Goldsmid feeling like gold in his golden years

Former Claremont Books & Prints owner loving life

“I knew I would miss the store, and I do,” said Charles “Chic” Goldsmid, former proprietor of the much-loved bookstore Claremont Books & Prints once nestled in an upstairs nook on Yale Avenue.

Five years ago, on June 7, 2007, Mr. Goldsmid announced the sale of the Claremont fixture as he thought about his future and the other—albeit loosely related—passions he wanted to pursue.  When the store sold on October 31 of the same year, a new chapter in his life began, the pages of which are bringing him great satisfaction.

“I’m very lucky. I’m blessed. I enjoy what I do,” Mr. Goldsmid told the COURIER on June 5, 2012, his 71st birthday.

Though he misses the store, especially the patrons, many of which became his very close friends during the store’s 24-year operation, there’s not as much love lost in terms of running it, which was a demanding job. Without the constraints of the store’s operational hours and the endless tasks associated with keeping it going, his time is much more his own, although he’s doing a damn fine job at filling it.

“I’m busier than ever,” he said.

While no longer a bookstore owner, books still dominate Mr. Goldsmid’s time. He continues to use his expertise to buy and sell for collectors and libraries, but his primary activity these days is book appraising. Determining a book or book collection’s value is a talent he’s honed since 1984, an endeavor that is always fresh with discovery and one he considers a “great gift” in terms of the unique experiences it brings.

Consider his appraisal of the book Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (The Metamorphic Insects of Suriname). The beautiful, dual-language book (containing text in both Latin and Dutch) was written and illustrated in 1705 by Maria Sibylla Merian, who shunned the period’s societal gender norms. The book’s scientific importance, stunning illustrations, “highly desirable” type of engraving and rarity made it “a treat to appraise,” said Mr. Goldsmid.

The prized book’s determined worth?

“A small house,” said Mr. Goldsmid. (“A house in Claremont?” he was further queried, to which he responded, “With the recession, yes.”)

Mr. Goldsmid explained the sizable value in a culminating report that spanned 35 pages. Far beyond merely a statement of value, an appraisal report must describe the book(s) in great detail and provide information that supports the estimate.

“You have to explain the process, your sources, the logic of what you do and how you arrived at the valuation,” Mr. Goldsmid said.

Appraisers must be willing and able to stand behind their appraisals in a legal sense, as it’s conceivable that they may be called in to testify about and defend a given valuation.

“Let’s say someone is donating a quarter-of-a-million-dollar book. The IRS will look at that. I have to put myself in that setting. If I were called in on a review, it’s the report they focus on,” he explained.

In addition to individual books, Mr. Goldsmid appraises book collections, with a huge number ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 in value (individual books are frequently valued at this level as well), but with others going well into 7 figures. His client pool is diverse and includes individual collectors, universities, academic libraries, museums, estates and insurance companies as well as their customers wanting to insure their book collections and needing an official appraisal to do so. With no dearth of appraisal work to be done, he is pleased that he can work as much as he wishes.

Adding to his prowess as an appraiser, since retiring from Claremont Books & Prints, Mr. Goldsmid earned certification as an accredited senior appraiser in the field of books and manuscripts through 6 rigorous 3-day courses—complete with homework, tests and grades—through the American Society of Appraisers in conjunction with the University of California, Irvine. Becoming credentialed in this manner gave him 3 valuable benefits: more knowledge, increased credibility and new contacts in the appraisal field.

But life post-Claremont Books & Prints isn’t all about books. Spending quality time with close friends is an important part of Mr. Goldsmid’s days and weeks, and he treasures his regular Wednesday lunch outings with local lauded poet Pete (formerly a.k.a. B.H.) Fairchild and Scripps College English Professor John Peavoy. Leisurely mornings filled with great conversation at 42nd Street Bagel Café also bring him joy. Feeling fortunate that his body is cooperating with his interest in physical activity, Mr. Goldsmid delights in going to the gym and scrambling around the racquetball court 3 days a week.

Though in good shape at 71, Mr. Goldsmid nonetheless admits, “I’m no friend of mortality.” Happy, healthy, fully engaged in pursuits he’s passionate about and still in love and having fun with his wife of 45 years, when asked what he’ll be doing after the next 5 years go by, his cheery countenance darkened just slightly: “I’m scared.”

For now, he’ll cherish each moment and look forward with giddy anticipation to the surprises he knows will come along the way—such as the next birthday adventure planned by his wife, Paula Goldsmid. Often, Ms. Goldsmid will insist he make no plans for a particular weekend, and then it’s “pack your bag and let’s go.”

“I get in the car and don’t know where the hell I’m going,” said Mr. Goldsmid, clearly tickled by these mystery outings.

For this birthday, however, his wife gave him a hint about the undisclosed outing by asking a simple question: “If you could feed an animal, which would it be—a seal, a penguin or an otter?”

“I told Paula penguins or otters over seals (no offense intended to seals!), but she is leaving which as a surprise,” he said of the impending adventure.

Leaving Walter’s Restaurant after the wonderful “What are you doing now?” conversation, a passerby said to the highly-recognizable Mr. Goldsmid, as if it were a planned encounter, “You’ve gotta reopen that bookstore. I miss it!”

Though comments like this may stir up a nostalgic longing for days gone by, for the time when he climbed the 21 steps of Claremont Books & Prints over and over again, Mr. Goldsmid is right where he wants to be, doing what he loves, with no regrets.

“None. The time had come. I was 66; I wanted to try different things. I never had the feeling of ‘good riddance.’ Ever.”

—Brenda Bolinger




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