Best in Children’s Rare Books

by The bookworm on April 10, 2011 · Art of the book, Children's rare books


Between 1957 and 1961, Nelson Doubleday publishers, contributed the most amazing children’s books encapsulating the classical stories of the time with contributions by some of the better known illustrators and artists of our times. This was a very important series as it contained much original material from 7 Newberry Winners and illustrations from 8 Caldecott Winners. It is a series of Rare Books.

There are 42 volumes to the original set that include many notable children’s writers and illustrators. Volume 1 with the story of Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s  story of the Winged Horse: Pegasus in Volume 21, the Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder in Volume 28 and the Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Illustrators also include some early works by Richard Scarry, Johnny Gruelle, Andy Warhol, Leonard Weisgard, Feodor Rojankovsky, Ezra Jack Keats, Paul Galdone, Adrienne Adams, Peter Spier, Barbara Cooney, Ruth Ives, Don Freeman, Garth Williams, Leonard Kessler and Maurice Sendak.

Several of the books are now considered collector’s items and have become hard to find, especially if quality is desirable. They are indeed rare books. Most of the volumes available are either missing their attractive dust jacket or have some other significant limitation such as stains, tears or writing, so the drive to complete a full set has now become a popular undertaking for a great deal of collectors, who have exhausted the easy picks from the market.

A quick search on-line reveals that some of the most desirable volumes, particularly the ones containing the works of Andy Warhol, Sendak or Richard Scary have been posted asking over a hundred dollars. I have still to come across a full set for sale that is in relatively good condition, without dust jackets missing, and in its original state. Yes original. While the majority of collectors concentrated their effort on the first two they have not paid much attention to the latter, simply because it is not well identified or described anywhere. After some extensive research, it has now been established that there are clear markings to identify an original from a reprint. Here they are listed below:

  1. Any Volume numbered with an “A” suffix is a later edition.
  2. Any book with a number and letter coding on either page 151 or
    page 111 are later printings.
  3. Any book without “Printed in the United States of America” on the fep and/or rfep is a later state.
  4. Any dust jacket with a 4 number code on the rear end flap (bottom center) is a later edition dust jacket.

If you are collecting Warhol, Sendak, or the many writers and illustrators in the series, you would want a first printing; on almost any book a reprint is less desirable.  It would be disappointing to purchase a first and find out it is a reprint, especially with a treasured series such as this.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Goldman April 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Great.
Keep up the good work

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James Sekkes April 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Nice introduction.
Just as a site note, the “A” volumes were specific to volume 10 and 19 (10A, 19A). These can be considered First Printings since they were modified from the originally released volumes by having a different dust jacket and containing new or having old stories removed. For example, volume 10A contained two new stories – “Fern and Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web” and “Theodore Roosevelt”. It also had the “Travelling the Underground Railroad,” removed. There are identifiable reprints to the A volumes as well. Some collectors are considering the two additions as part of the complete set.

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Debbra Wiggins July 7, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I have 2 copies separate books and wanted to know their value,best in childrens books: 1st story in the first book is Marco Polo, and in the other,Lassie Come Home. How can I find their value if any?

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Admin July 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm

The Best in Children’s collection does have value. It is currently priced below its potential because collectors of children’s books are assuming that this is a Book Club series. Not true. The first printing of the books (see article on how to determine), with dust-jackets in good condition are worth quite a bit of money.

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Cecilia November 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I have 10 books. I have one with Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry W. Longfellow. I would like to see the value of my collection.

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Admin November 14, 2012 at 12:20 am

Probably from our younger generation of followers and book collectors. Great start Cecilia, keep collecting and reading.

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Stacy McSwain February 6, 2013 at 12:13 am

I have a few questions about some Best In Children’s Books that I recently bought. I have 26 and they all have their dust jackets. I have 1-6, 7-12, 15-19, 27-29, 30, 31, 34-36, 41 and 42. They are in very good condition. I collect Golden books, but came across these in a thrift store. I paid $2.60 for all of them. I would like to know how I could find out more about them. Thank you for your time.

Thank You,
Stacy McSwain
smullintx@yahoo.com

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Admin February 6, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Great bargain? The first printing editions sell around $10 each with some of the more collectible copies containing works by Sendak, Freeman and Warhol asking well above that. The books have historically been treated as if they are book club editions when in fact they are originals that have gained collector interest and price appreciation in recent years.

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Amy September 8, 2013 at 2:53 am

I have a set of all 42, with dust jackets. All the books are in excellent condition, and most dust jackets are as well. I believe according to what is written here that they are first editions/first printings. I would like to know what I could reasonably expect to get for them if I try to sell them as a whole set. I can’t seem to see any complete sets that have sold anywhere to get an idea.

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Admin September 8, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Sold a complete set for $580 last year. The set included 2 copies re-issued with new covers (44 total) . The set was approximately in the market for a year.

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Tea July 3, 2014 at 12:17 am

I was curious if you still have these books? I had them as a child & I read them to my children when they were little. Ours got ruined by water from a roof leak. I would love to be able to buy a full set to start reading them with my grandchildren.

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J.D. January 17, 2014 at 10:15 pm

I see some people referencing volumes by letter (“volume A”) or series (“1-6″) but I can see no letters or numbers indicating the order of publication. We have about a dozen original printings (w/orig. dust jackets) including volumes illustrated by Warhol and Scarry so we’re very interested in knowing how discern publication order.

Some help?

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Admin January 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

“A” volumes are reprints of some of the original volumes with slight variations, such as new jacket illustrations and/or an additional story. For example volume 10 was reprinted in 1963 as volume 10A with Lassie on the cover. I believe there were 2 such reprints. Series is normally used to designate the volumes included in a particular year of publication.

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Janet Depoma February 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I have a set of 21 books with jackets in good to excellent condition. I am pretty sure they are 1steditions because I don’t find the letter A on any of them. Is there suppose to be a volume number on them? I keep seeing where everyone is referrng to volume but, I don’t see that on my books. They are from 1957-1960 and are printed in the United States. How do you go about finding an interested buyer?

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Admin March 4, 2014 at 2:04 am

Each book in the series is often referred to as a “volume.” Any volume with a number and letter coding on either page 151 or
page 111 are later printings (not 1st editions for the series). The books are very popular, you should have no problem locating a dealer interested in buying them or try selling them yourself for higher prices.

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Amy April 6, 2014 at 5:27 am

I purchased a set of 24 with dust jackets and in nearly perfect condition from a neighbors yard sale this morning ($5 for all). I bought them for my children because I remember the stories and thought they would enjoy them. I was looking to see how many were in the set originally and came across this site. I may be hiding them from the kids!

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sharise April 13, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I am considering selling mine. They are well loved, but I have 29 books. Can you recommend a site or person? I am moving very soon, and don’t have the time or energy to mess with research and pricing, I just want to sell all of them for a reasonable price.
(I also have other children’s book collections, any help on where to go for them?)

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J C Johnson August 18, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I have 24 of these, 4 of which are the Warhol’s…..all have dust covers and are in really good condition……Was wondering on a value, as there are so many, and which several are worth the most?

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Admin August 21, 2014 at 12:32 am

The complete set in first printing is quite valuable. Warhol’s series is also collectible.

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Rose August 25, 2014 at 5:00 pm

The books are really worth only what you can get out of them when you decide to sell them or what they are worth to you personally.
I often come across these at garage sales, thrift stores, etc. and no longer purchase them (unless they are in top shape, have a dust jacket, or are one of those that I’ve learned may be worth more than $5 -Warhol, etc.). We have about 80 of them — collected/gifted for our children to read. If I were to try to re-sell them today, I might not get more than a dollar or two for most of them — and that is with the added hassle of mailing, etc.
I do know that we are missing one or two books in the entire series, and the fun is just in keeping my eyes open to find one of those some day, but only if I find the book(s) for a dollar or two.
My advice is to realize that unless you are a serious collector and really know what you are doing (which ones to buy, how to properly store them, where, when and how to sell them) you’ll end up with a pile of books that literally collect dust and take up space.
Enjoy them if they make you happy, but don’t collect them thinking that you are going to make a tidy profit on them. Look at ebay or other secondary market sites if you want confirmation.

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Rose August 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I forgot to say “Thanks,” for the informative site.
It is fun to read about the books on our shelves and their history.

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Terri August 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I have an almost complete set of these books. #2-26, #29-42. Missing # 1, 27, 28. All have original dust jackets except # 13 and #30. All in very good condition. I also for some reason have a second copy of #29. We will be retiring and downsizing in the next year. What is the best way to go about selling these books for maximum value?

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Admin August 27, 2014 at 12:47 am

Try to complete your collection. Make sure they are all first printings. Sell on-line. Be patient.

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