Collecting, Identifying, and Valuing First Edition Childrens Books

Which Children's Books Should You Collect?

Dr. Seuss First Edition BooksBook collectors hail from a variety of economic backgrounds. For some, twenty dollars is a great deal to spend, while for others, hundreds or even thousands is a reasonable price to add a first edition children’s picturebook to their collection. To each, his or her own.

Even with this disparity, there are areas of interest for every pocket book. With this in mind, we wanted to offer some thoughts on various dollar-value levels for collectible picturebooks.

The Book Collector's Mantra - Learn, Learn, Learn!

Steven Kellogg LiverwurtOurs is a growing hobby. As such, there are many unexplored nooks and crannies within the picturebook hobby. Find them. Learn, learn, learn, then find them. Astute early adopters often benefit in the long run. The key is to understand the factors impacting a book’s collectibility and subsequent value, and being insightful enough to benefit. The benefit is buying a collectible book in the present for less then it would cost in the future.

The Bookseller's Perspective

Booksellers cannot afford to have a long-term perspective when deciding to purchase this or that book. They buy books at wholesale or less, then sell them quickly to turn a profit. The business model strongly favors turnover of their book inventory. This works to the advantage of the astute book collector.

Most booksellers are generalists, or specialists in other areas of the vast book collecting spectrum. There are only a handful of children’s bookselling specialists, and in most cases specialize in older antiquarian materials. Because of this, the astute hobbyist can often find contemporary ‘bargains’ in used and collectible bookstores.

Important Caveat

Collect books that you enjoy. Enjoy the books you collect.

The lists that follow tend toward traditionalist children’s picturebook collecting, and should be used as guides to develop your own collecting interests.

The intention is to help you spend less for books of your interest.


The following lists are for first edition hardcover picturebooks, with dust jacket.

  • Learn to identify first edition books by key children’s book publishers (it’s not too difficult)! For the beginning collector, CLICK HERE.
  • Books without dust jacket (when originally issued with one) are worth only a fraction of the book with dust jacket.
  • Paperback versions have little collectibility or value.

Level 1: Up to $20


  1. Caldecott Medal - The Hello, Goodbye WindowCaldecott Medal books, 2000 to present.
  2. Caldecott Honor books, 1990 to present.
  3. Geisel Medal books, 2006 & 2007.
  4. Modern Caldecott award winning illustrators, such as books by Tony Diterlizzi, Kevin Henkes, Kadir Nelson, Chris Raschka, Eric Rohmann, David Small, and Mo Willems.
  5. Contemporary illustrators, 1990 to present, such as books by Felicia Bond, Kay Chorao, Steven Kellogg, Michael Hague, Tomie de Paola, Mercer Mayer, and Cindy Szekeres.
  6. Contemporary pop culture franchise books, including Little Critter, Arthur, Berenstain Bear, Magic School Bus, Olivia, and Toot & Puddle books.

A common strategy is to collect books which stay in print for decades, perhaps never going out of print ('never' is a long time, so please consider it in context). The idea is the longer the book is in print, the more children enjoy and read it, thereby increasing the interest in the first edition copy. Eventually. If only those five year olds would hurry up and become forty. 

Level 2: Up to $50


  1. Caldecott Medal books, 1995 to present.
  2. Caldecott Honor books, 1980 to present.
  3. Harper & Row, ’I Can Read’ series books, 1970 to present.
  4. Illustrators, 1970 to present, such as books by Leo & Diane Dillon, Richard Egielski, Stephen Gammell, Trina Schart Hyman, Leo Lionni, Jerry Pinkney, Richard Scarry, Peter Spier, Tomi Ungerer, David Wiesner, Ed Young, and Paul Zelinsky.

Level 3: Up to $100


  1. Caldecott Medal books, 1990 to present.
  2. Caldecott Honor books, 1970 to present.
  3. Beginner Books, 1960 to present.
  4. Harper & Row, ‘I Can Read’ series books, 1957 to present, especially the early Syd Hoff books, and the affordable Maurice Sendak Little Bear books.
  5. Illustrators, 1960 to present, including Raymond Briggs, Marcia Brown, Ed Emberley, the Haders, Nonny Hogrogian, Hilary Knight (non-Eloise), Leo Lionni, the Petershams, Shel Silverstein, William Steig, Leonard Weisgard, and Taro Yashima.

Level 4: Up to $200


  1. Dr. Seuss The Cat In The Hat Comes BackSelected Dr. Seuss books - from eBay only - including The Cat In The Hat Comes Back, The Sleep Book, Sollew Sollew, Hop On Pop, Lorax, One Fish/Two Fish, and Yertle the Turtle. First editions can be found on eBay, however are considerably more expensive from other bookselling sites.
  2. Caldecott Medal books, 1980 to present.
  3. Caldecott Honor books, 1960 to present.
  4. Classic illustrators, 1950 to present, including Roger Duvoisin, Ingri & d’Aulaire, Feodor Rojankovsky, Leo Politi, Louis Slobodkin, Gustaf Tenggren, and Kurt Wiese.
  5. Selected franchise books, including Happy Lion, Petunia, Little Golden Books (with dust jackets!),  

Level 5: Up to $500


  1. Marjorie Flack Kurt Wiese The Story About PingCaldecott Medal books, 1950 to present.
  2. Caldecott Honor books, 1938 to present (except Madeline, which would be much more expensive).
  3. Key franchise books, including Angus, Babar, Curious George, Eloise, Madeline, Harold/Purple Crayon, and the Smalls books (Lenski).
  4. Foundation illustrators, 1930 to present, including Marjorie Flack, Wanda Gag, Robert Lawson, Lois Lenski, Robert McCloskey, and Tasha Tudor.
  5. Selected Maurice Sendaks books.

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


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