After 20 years, this Central book boffin is calling it a day
From nearly a quarter of a million books to zero is Danie Immelman’s goal before he shuts up shop in Central at the end of next month, and half way through his three-month sale he is optimistic he will make it.
Walmer businessman Immelman started off with 12 500 books in Danie’s Books & Bygones in Lawrence Street 19 years ago. As stock grew, he moved to larger premises across the road.
Earlier this year he estimates he had close to a quarter of a million books in the 400m² building and that’s over and above the dizzying number of collectibles such as 10 000 pieces of plated silver alone, countless coins, antiques, Africana, furniture, dolls and more.
“I’ve sold the building to a church so I am chasing myself out,” Immelman said this week. “I asked them for six months but they gave me three and I have to be out by the end of November.”
Already he has pulped seven tons of books and foresees more to come. There are still thousands of the 40 000 paperbacks on sale for R10 each, for example, and he is giving schools a special rate.
“I can’t pay for someone to take it away or for storage so it’s better to pulp. This is not a charity so before I pulp a book I will sell it for R10. It will be gone. He told me to do it and I trust in the Lord.”
Immelman has noticed quality antiques and paintings sell straight away, as do the niche titles.
“I had a running kilometre of books, and I sold seven tons of Africana and good books to a Johannesburg dealer,” he says. “If I had another 1 000 Tin Tins and Asterix they would have sold, along with anything by Roald Dahl, Terry Pratchet and CS Lewis.”
Most of the 6 000 Archie comics digests also have gone, along with books on the Boer war.
Immelman can rattle off facts and figures, like the 1907 first edition of Jock of the Bushveld, which he bought for R12 500.
So much so that customers say “don’t Google, ask Danie”.
A lifetime of collecting
It’s been a lifetime of collecting and the roots of his business go back to the 1960s when he sifted through the bulging Swops section of the Weekend Post every weekend looking for bargains to buy and sell.
“Every school holiday from Standard 3 (now Grade 5) I used to work for pocket money, but I’ve been a hoarder since I was six years old so that is now 50 years of hoarding.”
He also turned his hand to metal detecting on the Bay beaches to find rare coins, sold hot dogs at the cricket and remembers a wage of R2.65 a day working for Andre Scala, a 1970s cafe in Summerstrand.
Then, more than 20 years ago he found God and says that turned his life around. Books & Bygones has a huge selection of Christian books and Immelman refuses to trade in pornography or esoteric books, although he admits a 50 Shades of Grey once slipped in much to his embarrassment.
“I felt a bit guilty about that!” he jokes. Even after more than a month of the sale, there are still 500 Bibles.
Although many customers ask if he is selling due to changes in Central, Immelman says that is not the main reason.
Yes, he admits there are often drug dealers and drunkards in the street outside on a Saturday afternoon but in fact he is noticing his customers are increasingly online.
‘I love people and I like to see my customers’
“Collectibles and books are now an internet business and I hate electronic stuff. I want to talk to people on the telephone. I love people and I like to see my customers.”
So, at the age of 56, what are his plans?
First of all, he and his accountant wife Andrea will be taking a much-needed holiday and then down-scaling to a smaller home in Summerstrand, where his family used to live.
“I must be out by December and then I am going to have a holiday. I’ve had hardly any sleep for 56 days. This keeps me up at night until 2 or 3am, because people are sending me lists of 100 books they want me to keep for them. It’s been like a hypermarket ever since the sale started and if I get a gap I’m almost grateful. ”
He is also looking forward to keeping a few items. “It’s been very enjoyable to go through everything, and I have kept some very good stuff for myself.”
Then he will be taking a bike trip with his new Harley Davidson motorcyle.
“My wife asked if I was having a mid-life crisis, but no, I told her I always wanted one but I could never afford it and now I’ve got all this cash!”