Mar 242012

Searching For The Second Twenty Caldecott Medal Books

First Edition Caldecott MedalA couple of months ago we performed an internet search for the first editions of the first twenty Caldecott Medal books to determine the number of books currently being offered for sale, and similar to past searches, calculate the average selling price. This past week we performed a search for first edition Caldecott Medal books for the period 1960-to-1979, the second twenty. The searches were performed across multiple book sites, ABE, ABAA, and Bookfinder, and were filtered for first edition books with dust jackets, in VG- condition or better. We excluded ex-library editions, first editions without dust jackets, and dust jackets in poor condition. For the results of this survey please see the table below.

For the years 1960-to-1979 we found fifty-one first edition books currently for sale, with ten copies of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are being offered, which greatly skewed the average asking price. With WTWTA included, the 51 books have an average asking price of $4,523. With WTWTA excluded the 41 books had a more modest average asking price of $353. 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 issue with dust jacket. As was expected due to their scarcity Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day (1963) is not available nor Gail E. Haley’s A Story, A Story (1971). First editions in dust jacket for either book do not surface for sale very often.  

In addition to the two above, three other books surprisingly are not currently offered; Nonny Hogrogian’s Always Room For One More (1966) Ed Emberley’s Drummer Hoff (1968), and Gerald McDermott’s Arrow To The Sun (1975). I don’t think the three books are scarce in first edition issue – time will tell – however I did elevate their Scarcity index to ‘8’ in the following table. Obviously, should a single copy surface, the offering price will represent a seller’s market with no competing comparables.

Caldecott Medal Winners 1960-1979
Award Year Collect ibility Scar city Title Illustrator Web Avg. $
1960 7 7 Nine Days To Christmas Marie Hall Ets 4 $301
1961 7 7 Baboushka And The Three Kings Nicolas Sidjakov 1 $880
1962 8 7 Once A Mouse Marcia Brown 3 $953
1963 7 10 The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats 0
1964 10 7 Where The Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak 10 $21,615
1965 7 7 May I Bring A Friend? Beni Montresor 2 $120
1966 7 8 Always Room For One More Nonny Hogrogian 0
1967 7 7 Sam, Bangs, And Moonshine Evaline Ness 3 $400
1968 7 8 Drummer Hoff Ed Emberley 0
1969 7 7 The Fool Of The World And The Flying Ship Uri Shulevitz 5 $493
1970 8 9 Sylvester And The Magic Pebble William Steig 1 $500
1971 7 9 A Story, A Story Gail E. Haley 0
1972 7 7 One Fine Day Nonny Hogrogian 1 $150
1973 7 6 The Funny Little Woman Blair Lent 5 $304
1974 7 6 Duffy And The Devil Margot Zemach 4 $180
1975 7 8 Arrow To The Sun Gerald McDermott 0
1976 8 7 Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People’s Ears Leo & Diane Dillon 3 $307
1977 8 7 Ashanti To Zulu: African Traditions Leo & Diane Dillon 2 $138
1978 7 6 Noah’s Ark Peter Spier 6 $195
1979 7 7 The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses Paul Goble 1 $413
20 Totals / Average $ 51 $4,523
20 Without ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ Totals / Average $ 41 $354


Four One-sies

Only one first edition copy of four other Caldecott Medal books were found. There is only one first edition copy of Nicolas Sidjakov’s Baboushka And The Three Kings (1961), William Steig’s Sylvestor And The Magic Pebble (1970), Hogrogian’s One Fine Day (1972), and Paul Goble’s The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses (1979). The offering price for One Fine Day is priced a bit low at $150; based on past experience, I don't think the book is too scarce. Nor do I think The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses is too scarce, and think the $413 being asked is a fair price.

Baboushka And The Three Kings is somewhat difficult to find, priced reasonably at $880, however I think the demand for the book is fairly modest relative to other Caldecott Medal books. By default I place a Collectibility Index of '7' on first edition Caldecott Medal books, then adjust for other factors, such as illustrator's or author's eminence, copies sold, and so forth (see Factors Affecting The Value Of Children's Books).

William Steig's Sylvester And The Magic Pebble is a tough get in first edition issue. The book is larger than one would expect, and beautiful to behold. Coupled with Steig's success as a cartoonist for the New Yorker, producing some 2,600 illustrations and over 110 covers for the magazine, and his creation of Shrek, which formed the basis for the Dreamworks movie series, the book is modestly priced at $500. I don't think this copy will be on the market very long. 

Note: Caveat emptor. I have no affiliation to any bookseller, their offering(s), or to the sale of any particular book mentioned on this site. The prospective book buyer must perform their own due diligence concerning the actual book, its issue points, its condition, and the reliability of the bookseller.

The ‘These Books Aren’t Old Syndrome’

First Edition Caldecott Medal
With the exception of Where The Wild Things Are (see below), the first edition books currently on the market are moderately priced. A lot of the top tier children's booksellers have been in the business for decades, and I think the age of these books has snuck up on them, and by their influence the rest of industry. Decades ago, these books weren't old. Today, three of the books were published over fifty years ago. Over half of them were published over forty years ago. All the books in the survey are over thirty years old. Fifty, forty, and thirty years are by no means considered 'old' or antiquarian in the general book collecting market, but fifty, forty, and thirty years old IS old in terms of contemporary American picturebooks.

I've been collecting children's picturebooks for over two decades. Even now, I'm surprised the back-to-back Dillon winners Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People's Ears and Ashanti To Zulu are over thirty-five years old. It seems like only yesterday the two books were relatively new, published fifteen years past, and available with relative abundance. Not so it seems, today.

Obviously the demand for first edition Caldecott Medal winners have increased over the last decade, and copies have been absorbed into libraries and collections. Still, I was very surprised to see only forty-one copies of the books for sale, excluding Where The Wild Things Are. By and large the relative lack of copies on the market makes for a seller's market, with the bookseller having pricing power.

The Availability Of Where The Wild Things Are

There are 10 copies of the 1964 Caldecott Medal winner Where The Wild Things Are on the market, the highest quantity for sale for the books surveyed. The asking price averages over $21,000, and ranges from $35,000 to $12,500. The high prices are indicative of the high desirability/collectible of the book coupled with its relative scarcity. In my database of over 24,000 children's book titles, I give only two books a Collectibility Index of '10'; Cat In The Hat and Where The Wild Things Are. Even Curious George and Goodnight, Moon only garner a '9'.

Where The Wild Things Are has been a known collectible outside of the children's book market, so generalist booksellers have carried the book in addition to the children's book specialist. The book is routinely included in fine book auctions. These documented prices have become known, so book scouts and booksellers are on the lookout for first edition copies. Documented prices have escalated over the past two decades. Are ten copies too many? Should prices fall? I don't know. There is an adequate array of prices, book condition, provenence, and bookseller credence to provide the able and willing prospective book buyer an adequate range of selection. Ten copies seems about right.

The Precarious Balance: Scarcity and Demand for First Edition Picturebooks

First Edition Caldecott MedalAs 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
  2. Consider only those first edition copies currently 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. Eventually, 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