As 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.
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.