Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Collector's Adventure

Anyone who is a collector understands the joy of the hunt, and the challenge of trying to solve those little unsolved mysteries of our finds. Who owned this item? Why would someone give away, sell or lose their precious family treasures? What the heck IS this thing? What is it worth? Is it rare?

Last weekend I was at my favorite local antique mall, and I came across a small, slim book with a plain paper dust jacket, printed with the words "Merry Christmas".  When I peeked inside, I discovered it was the children's book "The Littlest Angel" by Charles Tazewell. It was only $4, so I added it to a couple of other things I found.  When I got home, I decided to find out what I had.  In researching the book, I discovered that I had a fairly special copy of "The Littlest Angel". It appeared to be a first edition, printed in 1946. It seemed that it was possible that the book had never been opened, or read, as it was in pristine condition. No writing inside, no smudges, bent pages or marks of any kind. There was a bit of damage to the outside upper spine where the dust jacket was torn. When I opened the book, it split cleanly along the spine binding, as the paper was so fragile. I'm not an expert, but it seems that would be easy to fix, and almost undetectable.  I immediately loved the sweet story, and lovely stylized illustrations by Katherine Evans.

I went to several online rare book sites, and discovered that similar editions of this book were listed at fairly high prices- anywhere from $100 to nearly $500, depending on the condition. Some of the higher priced books even had names or inscriptions written inside, mine did not.  But the big problem was that all of the higher price books had their dust jacket. Mine had this odd Merry Christmas dust jacket. So what was up with that cover?  When I first saw it, I thought it might be a Christmas gift given by a corporation, church, or organization. Disappointed that my funny dust jacket might preclude it from realizing its highest value, I decided to investigate further.   There was also a name printed on the cover, C. C. Moseley. Who was this guy? Was he a pastor, business owner, teacher?  I wasn't sure I'd even be able to find anything out about him, because his name was just listed as C. C. But I discovered that Mr. C. C. Moseley wasn't just any guy. He was an important guy! C.C. Moseley was actually Corliss C. Moseley, a decorated WWI air pilot, who began training others for combat, and taught flying for decades.  He was a co-founder of the Western Air Express in 1924 (which eventually became Western Airlines), and he managed the Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale, California for decades. In his later years, he was a member of then-Governor Ronald Reagan's famous "Kitchen Cabinet", which was made up of self-made entrepreneurs and patriots.

Major C. C. Moseley during WWI
Maj. Moseley on the left

C C Moseley in 1932
 I read a lot about Mr. C. C. Moseley over the next few days, and never once did I further regret that that copy of  "The Littlest Angel" didn't have a regular, valuable dust jacket. Although I'll probably never know exactly to whom Mr. Moseley was giving his little Christmas books,  I think "the rest of the story" is much more interesting!  One of the things that I discovered in my research, is that C. C. Moseley presented many gifts and awards to his pilots and trainees. There are great numbers of pilot wings shared by collectors, inscribed from C. C. Moseley. I think it's very likely that this sweet little story about an angel and his wings, has a connection to those wings Major Moseley often awarded his trainees.

So, just a fun little story about the interesting things I've learned as a collector, and the most important lesson of not judging a book by its cover!


esther_a said...

What an incredible story, Stef!!! I remember that book from my childhood. It is a very sweet story!

Barbara Sindlinger said...

great story!