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Your Symphony - Your Sale

Saskatoon Symphony Book & Music Sale - FAQs

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How/when did the Book & Music Sale start?

For 25 years the Saskatoon Media Club held a book sale each May long weekend. When this was discontinued, Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra board members proposed that the symphony hold a similar fundraising event and expand it to include printed and recorded music. So in the spring of 1989, the "Symphony Fantastic Music & Book Sale" was born! Later it was simply referred to as the "Saskatoon Symphony Book & Music Sale".

How many items/boxes do you stock?

It takes 700 to 750 boxes to pack up the books and printed music at the end of each sale. Each box contains from 20 to 50 items depending on the proportion of large hardcovers and smaller paperbacks. Before the sale, the number of boxes stored in the work room is close to twice the post-sale stock, and an amount equal to at least half of our pre-sale stock comes in as donations during the sale.

Do you sell any items before the sale starts?

No, there are no advance sales to customers.

Why do you let booksellers buy stuff at your sale?

We don't distinguish between types of customers who attend the sale. All are welcome! It's first come, first serve for everyone, and booksellers get no special privileges or advance sales.

How do you set prices?

The prices are determined by our volunteers, based on training and experience. If you think a book is priced too high, or you can't understand why two apparently identical books have different prices, consider the following factors that affect pricing:

  • What's the original price?
  • What's the currently marked discount price?
  • What's this book been priced at in the market?
    • Other local book sales?
    • Used book stores?
    • Retail bookstore sales and discounts?
    • Deletions and over-runs?
    • Internet bookstores?
  • What's the physical condition of the book?
    • Tears, warping, dog ears, creasing or other wear?
    • Highlighting, pen or pencil marks?
    • Tape or tape residue?
    • Taped or permanently attached bookmarks?
    • Damage from paperclip bookmarks?
    • Broken spine?
    • Musty smell?
    • Foxing (mould speckles)?
    • Pages or cover loose?
    • Water stained?
    • Chewed?
    • Remainder mark?
  • What's the physical condition of the record?
    • Playable?
    • Warped?
    • Scratches?
    • Dirty?
    • Cover damage?
  • Is the dust cover damaged or missing?
  • Is it a withdrawn library book?
  • Is it marked "Not for Resale" or something similar?
  • What's its publication date?
  • What's its edition?
  • Is it obsolete or superseded by newer editions?
  • Is it unique or rare?
  • Was it a bestseller or well known?
  • Is it about a popular subject?
  • Does it contain illustrations, photos, maps, engravings, plates or other content that may make it collectible?
  • How many other copies are in stock?
  • How many copies come in every year?
  • Is there any connection with current events or popular culture that might make it more valuable than normal?
  • How well has the author or artist sold in past years?
  • How well has it sold in past years?
  • Books that generally don't sell well:
    • Reader's Digest Condensed Books
    • Older business books
    • Older text books, especially psychology, sociology, biology, chemistry
    • Older computer books and especially Internet guides
    • National Geographic magazines
    • Most magazines
    • General or science yearbooks
    • Older general almanacs
    • Older Guiness Book of World Records
    • 10 to 50 year old general encyclopedias
    • First free volume of any number of encyclopedias

What kinds of donations do you accept?

See What to Donate and What Not to Donate. Cash donations can be made directly to the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Where do your donations come from?

Books and recorded music are donated by the general public, bookstores, libraries and media companies. We receive review books and music, library books, new deleted and discounted books, and of course all kinds of used books and music.

Will you give me a tax receipt for my donations?

No. We do not have the resources to carry out appraisals of donated items. If you believe that some of your collection may be particularly valuable, we recommend you have these items professionally appraised. If you then sell them to a store, library, museum, or other organization you can donate the money to the Symphony or charity of your choice, for which a tax receipt can be provided. Of course, we will gratefully accept your book and music donations regardless, but we cannot provide tax receipts or any other kind of receipts for donations of material. (Note that some types of donations may not be accepted - see What Not to Donate.)

How are the sale proceeds spent?

Approximately one-third of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra's revenue comes from various donations, including sponsorships and fundraising. (Another third is from grants and the final third is from ticket sales and other earned revenues.) The Book & Music Sale contributes about 7-10% of the symphony's annual budget, or about one-quarter of donated revenue.

The revenue from the Book & Music Sale is incorporated into the general symphony budget, which includes community outreach and educational programs as well as the main concerts. A small portion is also spent on operating expenses for the sale itself.

Why did the sale used to close on certain days?

The sale was closed on Mondays from 1994 to 2000, and it was closed on Sundays from 1992 to 1995. The Sunday closures were generally at the request of the mall hosting the sale. Monday closure was instituted to allow the volunteers to restock and/or take a break from the sale.

However, this closure often confused and frustrated our customers, especially those who traveled to the sale from out of town, only to find it closed. Also, the Monday income was lost, revenue was lost the first week due to empty shelves, and the sale lost a bit of momentum.

So the decision was made to open for the full 10 days by restocking throughout the sale during sale hours. It turns out our customers LOVE to see those carts of fresh books come onto the sale floor, and some of the new stock doesn't even make it onto the shelves!

What unusual items have been found in the donations?

A variety of items haved turned up in the donations. We do our best to return anything valuable to its rightful owner. Some items we've found:

  • Cash, up to $250 in one book (the $250 was returned to its rightful owner). Sometimes dollar bills are used as bookmarks.
  • All kinds of other interesting bookmarks.
  • Personal photographs, postcards, letters and even the odd love note.
  • Pressed leaves and flowers, including what looked like a marijuana frond in one case.
  • Small slate (chalkboard).
  • Car radio.
  • Mouse pads.
  • Computer mouse.
  • Computer memory (RAM module).
  • Wall plaques (mostly religious-themed).
  • Various personal mementos.

Can I browse through the stock in the work room during or between sales?


What happens to items you can't sell?

Many books cannot be sold for a variety of reasons:

  • We weren't able to sell them over the course of 2 or 3 sales.
  • They are duplicates copies that will not likely be sold.
  • The books are irreparably damaged.

If we cannot find an organization to give unsold books to, then the books are recycled.

Where do you get all those boxes for your stock?

They are regularly collected from local restaurants that have kindly agreed to save them for us.

Where did you get all those shelves?

Most of the current shelving was designed and built by volunteers.

What determines the date of the sale?

The sale schedule is influenced by a number of factors:

  • To avoid conflict with other book or music sales. The main reason we hold our sale in the spring is to be well spaced from the University Women's book sale held each fall.
  • To avoid conflict with symphony concerts, which would mean many sale volunteers would be unavailable.
  • To avoid overlap with Easter holidays or the May long weekend.
  • To avoid holding the sale too early in the spring where customer traffic may be adversely affected by snow storms or other bad weather.
  • To avoid major local events such as Gardenscape or music festivals, which may draw customers away from our sale.

Why don't you hold more/longer/year-round sales?

While the core volunteers work year-round collecting, sorting, pricing and packing books, the sale itself takes many more volunteers and a great deal of effort from all involved. Volunteers have lives, families, pets, jobs, and other commitments that make one or two sales a year pretty much the reasonable limit. Also, space for the sale is not feasible to make available year-round.

Why don't you have a store?

We are volunteer organization, not a bookstore. We can't run a conventional store for the same reasons listed in the previous FAQ. We leave that to the local bookstores, whom we don't want to compete with. All costs are minimized in order to maximize the revenue for the Symphony. There would be no return on investment in renting, leasing or owning our own store.

Why can't you look up titles on your computers?

Yes, we've actually been asked this, and more than once! The answer is in the previous two FAQs. It would be an immense effort with little value to try to enter our stock into a computerized database and maintain it through the sale, so there's no benefit, no time - and no computers!

Where do you store the stock between sales?

In the symphony office back rooms.

Why do some of the sections move during the sale?

Some sections sell faster than others, so books are shifted to allow the volunteers to put out as much stock from the work room as possible. Our primary goal is to sell as much as we can given the limitations of our sale space. Nobody will buy stuff if it's not on the shelves!

Why is the recorded music store in a separate location?

The recorded music shared sale space with the books up to the year 2000. Starting in 2001, Confederation Mall was able to provide an unrented store space to sell recorded music from. This allowed much more room in the Centre Concourse area to sell books and printed music.

Why don't you sell other stuff?

We have sold some jigsaw puzzles, games, CD-ROM software, maps, posters, etc., but the emphasis is on books and recorded media. We're not looking to become the next eBay or compete with garage sales!

Why don't you sell stuff on eBay?

It's too much time and effort for volunteers pursue this along with other duties over the year. Taking the photos and posting the items on eBay are not too tough to do, but shipping and payment headaches are something we want to avoid.

The most valuable sale items are sold through the silent auction (when held), which brings in much more money for each item than could be made from regular sales. There are consignment stores that will sell items on eBay for you for a 20% or so fee, but we don't have enough leftover valuable material to make this worthwhile at this time. A special locked cabinet is also used to sell more valuable items.