SOLDIER, Iowa | On a Friday swing through pretty little Soldier I see Sheri Joyner of Sheri’s Book Treasures, the used book buyer and seller I met nine years ago.
Joyner and her husband, Wayne Joyner, maintained an inventory of 13,200 books at that time. That number now? One million.
Joyner, a former restaurant and convenience store manager, has filled the cozy old Soldier U.S. Post Office and Soldier Sentinel newspaper site with books, movies and CDs. She’s also filled the town’s old Nelson’s Grocery store site a half-block away.
I ask her about selling books and the top price a book ever fetched at Sheri’s Book Treasures. She laughs and says I’m part of the story.
“Do you remember Irene Townsend?” she asks. “You wrote about Irene, who was getting rid of her books. She kept your story about my book store and we got together.”
I remember Townsend. We met at her Sioux City home September 2010. She was 84 then and had just sold her book collection before moving into an assisted living facility. She was so pleased to have passed her books on to Joyner.
“She cataloged each of the books, she used index cards,” Joyner says.
It took two trips, but Joyner got all of Townsend’s 6,000 books back to Sheri’s Book Treasures in Soldier. The two women shared their love of books, a few laughs and a few tears in their conversations as the transaction materialized.
While most of Townsend’s books fetched modest resale prices, one set a high-water mark for Joyner’s business. Joyner sold “The Centurions” for $1,000.
“It was an English novel, a rare first English translation from 1961,” Joyner says. “I did some research and found that I should list it for $1,000, so I did. The book sold for that price in a week.”
Eighty-percent of Joyner’s sales happen on-line. She’s sold and shipped books to China, Israel and all over the globe. The average price comes to around $5.
“I also had an Alcoholics Anonymous book that sold for $600,” she says.
“When you sell a book for that much, you insure it when you mail it and you pray it gets there,” she adds.
Joyner’s walk-in traffic had some trouble getting to Soldier during 2014 when a bridge was being replaced south of town. The business downturn became a blessing, as Joyner joined Cheri Bloomingdale of Bloomy’s Boutiques in going out to meet their customers.
The two women with the same first name took part in craft fairs in towns like Mapleton, Logan, Woodbine, Charter Oak, Soldier and Denison. This pair always set up shop next to one another and would cross-promote, building on the “Two Sheris of Soldier theme.”
“We had to get creative,” Joyner says. “It was fun going out and meeting customers. We’re already set up for more shows this year.”
The first “show” takes place in Soldier, though, as Sheri’s Book Treasures hosts a warehouse sale May 29-31 in the old grocery store. For $5, customers may fit all the books they can into a box.
Who knows? Some customer may come up with the next “Centurions” find for their $5.
This much Joyner knows: The books she’ll sell will enrich the lives of those who read. She’s found that to be the case ever since she opened these doors in 2005 and began buying and selling her “treasures.”