Searching For The First Twenty Caldecott Medal Books
We recently performed an internet search for the first editions of the first twenty Caldecott Medal books, similar to past searches, to determine the number of book currently being offered for sale. The searches were performed across multiple book sites, ABE, ABAA, and Bookfinder, and were filtered for first edition books with dust jackets. See table, below.
Across the twenty Medal winning books, there are forty-five first edition books currently for sale, with an average asking price of $869. In our survey the asking price was not adjusted to the condition of the book being offered, so use the average price judiciously, since the book and jacket’s condition has a major impact on valuation.
Five Books In Absentia
First editions for five of the twenty Caldecott Medal winners are not currently being offered for sale on the internet. Understandably it would be a seller’s market for pricing any of these in first edition format with dust jacket. As was expected due to its scarcity Robert McCloskey’s Make Way For Ducklings (1942) is not available. Somewhat surprisingly, one copy of Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House (1943) is currently being offered for $7,000. First editions in dust jacket for either book do not surface for sale very often.
Similar to the last two years, there are no first edition copies of White Snow, Bright Snow (1948) and Cinderella (1955) currently for sale in the market. These two books are not as scarce as The Little House or Make Way For Ducklings so one would think the demand would eventually cause first edition copies to surface. In addition, there are no first edition copies of The Little Island (1947) or Leo Politi’s Song Of The Swallows (1950) on the market.
The Little Island, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, is another tough find, in part due to authorship by Margaret Wise Brown, under the pseudonym ‘Golden Macdonald’. Books authored by Brown have an avid collectible following, with The Little Island being the eighth book she wrote under the Macdonald pseudonym. Brown passed away in 1952, and her final ninth and final ‘Golden Macdonald’ book was published posthumously in 1956, Whistle For The Train. While Weisgard illustrated hundreds of children’s books, his work in The Little Island earned his only Caldecott Medal.
|Award Year||Collect ibility||Scarcity||Title||Illustrator||Web||Avg. $|
|1938||8||8||Animals Of The Bible||Dorothy P. Lathrop||4||$1,830|
|1939||8||7||Mei Li||Thomas Handforth||5||$610|
|1940||8||8||Abraham Lincoln||Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire||1||$1,650|
|1941||8||7||They Were Strong And Good||Robert Lawson||3||$695|
|1942||9||10||Make Way For Ducklings||Robert McCloskey||0|
|1943||9||10||The Little House||Virginia Lee Burton||1||$7,000|
|1944||8||7||Many Moons||Louis Slobodkin||1||$500|
|1945||7||7||Prayer For A Child||Elizabeth Orton Jones||3||$242|
|1946||8||7||The Rooster Crows||Maud & Miska Petersham||4||$484|
|1947||9||8||The Little Island||Leonard Weisgard||0|
|1948||8||9||White Snow, Bright Snow||Roger Duvoisin||2||$825|
|1949||8||9||The Big Snow||Berta & Elmer Hader||0|
|1950||8||8||Song Of The Swallows||Leo Politi||0|
|1951||8||8||The Egg Tree||Katherine Milhous||3||$478|
|1952||8||9||Finders Keepers||Nicholas Mordvinoff||1||$1,500|
|1953||8||8||The Biggest Bear||Lynd Ward||1||$350|
|1954||8||6||Madeline’s Rescue||Ludwig Bemelmans||11||$762|
|1955||8||9||Cinderella, Or The Little Glass Slipper||Marcia Brown||0|
|1956||8||8||Frog Went A-Courtin||Feodor Rojankovsky||1||$1,650|
|1957||8||8||Time Of Wonder||Robert McCloskey||4||$544|
|20||Totals / Average $||45||$869|
In addition to The Little House, mentioned above, only one first edition copy of five other Caldecott Medal books were found. There is only one first edition copy of Abraham Lincoln (1940), Many Moons (1944), Finders Keepers (1952), The Biggest Bear (1953), and Frog Went A Courtin (1956). Because of the lack of comparable books on the market, the booksellers have considerable discretion on pricing. Of the five, based upon my experience, I think Many Moons is not as scarce as the others.
Illustrated by Feodar Rojankovsky and written by John Langstaff, Frog Went A- Courtin is the first of two books by the pair, who colloborated on Over In The Meadow in 1957.
The Availability Of Madeline’s Rescue
There are 11 copies of the 1954 Caldecott Medal winner Madeline’s Rescue on the market, the highest quantity for sale for the books surveyed. The average asking price is a healthy $762, indicative of the high desirability/collectibility of this second book in the iconic Ludwig Bemelmans’ series. Expect prices to soften a bit as the copies get absorbed by collectors, but the long-term collectibility of the book is strong due to the success of the franchise and the book’s Caldecott Medal.
Madeline the first book in the series was published in 1939 and earned a Caldecott Honor award. It is unusual the sequel came fifteen years after the first book in the franchise; normally sequels follow much sooner. Madeline is a ‘tough get’ in first edition with dust jacket, so it is unusual to find several currently on the market. Several of those being offered are in a ‘Good’ condition or worse dust jacket. This higher availability often happens when the value of a first edition picturebook increases above $1,000. The knowledge of the book’s value gradually disseminates within the trade and hobby. More people have an eye out for the first edition book, and copies slowly surface in the market. The nicer condition copies are absorbed, and the poorer condition copies linger.
The Precarious Balance: Scarcity and Demand for First Edition Picturebooks
As mentioned before, the collectability and scarcity of the 23,000 titles in my database have each been rated on a 1-to-10 scale (10 being most collectible and 10 being most scarce). These ratings are included in the table with the survey results.
As most experienced book collectors and booksellers know, the scarcity of a book has a major impact on its value in the market. Scarcity in and of itself does not drive value, but instead value results from a combination of scarcity and demand. For books, the scarcity-versus-collectibility equation is synonomous with the familiar supply-versus-demand equation taught in classical Economics. Scarcity represents the collective supply for the first edition book, while collectibility is the collective demand.
There are two different aspects of scarcity to be considered:
1. The existence of all first edition copies, inclusive of private & public collections; and
2. Only consider those first edition copies which are on the market.
While the latter is of the utmost concern to the book collector and the bookseller when pricing a book within the current market, the former must be considered, if only slightly, when making a collectible book purchase with investment concerns. Since most librarians currently do not know how to correctly identify first editions of contemporary American picturebooks, it is problematic to query libraries/institutions using Worldcat to understand the population statistics for such books. Still, keep this in mind as the hobby matures. Event ually, libraries will house first edition collections of Caldecott Medal books, Seuss books, and the like, so querying Worldcat while not be as futile.
To read more about Scarcity and Collectibility, see Part 8 of my article on the Top 100 Collectibile American Picturebooks