Jan 242007
 January 24, 2007  Posted by at 3:11 pm  Add comments

Most Valuable First Edition Picturebooks

In Chapter 8 of the Children’s Picturebook Price Guide, we list the most valuable picturebooks,  then include a page listing the twenty most valuable picturebooks of each decade.  The following is the excerpt from the 1930’s:

Most Valuable Books – 1930’s

As one might expect, since the picturebook industry was in its formative years, the collectible books from the 1930’s are some of the most valuable.  The first three Seuss children’s books are at the top of the list.  Seventeen of the books are on the ‘over $1,000’ list.

The Little Engine That Could is one of the most valuable books from the 1930’s, and is a significantly important book in the context of the history of collectible, illustrated picturebooks. Published in 1930, illustrated by Lois Lenski, The Little Engine That Could is one of the top selling children’s books of all time, and is still in print today, robustly, over seventy-five years after it was first published!

The author for the story was originally credited to Watty Piper, but that was simply a house name used by Platt & Munk during the early twentieth century, and, somewhat amazingly, the real author for the story is still contended today[1].

[1]     For detailed information regarding the authorship controversy for The Little Engine That Could, see Roy Plotnick’s website http://tigger.uic.edu/~plotnick/littleng.htm.

Most Valuable Books - 1930's Childrens Picture Books 

Tasha Tudor and Ludwig Bemelmans each have a significant presence on the list. Tasha Tudor is a favorite of many book collectors. The Babar books published by Smith and Haas (prior to Random House as the publisher) are extremely hard to find in first edition format, either with or without dust jackets.  Equally tough to find is Hardie Gramatky’s Little Toot.

The other Lenski illustrated book on the list, The Little Family, became a ‘franchise book for her – it was also an early book in her writing career, significant since she eventually won a Newbery Medal, for Strawberry Girl. Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is another very difficult book to find in first edition format.

As one might expect, the first three Caldecott Medal winning books make the list of most valuable from the 1930’s (Animals of the Bible, Mei Li and Abraham Lincoln).  Rounding out the list are a couple of Wanda Gag picturebooks.

All in all, a remarkable list of books, each published some seventy years ago.  Most are still in print today, being read by another generation of children.

From the Chapter 8 of the Children’s Picturebook Price Guide: 

Note the key factors that impact the collectibility of the books. Each is a high quality story with imaginative or inventive illustrations, therefore the reading public has recurrently purchased the books for decades. Because of this, the books have stayed in print since their original publication and gone into many, many printings. Many of the books have earned a children’s picturebook award, while many of the illustrators have won numerous awards. All of the illustrators have high esteem within the book publishing market place. Many of the book’s characters became franchise characters, where one or more sequels were published, and line extensions have been made into other consumer product areas (i.e. toys, games, dolls, costumes, decorations, etc…). Lastly, many of the books or characters have crossed over into pop culture, either via a TV or feature film adaptation.

The estimated values in the table are for first edition books with dust jackets.