Collecting, Identifying, and Valuing First Edition Childrens Books

Most Valuable First Edition Children's Books

Childrens Picturebook Price GuideThe information in my book, the Children's Picturebook Price Guide (Flying Moose Books; 2006), was sourced from my database of 23,000 children's books. Today this database has expanded to nearly 26,000 titles.

My database is collectible first edition American picturebooks, published from 1928 to the present. Determining whether a book is "collectible" is based upon the six factors impacting a children's picturebook's desirability, which I've written about extensively.

I recently updated the values in the Price Guide for many key first edition books, and thought some might be interested in the most valuable children's books in my database. The following table provides an estimated value for first edition American picturebooks with dust jacket, both in very good (VG) condition (per A.B. Bookman's standard definition).

Since 1998, either in pursuit of their acquisition or for upgrading an existing copy, I've performed structured queries for internet offerings of specific first edition children's books. Summary information from formal searches were published in 2013 Search For The First Forty Caldecott Medal Books’. Jan. 13, 2013, Search For The First Forty Caldecott Medal Books’. Jan. 19, 2015 and again in 2024 Search For First Forty Caldecott Medal Books’. Feb. 15, 2015.

Why Are These Books Valuable?

First Edition Books Madeline For this list and the lists that follow ["lists that follow" refers to lists in the Children's Picturebook Price Guide of the most valuable picturebooks from each decade, covering the 1930's up the 1990's.], 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.

In this list of most valuable first edition American picturebooks the collectibility is heavily influenced by:

  • Fondly embraced by the public (i.e. high lifetime sales of the book).
  • Pop culture cross-over appeal outside of being a book.
  • Authored and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.
  • Earning a Caldecott Medal or Honor award.
  • Authored Margaret Wise Brown with a notable illustrator.

Scarcity Index & Collectibility Index

First Edition Books The Cat In The Hat Performing daily, weekly, and monthly searches for specific first editions over the past 25 years has given me a certain perspective on both the book's scarcity and it's perceived market value. The table provides the Scarcity Index and Collectibility Index I've given each first edition book. Each index is a 1-to-10 scale where '10' would be most scarce or most collectible. I developed these indexes over 20 years ago specifically for the database, as it provided me with a means to consider the first edition books comparatively.

Probably the most difficult book to find in collectible first edition condition would be Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight, Moon, and H.A. Rey's Curious George In all our years of collecting, we have seen only a couple come to market. Robert McCloskey's Make Way For Ducklings and Jack Ezra Keat's A Snowy Day are two of the more difficult Caldecott Medal first editions to acquire.

Harold And The Purple Crayon is difficult to find, as are the Smith and Haas Babar books.

The early Seuss books are also difficult to find in collectible, first edition state. The first edition Dr. Seuss books published after 1954, starting with On Beyond Zebra, can be found in collectible condition with a modest amount of effort. The exception to this, to a certain extent, is the first edition (stickered) of Green Eggs and Ham.

First Edition Books, with Dust Jackets!

First Edition Millions Of Cats As mentioned earlier the estimated value are for first edition American picturebooks with dust jacket, both in very good (VG) condition (per A.B. Bookman's standard definition). The dust jacket has historical information not contained by the book alone, all from a ‘time of publication’ perspective

  1. Original trade price.
  2. Original book synopsis (front flap).
  3. Author & illustrator short biography (back flap).
  4. Original marketing information (back DJ).

All of this information changes over time as the book and the author/illustrator become more popular. The book in its original dust jacket captures a small ‘historical’ moment in time which is incomplete sans DJ.

Most Valuable First Edition Children's Picturebooks

Most Valuable American Picturebooks #1-to-#20

Year Book Title Award Illustrator Author Collect ibility Scarc ity Value$
1941 Curious George Rey, H.A.Rey, H.A.9.59.5$28,400
1947 Goodnight Moon Hurd, ClementBrown, Margaret Wise9.010.0$26,600
1937 And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore9.59.0$22,000
1962 The Snowy Day CMKeats, Ezra JackKeats, Ezra Jack9.010.0$21,800
1940 Horton Hatches The Egg Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore9.09.0$16,000
1941 Make Way For Ducklings CMMcCloskey, RobertMcCloskey, Robert10.08.0$15,600
1969 The Very Hungry Caterpillar Carle, EricCarle, Eric9.59.0$14,400
1963 Where The Wild Things Are CMSendak, MauriceSendak, Maurice10.08.0$11,600
1942 The Little House CMBurton, Virginia LeeBurton, Virginia Lee8.58.5$8,800
1936 Story Of Ferdinand Lawson, RobertLeaf, Munro9.57.0$6,800
1942 The Runaway Bunny Hurd, ClementBrown, Margaret Wise7.59.0$6,800
1938 The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore8.08.0$5,200
1938 Bumble Bugs And Elephants Hurd, ClementBrown, Margaret Wise7.09.0$5,200
1939 The King's Stilts Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore8.08.0$5,200
1960 Green Eggs And Ham Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore10.06.5$5,000
1947 McElligot's Pool CHGeisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore8.08.0$4,600
1948 Thidwick: The Big-Hearted Moose Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore8.08.0$4,600
1928 Millions Of Cats NHGág, WandaGág, Wanda9.06.5$4,200
1954 Horton Hears A Who Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore8.08.0$4,200
1933 The Story Of Babar Brunhoff, Jean deBrunhoff, Jean de8.57.0$4,000

No real surprises in the top 20, with Curious George and Goodnight Moon at the top. Eight Dr. Seuss first edition books are in the top 20 most valuable American children's picturebooks, along with four Caldecott Medal winning books. First edition The Snowy Day is proving quite difficult to find, thus far.

Most Valuable American Picturebooks #21-to-#40

Year Book Title Award Illustrator Author Collect ibility Scarc ity Value$
1939Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel Burton, Virginia LeeBurton, Virginia Lee7.58.0$3,800
1964 The Giving Tree Silverstein, ShelSilverstein, Shel9.07.0$3,600
1967 Drummer Hoff CMEmberley, EdEmberley, Barbara7.58.5$3,600
1970 A Story, A Story CMHaley, Gail E.Haley, Gail7.09.0$3,400
1930 The Little Engine That Could Lenski, LoisPiper, Watty7.08.0$3,200
1957 How The Grinch Stole Christmas Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore10.05.5$3,000
1938 The Five Chinese Brothers Wiese, KurtBishop, Claire Huchet6.09.0$3,000
1939 Madeline CHBemelmans, LudwigBernelmans, Ludwig9.06.0$2,800
1939 Little Toot Gramatky, HardieGramatky, Hardie8.07.0$2,800
1949 Song Of The Swallows CMPoliti, LeoPoliti, Leo7.57.5$2,600
1951 Finders Keepers CMMordvinoff, NicholasLipkind, William7.08.0$2,600
1969 Sylvester And The Magic Pebble CMSteig, WilliamSteig, William7.58.0$2,600
1948 The Big Snow CMHader, Berta & ElmerHader, Berta & Elmer7.08.0$2,600
1952 The Biggest Bear CMWard, LyndWard, Lynd7.08.0$2,400
1953 Journey Cake, Ho! CHMcCloskey, RobertSawyer, Ruth7.08.0$2,400
1930 Angus And The Ducks Flack, MarjorieFlack, Marjorie6.58.0$2,400
1950 If I Ran The Zoo CHGeisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore8.07.0$2,400
1957 The Cat In The Hat Geisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore10.05.0$2,200
1960 Baboushka And The Three Kings CMSidjakov, NicolasRobbins, Ruth6.09.0$2,200

The second 20 most valuable children's books are dominated by Caldecott Medal and Honor award winning books, claiming 11 of the places. I'm not confidant yet on the scarcity of Drummer Hoff, but thought to flag it for you - should it prove more common (than it has been over the past decade), then its market value could drastically be reduced.

Most Valuable American Picturebooks #41-to-#60

Year Book Title Award Illustrator Author Collect ibility Scarc ity Value$
1938 Andy And The Lion CHDaugherty, James HenryDaugherty, James Henry7.57.0$2,200
1934 The Travels Of Babar Brunhoff, Jean deBrunhoff, Jean de7.57.0$2,200
1955 Harold And The Purple Crayon Johnson, CrockettJohnson, Crockett9.06.0$2,200
1937 Animals Of The Bible CMLathrop, Dorothy P.Fish, Helen Dean7.07.5$2,200
1947 Curious George Takes A Job Rey, H.A.Rey, H.A.8.06.5$2,000
1942 Cecily G. And The 9 Monkeys Rey, H.A.Rey, H.A.8.06.5$2,000
1946 The Little Island CMWeisgard, LeonardMacDonald, Golden8.06.5$2,000
1948 Blueberries For Sal CHMcCloskey, RobertMcCloskey, Robert7.57.0$2,000
1947 White Snow, Bright Snow CMDuvoisin, RogerTresselt, Alvin R.7.07.5$2,000
1931 Angus And The Cat Flack, MarjorieFlack, Marjorie6.08.0$1,800
1933 The ABC Bunny NHGág, WandaGág, Wanda8.06.0$1,800
1932 Angus Lost Flack, MarjorieFlack, Marjorie6.08.0$1,800
1952 Five Little Monkeys CHKepes, JulietKepes, Juliet7.07.5$1,800
1957 Little Bear Sendak, MauriceMinarik, Else Holmelund8.06.5$1,800
1939 Daniel Boone NMDaugherty, James HenryDaugherty, James Henry8.06.0$1,600
1944 Mother Goose CHTudor, TashaTudor, Tasha8.06.0$1,600
1938 Pumpkin Moonshine Tudor, TashaTudor, Tasha8.06.0$1,600
1943 A Child's Good Night Book CHCharlot, JeanBrown, Margaret Wise7.07.0$1,600
1939 Abraham Lincoln CMd'Aulaire, Ingri & Edgar Parind'Aulaire, Ingri & Edgar Parin7.56.5$1,600

The next 20 most valuable children's books are dominated by Caldecott Medal and Honor award winning books, claiming 9 of the places. Overall this group of books is really solid. Probably the lone surprise is Juliet Kepe's Five Little Monkeys, which is very difficult to find in first edition.

Most Valuable American Picturebooks #61-to-#80

Year Book Title Award Illustrator Author Collect ibility Scarc ity Value$
1945 The Rooster Crows CMPetersham, Maud & MiskaPetersham, Maud & Miska7.07.0$1,600
1938 Mei Li CMHandforth, ThomasHandforth, Thomas7.07.0$1,600
1936 Little Tim And The Brave Sea Captain Ardizzone, EdwardArdizzone, Edward8.06.0$1,600
1939 Alexander The Gander Tudor, TashaTudor, Tasha8.06.0$1,600
1943 Katy And The Big Snow Burton, Virginia LeeBurton, Virginia Lee7.07.0$1,600
1939 Noisy Book Weisgard, LeonardBrown, Margaret Wise7.07.0$1,600
1938 The Streamlined Pig Wiese, KurtBrown, Margaret Wise7.07.0$1,600
1946 Little Fur Family Williams, GarthBrown, Margaret Wise7.07.0$1,600
1959 The Moon Jumpers CHSendak, MauriceUdry, Janice May7.07.5$1,600
1949 The Wild Birthday Cake CHWoodward, HildegardDavis, Lavinia R.6.08.0$1,400
1955 Frog Went A-Courtin CMRojankovsky, FeodorLangstaff, John8.06.0$1,400
1956 Gillespie And The Guards CHDaugherty, James HenryElkin, Benjamin7.07.0$1,400
1929 The Funny Thing Gág, WandaGág, Wanda7.56.0$1,400
1949 Bartholomew And The Oobleck CHGeisel, TheodoreGeisel, Theodore8.06.0$1,400
1954 Wheel On The Chimney CHGergely, TiborBrown, Margaret Wise7.56.5$1,400
1953 A Very Special House CHSendak, MauriceKrauss, Ruth8.06.0$1,400
1975 Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People's Ears CMDillon, Leo & DianeAardema, Verna7.57.0$1,400
1931 Snippy And Snappy Gág, WandaGág, Wanda7.56.0$1,400
1953 Green Eyes CHBirnbaum, AbeBirnbaum, Abe6.08.0$1,400
1952 Ape In A Cape CHEichenberg, FritzEichenberg, Fritz6.08.0$1,400

Again Caldecott first editions dominate the next 20, claiming 12 of the places. Notice the strength of the Caldecott Honor books. Sendak/Udry's The Moon Jumper is difficult to find in first edition, as well as the other Caldecott Honor books in this portion of the list. Note the Scarcity is driving the value more so than the first edition's Collectibility.

Most Valuable American Picturebooks #81-to-#97

Year Book Title Award Illustrator Author Collect ibility Scarc ity Value$
1943 Pierre Pidgeon CHBare, Arnold EdwinKingman, Lee6.07.5$1,200
1943 SHHhhhh……Bang De Veyrac, RobertBrown, Margaret Wise6.07.5$1,200
1937 The Children's Year Rojankovsky, FeodorBrown, Margaret Wise7.56.0$1,200
1938 Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs CHGág, WandaGág, Wanda7.56.0$1,200
1958 No Fighting, No Biting! Sendak, MauriceMinarik, Else Holmelund7.07.0$1,200
1937 Choo Choo Burton, Virginia LeeBurton, Virginia Lee6.57.0$1,200
1942 Don't Frighten The Lion! Rey, H.A.Brown, Margaret Wise7.56.0$1,200
1955 Eloise Knight, HilaryThompson, Kay9.05.0$1,200
1947 Stone Soup CHBrown, MarciaBrown, Marcia6.57.0$1,200
1943 Many Moons CMSlobodkin, LouisThurber, James7.06.5$1,200
1938 The Little Fireman Slobodkina, EsphyrBrown, Margaret Wise7.06.5$1,200
1941 Polite Penguin Rey, H.A.Brown, Margaret Wise7.56.0$1,200
1952 Curious George Rides A Bike Rey, H.A.Rey, H.A.7.56.0$1,000
1954 Cinderella, Or The Little Glass Slipper CMBrown, MarciaPerrault, Charles7.06.5$1,000
1953 The Steadfast Tin Soldier CHBrown, MarciaAndersen, Hans Christian6.57.0$1,000
1933 Donkey-Donkey Duvoisin, RogerDuvoisin, Roger6.56.5$1,000
1953 Madeline's Rescue CMBemelmans, LudwigBernelmans, Ludwig8.05.5$1,000

Some nice books in this last part of the list, with five books written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by four different artists! The books illustrated by H.A. Rey and authored by Brown are probably underappreciated in the market.

Average Value of Books by Decade

First Edition Books By Decade

The table (right) lists the number of books in the price guide from each decade, and the average estimated market price for first edition books.

Not surprisingly, in general, a first edition book’s value increases with age. The anomoly in the 1950s is due to the influence of the Dr. Seuss books on the sample set.

Even though we consider Wanda Gag’s 1928 publication of Millions of Cats as the beginning of the contemporary children’s picturebook industry, the price guide does include works published prior to 1928 from notable picturebook illustrators.

These books were not picturebooks per se, more like chapter books with some accompanying pictures, however included illustrations from notables such as Johnny Gruelle, Maud & Miska Petersham, and Dorothy Lathrop.


Most Valuable First Edition Books By Decade

From the Children's Picturebook Price Guide, lists of the twenty most valuable books published in each decade:

For some selected completed eBay auctions for children's picturebooks, covering the period from 1999 to 2006, then go to:

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


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