Mar 042012

A first edition The Little House is a scarce bird, rarely sighted in public. First edition copies of Virginia Lee Burton’s 1943 Caldecott Medal winning book are one of the scarcest contemporary children’s picturebook to find. One is currently being offered for sale on ABEBooks. It can be yours for $12,500.

[Caveat emptor: I have no affiliation to the bookseller, nor to sale of this particular book. The bookseller, Raptis Rare Books is a reputable member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.]

Here is the link to the item, The Little House, with the following description, courtesy Raptis Rare Books:

First edition of one of the rarest and most sought after children’s classics. Oblong quarto, original blue cloth. Light rubbing to the spine tips, a near fine copy in an excellent unrestored dust jacket that shows a small chip to the crown of the spine and some light wear. Small ink inscription opposite the title page. This book and dust jacket are usually seen with restoration, this copy is exceptionally clean and bright. “Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country. She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built.” So begins Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House, winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1943. Housed in a custom clamshell box.

There is only one, perhaps two, first edition Caldecott books which are harder to find.  This is one of the few first edition Caldecott Medal books not in my collection. Sigh. If only.

In 2007 a copy of The Little House sold at PBA Galleries auction for nearly $10,000.

The prices of first edition Caldecott Medal books have escalated in the past five years. Impressive in the face of the nation’s economy, this Great Recession.  The escalated prices have not resulted in additional first editions hitting the market. If anything, the opposite is true – there is less supply of first edition Caldecott Medal books on the market today than five years ago. In general, I think this applies to collectible first edition picturebooks.

Ironically it is not just the scarce books which are scarce. Even some of the more common first edition Caldecott Medal books are not available in numbers, making it a seller’s market.