Adult Coloring BooksAs coloring books for grown-ups have recently popped into the bestseller lists, (12 million sold in 2015), one cannot help but wonder how long it will take for collectors to turn their attention to this popular new genre of “adult coloring books”. Once considered a little more than a novelty, adult coloring books, are now almost considered a movement. The origins of the recent craze are credited to the work of Scottish author Johanna Basford, whose 2013 title, “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book,” whose detailed images of topiaries and flowers , have reached the point of selling close to 10 million copies. Because of this new trend, the expectation is that nostalgic, early editions of adult coloring books, which have been with us since the 60’s, should also see a similar increase in demand.

The popularity of adult coloring books is pushing beyond just expanding the recent editions retailers’ space. Followers usually like to amass what they follow in a collection that they treasure, because they form an important part of their legacy. There is, however, a very important distinction between most books and coloring books. Unlike any other type of book that is primarily consumed by reading or examining the illustrations, coloring books are enjoyed through the act of coloring, an activity that for a great deal of adults provides a stress release.

As every collector of rare books knows, any added features to a book besides the author’s signature, or author’s inscription, preferably to a famous personality (association copy), results in a decrease of its value. How is it then that a used coloring book, with the owner’s added artistic impressions are of any value to a collector? The obvious answer is that it is not of any value to anyone other than the owner, or perhaps the owner’s circle of friends and relatives. This, unless of course, that copy is the “A Coloring Book: Drawings by Andy Warhol”, that was personally colored in by Warhol himself. Needless to point out that such a copy does not exist, since the book was published after the artist’s death. A more likely scenario, is to own a copy of “Trump 2016: Off-Color Coloring Book” colored and signed by Donald Trump himself.

The more serious collectors of rare adult coloring books are targeting the first editions published during the early sixties that have not been colored in by their owners. The attributes that make a rare book valuable: importance, scarcity, age, condition, and topic, are as relevant in the adult coloring book genre as they are with any other genre. The following is a list of the scarcest collectibles in the genre of adult coloring books:

1. Kermaire, Christine. Kama Soutra Livre a Colorier pour Adultes No. 2. Honolulu: self-published, 1993. Christine Kermaire has produced a series of artist books that are handmade, signed and numbered. Editions are below 300 copies.
2. Nation, Joe B. New Frontier Coloring Book. 1962. Political satire from the Republican Party lambasting John F. Kennedy. It gives a window into historical attitudes towards Camelot the year before the President assassination.
3. Altman, Dennis; Cohen, Martin; Hans, Marcie. Coloring Book for Executives. Chicago: The Funny Products Company, 1961. Credited as the first adult coloring book to be published, is a mockery of the conformity that dominated the post-war corporate workplace.

Kama Soutra coloringJFK adult coloring bookExecutive coloring book








The recent popularity and phenomenon of adult coloring books should create a huge increase in collector interest for some of the most important, rare adult coloring books within the next few years. While several copies at reasonable prices are currently available, the following titles are expected to become scarce as demand for the genre picks up:

1. Cohen, Martin A; Altman, Dennis M.;  Natkin, Robert E. The John Birch Coloring Book (A Blue Book). Chicago, IL: The Serious Products Company, 1962.
2. Forney, E.H.; Forney, Inor. Our friends in Viet-Nam. Rutland, VT: Tuttle (Charles E.) Co Inc.,1968.
3. Warhol, Andy. A Coloring Book Drawings by Andy Warhol. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
4. Kannon, Jackie. JFK Coloring Book. New York, NY: Kanrom, 1962
5. Shalit, Gene; Davis Jack. Khrushchev’s Top Secret Coloring Book (Your First Red Reader). New York, NY: Universal Publishing and Dist. Co., 1962.
6. Bowser, Larry. Psychedelic Coloring Book. New York, NY: Hallmark, 1971.

Collectible Adult Coloring Books



magic-book-burningWithin a short time, the concentration of high spots from the genre of magic and the supernatural has moved into private hands and institutional collections. The market irrupted, beginning in 1991, when illusionist David Copperfield bought the Mulholland Library of Conjuring & the Allied Arts (containing the world’s largest collection of Houdini memorabilia), for $2.2 million. Copperfield’s agents, whom include librarians and archivists, continue to acquire books on magic and add to the library by actively scouring magic auctions, private estates and shops.

During this time, recent college graduate, Bill Kalush, a specialist in sleight-of-hands with cards, began seriously collecting magic books too. As his collectibles began to multiply, he founded a nonprofit library in 2003, the Conjuring Arts Research Center, located a few blocks from the Empire State Building. The library consists of 15,000 volumes and serves members of the public and magicians seeking out obscure magic works and tricks of the trade.

Not to be ignored, Harry Houdini’s library at the Library of Congress is one of the strongest collections of 19th and 20th century publications on spiritualism. In 1927, through Houdini’s bequest, the Library received 3,988 volumes from his own private collection.
These collections make other magicians both envious and grateful. They are the richest collections of magic and supernatural content ever accumulated, and they have, in a way, cornered the market. Smaller collectors of books on magic are faced with very limited availability and high pricing on most of the books on magic that are available for sale. It is almost guaranteed that while browsing at books on display at book fairs, you may also overhear someone ask the dealer the question “anything on magic?”

Houdini, as a mystical entertainer was interested in spiritualism; however, his focus was on mysticism. Later on, after being afflicted with life’s grief, he was brought to a realization that his act bordered on being criminal. His last book A Magician among the Spirits, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1924, chronicles such investigations into spiritualism, and his debunking of many prominent practitioners. It includes a chapter on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who had long been his friend before the two split irreconcilably over Conan Doyle’s belief in spiritualism.

Perhaps the most famous card book ever published is, The Expert at the Card Table, by S. W. Erdnase, pseudonym of a mysterious cardsharp and business swindler who never published anything else. Considered a fundamental text for establishing card mastery, it is arguably the most studied book within the genre of magic, causing it to remain in print well over a century after its original publication. Speculation on the true identity of Erdnase, does not exclude Houdini himself, who was also known as the “King of Cards”.

The experts on the Expert at the Card Table, are at Everything Erdnase, with an online exhibition and bibliographical information on a variety of the book’s editions. Through their “First Edition Project”, they have so far recorded the location and ownership of 39 first edition copies. According to Jason England, curator of Everything Erdnase, there are about 80 hardcover first editions in existence today, with the green cloth covers as originally published by McKinley. The more common Drake paperbacks were issued in 1905 with a bright yellow cover with the King of Hearts image. Some years later, Drake began printing copies in a bluish-green paper. Some of these had a full-color King of Hearts illustration and some had a King of Hearts with the red ink “missing” for some reason. Most of these were not dated on the title page, so determining exactly when they were printed is difficult at best.

Whether used in their trade as reference material or purchased as an addition to a collection of original editions, magicians purchasing books are historically leading the trend when it comes to collecting books on magic. No other trade comes even close to the ratio of book collectors within a profession as the one scored by magicians. Houdini’s magic lives on!

A Magician among the SpiritsExpert at the Card Table













The Independent Bookshop

April 29, 2016
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Presently, independent booksellers are growing. According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of independent bookstores in the US has grown from 1,410 in 2010 to 1,712 in 2015. At the same time, the future of highly-capitalized chains, with their need for expensive, high-traffic locations seems uncertain. Barnes & Noble shrunk from 726 stores at […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor Update – 1st Quarter 2016

April 15, 2016
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The value of books determined by the Rare Book Sale Monitor (RBSM) is achieved by selecting comparable sales and adjusting the prices according to the differences between the comparable sales and the item being evaluated. RBSM comparative pricing is produced by adjusting the sale price of a particular title that is closely monitored, by accounting […]

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Rethinking the Grading of Old Books

April 1, 2016
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Since 1949, AB Bookman’s Weekly, which ceased publication 50 years later, strived to establish the criteria for grading the condition of used books. AB’s definitions of “Very Fine” (or “As New”), “Fine”, “Very Good”, “Good”, “Fair”, and so forth, have basically become the industry standard. The condition of each book is, in a very real […]

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The Second Sex is undervalued

March 18, 2016
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“For a long time I have hesitated to write a blog post on woman. The subject is irritating, especially to women; and it is not new,” is how the opening sentence to Simone de Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex reads. She did write a “book” of course, rather than a “blog post”, a very important […]

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The Slave Bible

March 4, 2016
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Privacy concerns have disrupted lives long before investigators attacked Apple for refusing to aid federal agents bypass a security passcode function on a terrorist’s iPhone. These days, anything that happens through our lives is collected, shared, analyzed, marketed and remarketed, sometimes with our consent, and often without. New generations find it hard to imagine a […]

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Auction Activity Signals

February 19, 2016
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Last year’s financial results from two of the largest auction houses have signaled the prospect of an art-market slowdown. Christie’s reported $6.5 billion in auction sales for the year, down 4% from a year ago, while rival Sotheby’s reported $6 billion last year, down 2% from a year earlier. Furthermore, this year’s art auctions got […]

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Dada is 100 Years Old!

February 5, 2016
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While critics of German Chancellor Angela Merkel are becoming increasingly vocal against her open-door policy that allowed 1.1 million migrants to enter Germany last year, history may be on her side. A century ago in the middle of World War I, immigrant artists from all over Europe, energized by a sense of outrage against the […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor Update – 4th Quarter 2015

January 22, 2016
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How exciting to investors could the introduction of a mutual fund that invests solely in rare books be? Before you rule that everything about it is controversial, consider this: The mutual fund industry has embraced alternative investing 1 sixty plus years later from the time that Harry Markowitz conducted his breakthrough research on portfolio theory based […]

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