."


@laurel they can paint pictures!


A lovely story! Alas, my Annes are cheapy paperbacks and kindle versions, but I treasure the content nonetheless.


@Es I just asked for new copies of the paperbacks for my birthday, because the ones I had in childhood all self-destructed from overreading. Beyond the help of packing tape.


@anachronistique That is why I was happy when I found most of them free on Gutenberg for the kindle!











Daisy Razor

@melis I can't sell it until I tell my siblings about it! My family is...bad at communicating, clearly. I'm glad you liked it!


It's you? It's you! I know you and like you and now you are a name and a person with a book, to me!


@melis And you know where she liiiiiiiives...

Lily Rowan

WAIT. Did you get yours appraised?????


Daisy Razor

@Lily Rowan I did! At Antiques Roadshow! The wear took some value off, but it was still impressive for a book that spent 50 years in a New England barn.

Lily Rowan

@Daisy Razor AS I THOUGHT. I was just confused when the piece ended because I thought it was going to be about you going to the Antiques Roadshow thing!


@Daisy Razor This is great! Did you get a protective box like the guy recommended?


@Lily Rowan My mom just took some books to the Antiques Roadshow! They weren't worth anything, but she said that the appraisers were very nice in how they say things. Instead of saying "your stuff is worth crap all" they say "sentimental value".


Even if it had just been Anne of Green Gables, I would have been happy!

Anne Helen Petersen

True fax: I was named for Anne of Green Gables. She didn't give me $12,000.


@Anne Helen Petersen But didn't you always really want to be named Cordelia?


@Anne Helen Petersen I was named for Anne of Green Gables too (obviously)! And, I loved this story because I also have an early Anne edition, although I think mine is the 2nd edition. Best of all, I have a first edition of Rilla and Magic for Marigold, and a second edition of Rainbow Valley. Mine wouldn't be worth that much because they are in rough shape (my great aunt bought them second hand and passed them down to my mother) and aren't all first editions, but could probably net $20,000 all together. However, I won't ever sell them!

Yankee Peach

My mother gave me her copy of Anne of Green Gables, too. And by hers, I mean the one she took out of the library so much when she was a girl, the librarian finally just gave it to her. I still love that book so much.


@Yankee Peach Ahhh, like in "Beauty and the Beast"! It's always been my dream to have people just give me things out of the goodness of their hearts because they recognize the depth of my appreciation. So far, this has not worked at any place that sells Frye boots, but I haven't given up hope.


@Yankee Peach
Did it make you feel enigmatic and bookish like Belle?

When I was twelve (sort of naive and determined but quietly so), I tried and tried and tried, $5 worth of 50 cent tries, to get a stuffed Eevee out of a claw machine at the Boardwalk. A janitor wordlessly opened up the machine and gave it to me.
It's really the best way to get anything. I hope you get something that way.


This is such a sweet story. I have my mother's copy of Anne of Green Gables from the 50s. I should probably at least cover it in plastic or something.

Disco Sheets

Yeah, that drooling and shaking I usually do over the estate jewelry posts? Totally just happened when I saw this image. Early editions! Swoon!


I have the second printing of Anne of Green Gables! It was my grandmother's and looks much like this one, only mint green. It is wonderful and perfect and I will never sell it.

The Lamb

My copies came to me via a musty box that also contained The Boxcar Children and The Mystery of Edison Brown (a book that I don't think anyone outside my family has read). All yellow-paged and lovely, passed down through my mother and her four sisters until being given to me. Thank goodness they're not first editions- because they've been worn out to hell.

The paper jackets are almost all missing and I'm so afraid to read some of them that I ended up getting digital copies of the books so that I'd stop wearing out the old physical copies.


@The Lamb@twitter I loved the Boxcar Children, and I of course wanted to live in a smartly decorated boxcar after reading the books.

Girl in orange glasses

@dtowngirl Yes! Me too! My dad ran a grain elevator and I so wanted to go to work with him to see if I could make it as a boxcar kid. But trains are higher than I expected and I'm not so sure I could have handled even getting into it by myself.


@dtowngirl and live on a diet of blueberries and milk! They made it sound wonderful, but now I have to admit that would be pretty shitty.

maybe partying will help

The best time I got a book for Christmas, my best friend's sister gave me a copy of The Yearling. Now this was a very specific copy: she taught for some time at the elementary school we went to, and in that school's library was a beautiful hardback copy of the book with the N.C. Wyeth illustrations, and I checked it out more times than I can remember. In sixth grade I got up the nerve to ask the librarian if I could have it and offered to buy the library a new copy to replace it.

The librarian declined. So about nine years later, my best friend's sister the teacher managed to talk the same librarian into it and gave me "my" copy of The Yearling for Christmas. One of the best gifts I've ever received.


@maybe partying will help awwww, that's super duper sweet.




Ah, I didn't read who the author was and got suspicious about a third of the way through that it was you, DaisyRazor! Okay, going back to finish it now, derp.

The Lady of Shalott

Ahhhh LOVE. Although I don't have this book (HAHAH I wish) I have a postcard-size reproduction of the first edition covers of Anne, Kilmeny of the Orchard, and the Story Girl, because they're all the same style (plain with a Gibson-girl style head). Then I framed them in a triptych-style frame and SO PRETTY.

maybe partying will help

@The Lady of Shalott



@maybe partying will help must. reread. have no read that one in years!

Disco Sheets

@The Lady of Shalott WHERE did you find these?!?!

The Lady of Shalott

@Disco Sheets This is probably not going to be helpful, but I was visiting PEI and they were in a souvenir shop.


Oh, and I was already having Gilbert Blythe time of the month.


That is awesome.
Also next time someone gives me a hard time for all of my stuff, I'm gonna say, "I'M NOT A HOARDER I AM PRESERVING PIECES OF HISTORY."
I think the only thing that might be worth something ever though is a '20s version of The Mill and the Floss that someone was just giving away!


This. Is. AWESOME. I would have multiple heart attacks, yo.

I stole a 1912 copy of The Story Girl from my summer camp's library. I have no idea if it's worth anything , and obviously the actual dates aren't quite right (the 'other books by this author' page lists The Golden Road, which came out in '13), but it STILL.

Though after reading the Montgomery biography, seeing 'L.C. Page, Boston' on the flyleaf DOES make my blood boil. Lewis Page, you were a crook!


My copy came as a gift at my eighth birthday party. It's a Scholastic paperback of the variety sold in classroom book orders. It was given to me by Tyler C., the boy in my second grade class who always wore turtlenecks and drank Pedialyte at lunch.

I have always been grateful to Tyler's mom for getting me that book.


Your mom sounds like the lovliest person ever.

Robyn Hyden@twitter

I just realized I own this same book! Bought at a thrift store for $5. Who knew that years of hoarding second-hand books would ever pay off.

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