Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There Could Be Gold On Them Thar Shelves

Don't know if other children's writers collect children's books, but I've acquired shelves and shelves of them over the years. Many I bought new, but I also haunt used bookstores for out of print favorites, first editions or signed copies. My collection ranges from the early 20th century to the present.

What are my 1st edition and signed books worth? Recently I looked them up on and Used booksellers' prices range widely, but I got some great news and a few surprises.

My 1972 copy of Watership Down by Richard Adams is worth between $150 and $300. Why? It's a 1st edition, 1st printing. The dust jacket is in good condition and is unclipped (meaning the original price is still there). Sometimes you buy a new book and it becomes a classic!

I was surprised by the prices for my 1973 1st edition of Cathedral by David Macaulay. Even though it's a Caldecott Honor title and my copy's dust jacket is in good shape, it's only worth about $20. Why? There are scads of them available. Cathedral marked the beginning of a splendid career but the book isn't worth what I thought it would be. Then again, I didn't buy it for investment. I bought it because I loved it.

I couldn't find a match for my 1922 1st edition of The Rootabaga Stories that is signed by Carl Sandburg and illustrated by the Petershams. I found one selling for $275 and it wasn't signed, so mine has to be worth more. I paid $100 for this like-new copy in an antique/book shop in Bath, Maine.

My best news rode in on The Polar Express. I own a 1st edition, 1st printing, with a good dust jacket. Equivalent books are listed online for $700 to $900. I bought it new in 1985 because my library's copy was always out and I needed one for reading aloud to classes. I'm glad I took the jacket off when I used it!

You never know what could be lurking on your shelves, or which book you buy today might become a classic. Take care of those pesky dust jackets! They add to a book's value.


  1. I don't collect books, but I don't ever give away my favorites. Maybe that is collecting....

    When my son was little, he HATED dust jackets and wouldn't let me read him a book if the jacket was on. We had a stack of book jackets in his closet.

  2. Oh, I LOVED Watership Down!

    I am going to have to kill my parents who sold all my books for like 25 cents apiece at a garage sale when they moved!

  3. Gale: Thanks for the tip re: taking care of those pesky dust jackets. I have a ton of them stashed in my kid's closet. I removed them when my kids were reading the pbs because I didn't want them to get ripped. Now that my kids are done with the books, I will put those jackets back on and the books in a safe place, then wait, oh, about 50 years, and make a killing! But really, thanks for the good advice.

  4. Meg: After posting my comment, I read that you stashed your dust jackets in a closet too. Heheh. It must be a trend.

  5. My problem...I don't know what happened to the dust jackets or the books! I probably re-assembled them before I donated them to the library.

  6. Oh, how I sympathize with you, Corey . . . only in my case it was my collection of top hit 45 records that I bought each week with my allowance that went out with the junk.

    As for dust jackets, you can compare them to the boxes for old toys. As they always say on Antiques Roadshow, "It's worth more with the box."

  7. Excuse me -- I'd like to comment, but I'm too busy taking inventory :)

  8. This is a great post. Seriously, take a look at your books. My cousin is a rare book dealer and he has found some gems in the weirdest places.

    Sorry Corey, I don't want to make the nightmare of your parents dumping your books any worse, but you never know what you might have.

    Here's his website. Some of the stuff is crazy!

  9. Hi Suzanne,
    I checked out your cousin's website - some interesting (and expensive) titles!

    Afraid I'll have to make do with what I have now, but it's always fun to window shop on the Net.

  10. I have collected many children's books from many sources - and I'll bet I don't have too many jackets! Altho I know I have some 1st editions - but I will need to check if they are also 1st printings.

    I love all these older books - especilly some with the wonderful period illustrations. I found an old,in-poor-condition copy of MILLIONS OF CATS several years ago at a gargare sale - it's ripped on several pages - but - wow - those black and white pictures!

  11. I read your post and laughed, then cried! Not sure if I have a gold mine anywhere but I'm a stickler about dust jackets and it drives me crazy when my kids take them off!

    I have a signed, dust jacketed copy of an incredible book titled "Pajama Light" that I will not part with :)

  12. And you have a 1st edition of that book. You also have a 1st printing because there will never be a second one. :-(

    Would you like to have 75 more signed copies? That could be arranged. I wouldn't even charge you shipping!