Factors Affecting The Value Of Children's Books: Aesthetics

Childrens Picturebook Price Guide It almost goes without saying--the quality and appeal of the illustrations and story should be the key factor in determining a picturebook's collectibility. Therefore, since the role of the beholder is such a singularly personal affair, avoid collecting books in which the artwork or story is not appealing to you. Hopefully, this will not be an epiphany.

The quality of the illustrations and story is the single most important factor in your picturebook collection appreciating over time. Perhaps this appreciation will not come in material ways, but in satisfaction of the heart, which as any true bibliophile will attest, is why we collect books in the first place.

Still, one would hope that the general collecting public will at some point 'catch on' to the quality of your discerning eye, and as a result enhance the collectibility and value of your collection. The opportunity always exists to discover previously unrecognized talent amid the thousands of picturebooks published each year.


xx Many, many books have become perennial staples within the picturebook industry due to the high appeal of the story and illustrations. Some contemporary books that quickly come to mind: Guess How Much I Love You? (Candlewick, 1995), written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram; The Rainbow Fish (North-South, 1992), written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister ; The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Philomel, 1969), written and illustrated by Eric Carle; and If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (Harpercollins, 1985), written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond.

Each of these books became popular before the illustrators or authors were widely known - they might be renowned today as a direct result of the success of the book! In all cases, the books have sold many, many more copies than the original print run, and subsequently went into multiple print runs. It was the aesthetic quality of the story and the illustrations which contributed to the huge success of each of these books. Because of this appeal, the demand and collectibility was increased for first edition copies within the hobby.

Breakthrough Illustrations

There are numerous types of illustration styles for children's picturebooks, and some are certain to be more appealing to you than others. The same can be said for everybody. Because of this, during specific periods over the past seventy years, particular illustration styles have been more popular than others. It is difficult to pinpoint why the public embraces one illustration style over another - it is not as difficult to identify when one style became more popular than another. Usually, this change in trend can be traced to a single book - to the artistic interpretation of a visionary illustrator.

Throughout the history of the picturebook industry, some notable books advanced the art of children's picturebook illustrations, and in turn influenced the composition of other books that followed. First editions of these books with "breakthrough illustrations" have enhanced collectibility within the hobby.

Note that the table is not meant to be a list of important picturebooks from the collecting hobby's historical perspective, but instead are significant in advancing the art of picturebook illustration. At the time of their publishing, they influenced other creators to what was a new style of children's picturebook illustration.

When viewed today, the artwork in each of these books has a comforting familiarity; when viewed in their year of publication, the artwork was a breakthrough.

Picturebooks With Breakthrough Illustrations

1928 Millions of Cats Wanda Gag
1931 The Magic Rug Ingri & Edgar Parin d"Aulaire
1933 The Story About Ping Kurt Wiese
1937 And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street Theodor Seuss Geisel
1939 Madeline Ludwig Bemelmans
1946 Little Lost Lamb Leonard Weisgard
1949 Song of the Swallows Leo Politi
1954 A Very Special House Maurice Sendak
1959 Little Blue And Little Yellow Leo Leonni
1963 Where The Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
1967 The Emperor And The Kite Ed Young
1970 The Kingdom Under The Sea Jan Pienkowski
1972 Snow-White And The Seven Dwarfs Nancy Ekholm Burkert
1975 Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People"s Ears Leo & Diane Dillon
1979 Garden of Abdul Gasazi Chris Van Allsburg
1982 Where The Buffaloes Begin Stephen Gammell
1984 Little Red Riding Hood Trina Schart Hyman
1985 Hansel And Gretel Paul Zelinsky
1988 Mirandy And Brother Wind Jerry Pinkney
1988 Free Fall David Wiesner
1993 The Stinky Cheese Man Lane Smith
2002 My Friend Rabbit Eric Rohmann

Six Key Factors

Dr. Seuss First Edition Identification The collectible contemporary children's book market is evolving and maturing, although the hobby has not yet reached adolescence. The factors that affect a book's value and collectibility are not solidified within the hobby. The current state is Caldecott and Seuss-centric, synchronous with 'mainstream' collectible books, in that every bookseller KNOWS they have value. However I believe the hobby will mature into something significantly different.

With this in mind, we've identified six factors which affect the collectibility and value of a contemporary children's picturebook. The six factors are a starting point for dialogue within the hobby, which will create some controversy and discourse. Over time, this collaborative tension will lead to evaluation and evolution of the factors generally accepted to affect a book's value and collectibility. Eventually these factors will become solidified within the hobby.

The six factors are intimately connected, so it is difficult to individually describe one without intermingling the description with the other factors. One factor will invariably impact other factors. Not one to retreat from a challenge, we will try nonetheless.





© Stan Zielinski
A serious collector having fun with fun books.


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