by Craig Stark

#124, 7 July 2008

The Book of Tiki

Here's a familiar pattern: Something culturally hot from 1950s and 1960s now enjoys a sort of renaissance as collectors pay ridiculous prices for what was essentially written off as junk by the 1970s. Well, it pays for booksellers to keep up on this stuff - in this case the Tiki phenomenon, which has been as hot as molten lava in recent years.

It's hard to say what fuels this particular craze, but likely it has at least something to do with bringing an icon or two of paradise into our otherwise over-civilized lives - paradise now thoroughly lost, of course, as civilization has paved island after island. I was well into my 40s before I ever set foot on paradisiacal real estate, and ironically this was Paradise Island itself in the Bahamas. I recall being hugely disappointed at what I encountered - a thin veneer of "resortland" applied over a deep bedrock of squalor; and where one met the other, say, on Bay Street in Nassau, things clashed: You are literally accosted by aggressive shop clerks as you walk the street. I also recall asking if all the Caribbean islands were like this. Pretty much. After visiting different islands, not to mention Key West, I've had it. If there's still a tropical paradise on this planet, I don't know where it is, and Tiki mugs aren't cheap on Bay Street.

But here's the key point: It's almost certainly the very fact that paradise is now lost that motivates many Tiki collectors. Collecting is always a trip back into what was, and what perhaps should pass for junk - a Trader Vic's menu, a swizzle stick topped by a Tiki head or the Tiki mug it originally was inserted in, etc. - takes on a value far in excess of its inherent artistic value.

Booksellers benefit indirectly: What's hot gets written about. The Book of Tiki is one of the more illustratively impressive Tiki books out there, so don't be shy about paying $5 or $10 for a copy. You'll soon be at least $50 richer.

You'll see 100 profit-producing books like this every 3 months in BookThink's Quarterly Market Report of Common, Profitable Books, each one presented in a clear format with bibliographic essentials and links to photos. Here is the actual entry for The Book of Tiki, #82 in QMR, issue #5 (soon to be published):

AUTHOR: Sven Kirsten
PLACE: New York
IMPRINT: Taschen
ISBN OR LCCN: 382282433X
ISBN-13: 978-3822824337
BINDING: Softcover

If you'd like to see 100 more of these every quarter, subscribe hereto BookThink's QMR today:

Subscribe to QMR here.

Back issues are also available for purchase.

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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