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Toys for the collector

by Admin on November 28, 2017

mcloughlin1More than 100 years before the invention of educational gaming software, there were “novel and game,” educational board games which came complete with game pieces and instruction booklets, and were often accompanied by the novels which provided the basis of such creations.  Educational resources that combine gaming and education into one can be very effective tools in motivating children to learn. A number of small-scale presses are targeting educators’ curricula which combine learning with fun activities. These presses have been republishing old picture books, by repurposing antiquated texts.

In the United States, before companies such as Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley popularized board games, publishers such as Elton & Co., (active 1840-1851), and McLoughlin Bros.,(active 1858-1920), printed and issued toy books, comic almanacs, valentines, cheap chapbooks, large folio picture books, linen books, puzzles, games, mechanical paper toys and paper dolls. The New York publishing firm,  McLoughlin ,employed illustrators such as Thomas Nast, William Momberger, Justin H. Howard, Charles Howard, Palmer Cox, and Ida Waugh to pioneer the systematic use of color printing technologies in children’s books and games. They also integrated religious topics into their products in an attempt to teach children proper behavior and religious beliefs.  John McLoughlin, Jr.’s death in 1905 caused the firm to suffer from the loss of his artistic and commercial leadership and in 1920, McLoughlin Bros., Inc. was sold to Milton Bradley. The Brooklyn factory was closed, and game production ceased.

The McLoughlin line of children’s books was sold to Grosset & Dunlap in June 1954. Since that date, several books bearing the McLoughlin Bros. imprint were issued, but the name dropped out of print by the 1970s. Since 1970, McLoughlin products have enjoyed great popularity with collectors, and their visibility continues through displays at book fairs and in catalogs, like New York book dealer Justin Schiller’s Catalogue 35 (1978), devoted to the McLoughlin wood engraving blocks.1

The McLoughlin book and game combinations set the standard in gorgeous artwork. Their games featured beautiful chromolithographs, lithographic box covers, hand-spinner and playing boards, beautifully designed, during an era lacking modern innovations. Today, they are quite scarce, especially the ones in good condition. Games were made to be played primarily by children whose enthusiastic hands would often be the cause of severe deterioration to the attractive condition of the original. The limited, surviving copies usually come in below average condition, with leaves or pieces missing, loose joints, tape repairs, and  re-glued with scribble marks or stains. As a result, the fewer in better condition are sought by the serious collectors, and are rarely a bargain.

The Game of Bulls and Bears

One of the most popular, (and highly collectible games, today) , is The Game of Bulls and Bears – The Great Wall Street Game. The Game of Bulls and Bears was introduced by McLoughlin Brothers in 1883, and was based on the financial panic that occurred 10 years earlier. On the corners of the board, are caricatures of ultra-rich railroad magnates William Henry Vanderbilt and Jay Gould, along with notable successful investor Cyrus W. Field. The complete game in good condition trades for over $25,000.

Round the World with Nellie Bly

One of the most popular games, again by McLoughlin, is Round the World with Nellie Bly, released in 1890. The vibrant chromolithographed board game, featured the 72-day around the world trip, completed by 25-year-old Elizabeth Cochrane ,(also known as Nellie Bly), in 1889. Inspired by Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, feminist reporter Bly, traveled alone from Hoboken, New Jersey to London, made her way across Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and raced back to New York via train to complete her circumnavigation in 72 days, a world record. This particular collectible can be found trading for around $500, because it is a lot more common than its 1883 counterpart.


1 Laura Wasowicz, Curator of Childrens’ Literature



RBSM - artist

The Rare Book Sale Monitor has given collectors new ways to structure their search for new additions to their collections using market trend indicators. Our view is that genre and author strategies can complement one another, and, that additional breakdowns can improve visibility and help structure collections to produce the desired results. In the case of the genre of Arts, for example, there is a great deal of variability across the composition of the genre. It is important for collectors of art books to have an additional index tracking the artists’ performance.

Genre and author indexes attempt to track the performance of a particular group of related rare books. Knowing the index on which a collector strategy is based, can give a better sense of which books will be tracked over a period. One simple way to illustrate this, is to imagine two equal-weight strategies; one tracking the genre of Arts, and another tracking the author J.R.R. Tolkien. Both strategies offer narrow exposure to a set of books. However, where the former strategy might focus on books from various artists, (with each book having a 2% weighting), the latter, might try to include a single author’s entire offering, (with each book having a 10% weighting). As you might expect, such differences in weighting – which apply no matter what type of groupings are considered – can affect the performance recorded.

Smart indexing, generally employs a rules-driven approach, wherein the weighting methodology determines what books are included and in what proportion. One outcome of this approach is that some authors might be more exposed to certain genres than others. The J.R.R. Tolkien index for example, can result in a relatively large exposure to the Modern First Editions genre index. Again, this should not be taken to mean a particular author is relying on a certain genre. Rather, if an author index gives less actively traded books a higher weighting, then the index might end up with larger weightings for particular titles. And, the index allocations can change, so that if trading picked up in one particular title, its weighting in a low-trading index would likely shrink.

The bottom line for us is to make sure we understand the index dynamics; thus, we can avoid any unintended concentrations in particular titles of the rare book market. We are hopeful that the addition of the Rare Book Sale Monitor – artist breakdown, will improve trend analysis for the Art genre and lessen the effect of out-of-balance concentrations.

Our new Artist breakdown focuses on a number of fairly often traded books which you may find described as:

A wonderful combination of image and text, the illustrations exquisitely executed; finely executed pencil drawings to illustrate an as yet unidentified edition; a scarce edition of the author’s work, with a woodcut for each section; a series of engravings with descriptive text, illustrative of the life of the protagonist; a presentation with each plate printed on a different colored paper produced in a way that makes for a beautiful-looking book; a hieroglyphic epistle from the artist colored by hand; depictions of scenes chromolithographed throughout; copper engraved coats-of-arms; the silhouettes each facing a page of text depicting romantic illustrations; a contemporary lithograph led to speculation as to the motivation of the artist….”


RBSM Genre

Genre Breakdown

RBSM Author Breakdown

Author Breakdown

RBSM Artist Breakdown

Artist Breakdown


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