2024 Search For First Forty Caldecott Medal Books

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Search For The First Forty Caldecott Medal Books

First Edition Caldecott MedalI recently performed a search for first editions of the first forty Caldecott Medal books (covering the award years 1938-thru-1978) to determine the number of books currently being offered for sale. The search was identical to an internet search I completed a couple of years ago, and similar to past searches, calculated the average selling price for each book.  The searches were performed across multiple book sites, ABE, ABAA, and ViaLibri, and were filtered for first edition books with dust jackets, in VG- condition or better. Ex-library editions, first editions without dust jackets, and dust jackets in poor condition were excluded from the search results. For the results of survey please see the table below.

Note: In the table below, click on the book’s title to see a representative search for the book on ABE Books. You will have to comb thru the results and select the first editions. The search queries do not rely on the ‘first edition’ or ‘dust jacket’ properties within ABE listings since these are unreliable.

I have no affiliation to ABE Book, any bookseller, their offering(s), or to the sale of any particular book mentioned on this site.

For the years 1938-to-1978, the survey found 188 first edition Caldecott Medal books currently offered for sale (2015 search, 131 found) with an average selling price of $2,265. In the 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.

In this year’s survey table the Scarcity and Collectibility index for each title is omitted, however they can be found on here at Collecting Picturebook’s Caldecott Medal web page. As many of the regular readers know, for the 24,000 picturebooks in my database, each book’s collectibility is ranked on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the most desirable, and each book’s scarcity is similarly ranked, with 10 being the most scarce. For first edition Caldecott Medal books, my norm is to start with a Collectibility Index of ‘7’, then adjust the index 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).

Four Books In Absentia

First editions for four of the forty 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 four first editions with dust jacket.

The four books in chronological order: Leo Politi’s Song Of The Swallows (1949), Finder’s Keepers (1951),  Nicolas Sikjakov’s Baboushka And The Three Kings (1960), and Ed Emberley’s Drummer Hoff (1968). From my experience, of these Finder’s Keepers is the scarcest issue, followed by Song Of The Swallows. Finder’s Keepers is a scarce issue, nearly as ‘rare’ (less than 20 known copies) as The Snowy Day (1962) or A Story, A Story (1970).

Caldecott Medal Winners 1938-1978
 Award Year 2015 # 2015 Avg$ Title Illustrator 2024 # 2024 Avg$
1938 4 1,825 Animals Of The Bible Dorothy P. Lathrop 8 1,434
1939 1 1,000 Mei Li Thomas Handforth 12 733
1940 2 1,175 Abraham Lincoln Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire 3 683
1941 4 950 They Were Strong And Good Robert Lawson 6 1,016
1942 2 23,750 Make Way For Ducklings Robert McCloskey 8 17,938
1943 3 14,675 The Little House Virginia Lee Burton 5 8,300
1944 4 2,125 Many Moons Louis Slobodkin 15 1,185
1945 6 350 Prayer For A Child Elizabeth Orton Jones 9 185
1946 1 1,250 The Rooster Crows Maud & Miska Petersham 4 681
1947 3 The Little Island Leonard Weisgard 6 792
1948 4 1,275 White Snow Bright Snow Roger Duvoisin 2 1,750
1949 0 The Big Snow Berta & Elmer Hader 1 2,250
1950 0 Song Of The Swallows Leo Politi 0
1951 3 625 The Egg Tree Katherine Milhous 2 488
1952 0 Finders Keepers Nicholas Mordvinoff 0
1953 1 950 The Biggest Bear Lynd Ward 5 872
1954 15 875 Madelines Rescue Ludwig Bemelmans 15 948
1955 2 Cinderella Marcia Brown 2 965
1956 0 Frog Went A Courtin Feodor Rojankovsky 4 701
1957 2 950 A Tree Is Nice Marc Simont 4 1,174
1958 4 625 Time Of Wonder Robert McCloskey 5 505
1959 6 350 Chanticleer And The Fox Barbara Cooney 8 419
1960 5 575 Nine Days To Christmas Marie Hall Ets 3 107
1961 1 Baboushka And The Three Kings Nicolas Sidjakov 0
1962 2 1,150 Once A Mouse Marcia Brown 6 479
1963 1 4,500 The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats 1 35,000
1964 13 13,025 Where The Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak 8 10,268
1965 3 375 May I Bring A Friend Beni Montresor 4 388
1966 0 Always Room For One More Nonny Hogrogian 3 542
1967 4 1,050 Sam, Bangs, And Moonshine Evaline Ness 8 493
1968 0 Drummer Hoff Ed Emberley 0
1969 3 250 The Fool Of The World And The Flying Ship Uri Shulevitz 2 238
1970 4 1,500 Sylvester And The Magic Pebble William Steig 3 1,242
1971 1 3,500 A Story, A Story Gail E. Haley 1 3,000
1972 1 350 One Fine Day Nonny Hogrogian 2 750
1973 5 325 The Funny Little Woman Blair Lent 3 392
1974 9 225 Duffy And The Devil Margot Zemach 7 129
1975 0 Arrow To The Sun Gerald McDermott 1 350
1976 1 300 Why Mosquitoes Buzz In Peoples Ears Leo & Diane Dillon 2 1,613
1977 2 175 Ashanti To Zulu Leo & Diane Dillon 3 317
1978 8 375 Noahs Ark Peter Spier 6 310


Five One-sies

Only one first edition copy of five other Caldecott Medal books were found on the market. Two of these are consistently scarce: The Snowy Day ($35,000) and A Story, A Story ($3,000). These are two scarce books, probably ‘rare’ in the classical sense, with less than twenty copies.

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.

In addition to the two above, there is only one first edition copy of The Big Snow (1948), Arrow To The Sun (1974), and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses (1975).

The Availability Of Where The Wild Things Are

First Edition Caldecott MedalThere are eight copies of the 1964 Caldecott Medal winner Where The Wild Things Are on the market. The asking price averages over $10,000, and ranges from $22,500 to $3,500. 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’ in collectibility/desirability.

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 eight copies too many? Should prices fall? I don’t know – it depends on how many copies are being bought/sold each year, the annual ‘turnover’ of the first edition book in the market. For example, if only one copy is sold/bought per year, then eight standing copies on the market is too much. However if twenty copies are sold/bought per year, then eight is probably too few. There are 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. Eight copies seems within the range of the ‘right number’.

Interestingly several of the higher priced copies of Where The Wild Things Are from the previous survey are no longer on the market, presumably sold. This is also the case for several of the other Caldecott books – the higher priced issues are no longer on the market, presumably sold.

The Precarious Balance: Scarcity and Demand for First Edition Picturebooks

First Edition Caldecott MedalThe collectability and scarcity of the 24,000 titles in my database have each been rated on a 1-to-10 scale (10 being most collectible and 10 being most scarce).

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 population’s 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. The first edition copies currently on the market

While the latter is of primary concern to the book collector and to 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. 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 will not be as futile.

With regard to the number of copies currently on the market, there is no “one magic number” agreed upon in the hobby which balances the supply and demand of the book. For example, if three first editions are on the market, should the price rise? In theory a rising price should bring more copies to market. If ten copies are on the market, should prices fall? I dunno the answer – it all depends.

There is no right “one magic number” which works for all books. Each particular book is different. This number which balances the supply and demand would be dependent upon the average turnover for that book in a particular year (or over the course of years), along with the current average selling price, along with historical auction/selling records, along with a lot of other considerations.

For example, ten first edition copies might be right for a $10,000 book, where two or three copies are sold per year, along with decades of auction prices to support this pricing/valuation. On the other hand, ten first edition copies might be too many for a $100 book, with one, maybe two copies sold per year, and no auction or historical prices to support this valuation. It all depends.

A comprehensive database does not exist which records every transaction of every first edition picturebook offered and sold. If one did, then it would be much easier for the bookseller to price a book and the book collector to value a book. The turnover of the book would be visible along with the historical selling prices. Trends would be visible. Instead booksellers and book collectors operate in a very imperfect market, one with very little historical information. Auction records do exist for high-end books, however for the vast majority of American picturebooks no such records exist.

To read more about Scarcity and Collectibility, see Part 8 of my article on the Top 100 Collectibile American Picturebooks.

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