Your ultimate guide to the annual VNSA used book sale in Phoenix | Phoenix New Times


Your guide to the 2024 VNSA used book sale in Phoenix

Here are our tips and tricks to get the most out of this weekend's enormous book sale in West Phoenix.
The VNSA Used Book Sale is back this weekend.
The VNSA Used Book Sale is back this weekend. Jennifer Goldberg
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This weekend at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, the Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association will hold its annual used book sale. Over half a million volumes will be available at rock-bottom prices, with most of the books selling for less than $5.

On Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 10 and 11, you'll find thousands of volumes of classic literature, sci-fi and romance novels, western fiction, and more; beautiful volumes on art and photography; textbooks, manuals, cookbooks, how-to guides, and sheet music; tomes on philosophy, religion, science and technology, history, and travel; books in foreign languages; children's books; CDs, DVDs, audiobooks and vinyl records.

Proceeds from the sale benefit local nonprofit organizations.

The gates of the fairgrounds will open at 5 a.m. While there is no cost to get into the book sale, the fairgrounds will charge $12 per car (cash only) to park. Hours of the sale are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. On Sunday, everything remaining is half-price except for the items in the Rare & Unusual section.

It can be overwhelming to try to shop at the VNSA used book sale, so here are some of our best tips on getting the most out of your experience:

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So many books, so little time...
Douglas Markowitz

Know What You're Looking For

We cannot stress enough that there will be hundreds of thousands of books at the sale, and it's impossible to browse them all. So it helps to know what you want to find and where to find it. Bringing a list of what you're looking for (either a physical copy or on your phone) is helpful. Also helpful: the paper maps that volunteers hand out on the days of the sale. This makes it much easier to find that vintage Julia Child cookbook you've been coveting, or that fancy exhibition catalog you neglected to pick up from the Phoenix Art Museum.

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There's nothing like the classics.
Douglas Markowitz

Come Prepared

You've filled your cart full of books. Now, how do you get them to your car? VNSA does provide boxes and bags for shoppers, but we strongly recommend bringing something sturdier like a backpack, tote or even a duffel bag. Put another bag in that bag, because you'll probably need it. You may also want to bring water, some tissues and even a snack. Leave the Sunday best at home as well: This is the fairgrounds, after all, and being in an exhibition hall full of old books tends to leave one a bit dusty.

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Books in French? C'est magnifique!
Douglas Markowitz

Patience Is a Virtue

It's easy to rack up a hefty bill at the sale. Sure, that hardcover first edition of "Heart of Darkness" is nice, but you can probably find a less expensive copy in the mass-market paperback section. In any case, if you find something you like, make sure to grab it. If you do come across a cheaper copy, you can always chuck the more expensive one in the re-sort bins located all over the sale (and when we say "chuck," we mean "place carefully" — some of these books are fragile).

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Travel to faraway planets from the comfort of your home.
Douglas Markowitz

Know What You're Spending

The VNSA takes cash, Arizona checks and credit/debit cards, making it all too easy to blow a paycheck on books. If you're worried about making this month's rent, come in with a level head and a budget ceiling in mind. For true bargain hunters, half-price Sunday may be the better play, although waiting until then means sifting through Saturday's leftovers.

Speaking of which...

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There's an art to finding the best books.
Douglas Markowitz

Get in Line ASAP

Okay, not exactly. But if you're serious about getting the best selection, or if you're looking for some stuff to flip on eBay, the sooner you get in line starting at 5 a.m., the better.

Bring a camp chair, a blanket and some card games, and hang out with your fellow bookworms until the doors open. You won't regret it.

VNSA Used Book Sale. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11, at Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 W. McDowell Road; 602-265-6805; Free admission, but bring $12 cash to park

Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.
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