Inside D.C. entertainment

What to buy in a Borders fire sale

February 18, 2011 - 09:00 AM
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The Borders at 18th and L Streets, NW (Photo: TBD staff)

Vultures, begin circling: Several area Borders stores are set to close, and the Washington Post has reported that the company could begin liquidating inventory at the doomed stores as soon as this weekend. 

If Borders gets in on the Presidents' Day sales frenzy, there could be some deep, deep discounts at the closing outposts. Sure, a lot of the best stuff will just be shipped off to the stores in the region that will remain open, but there's a good chance that some employee may accidentally put a 50% off sticker on The West Wing: The Complete Series Collection ($299.99 at the 18th and L Borders). The company could also decide that it's cheaper and easier to sell most things off, rather than bother with transporting inventory.

Yes, it's a little gross to be taking advantage of Borders' misfortune, but if you just can't stay away from good deal, no matter the circumstances, you should at least do this thing right. If you head down to a sale at 18th and L location, for instance, avoid crap like desk globes ($24.99) or Garnishing, a combination recipe book/melon baller kit ($7.99) and go for the big ticket items. You need to remember five things: Boxed sets, art books, software programming books, vinyl, furniture.

Boxed sets

The boxed set section should be your first stop in the event of a fire sale. Why comb through racks and racks of discounted DVDs when you can snatch up a great collection of movies or music or every episode of your favorite TV show?

A Genesis DVD Boxed set ($139.99) features five discs of prog rock goodness. Does anyone love Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel enough to drop this kind of cash? Maybe not, but if 25-75% is knocked off of the price, bring on "The Carpet Crawlers."

Classical music lovers will find sets of Mahler and Wagner ($84.99-$124.99), while fans of Dylan and the Beatles have several collections from which to choose. ($124.99-149.99).

The Doobie Brothers set Long Train Running: 1970-2000 is a mere $59.99 for 30 years of music; during a closeout sale, the price could get much, much, lower, at which point you'll have to ask yourself if anyone needs that much Doobie, even if it's damn near free.

The best best for TV show sets are Lost ($229.99), Homicide: Life on the Streets ($149.99), and the A-Team, which is packaged in a replica of B.A.'s van ($149.99).

Art Books

While I spotted a giant photography book entitled Horses that was a mere $19.99, and an enormous, 15-pound coffee table book called simply "Art" that was a mere $49.99, fancier art books are pretty expensive. A big sale is the time to stock up on:

Anything Taschen. The publishing house behind the most expensive book ever made (A $15,000 edition of Helmut Newton's SUMO) produces a lot of beautiful, but pricey, art and architecture books. A more moderately priced version of SUMO ($149.99) and other Taschen titles at 18th and L could be marked down.

Also: anything Saatchi Gallery. The London gallery has published some beautiful books, including Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture, which is $85.00, even though it's half the size of the Horses.

Software programming books

Not sure exactly what a Linux is, but it is very expensive to read about. If you work with computers and need expensive books to...stay ahead of all of the latest computer trends, you definitely need to hit any Borders sale. A book called Professional ASP.NET 2.0 was $49.99 while another tech-y book called Active Directory that, inexplicably, features a detailed nature drawing of two frolicking cats on its cover, will set you back a whole $54.99.


The downtown Borders, for someone reason, is filled with relics of the past: some bad (A Friends poster! Really!), and some good—like its collection of vinyl. For the person who just wants to be able to say they own some wax, they can pick up run-of-the-mill albums from the likes of Vampire Weekend, She & Him, and Arcade Fire (all $17.99).  But there are also a few rare vinyl gems, as well, including a copy of female rapper Queen Pen's 1997 album, My Melody.


When Borders liquidates, they liquidate: Everything must go, including the furniture. If you've ever found yourself sitting in a Borders cafe and thinking, wow, these wooden chair are comfy, you may finally be able to take one home with you. In the event of a complete store-closing sale, those maple (or maple-colored) tables that hold "New Releases," and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves will go, as will those cozy, overstuffed chairs that have led to the demise of the store, as they invite people to sit and read for free, rather than buy books and magazines to take home.

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