The title of this blog is simply the title of the book I have been reading: Collecting Children’s Books compiled by Book and Collector Magazine. Normally I would be more specific and add ‘review’ or some other context to a blog title, but I’m not entirely sure what this blog is going to turn into. Partially it may be a review of the book itself, but also somewhat of a commentary on some of the books’ prices especially in comparison with what I’ve paid for books.
I suppose I’d better explain what Collecting Children’s Books is all about first. As it says on the cover it lists over 15,000 titles by the most collectable authors, with current values of all first editions, though in many cases it does also list ‘special’ later editions if those are of unusual value. So in essence it’s a book of guide prices with a fragment of biography for each listed author, illustrator or publishing house. Perhaps surprisingly I found this in my local library – on the books for parents stand! It’s the third edition from 2007 so it’s probably a little out of date now. I think anyone who collects children’s books will know that prices are rising (astronomically in some cases) now that more people are aware that they are valuable.
STARTING WITH ENID BLYTON, NATURALLY
She has by far the longest list – stretching to fourteen pages! Happily she is described as the most successful British children’s author of the twentieth century.
As with most entries the prices listed are for Books in Very Good condition with dust jackets where applicable.
The most expensive book is, no surprise, Five on a Treasure Island which they value at £1,200. (Oddly they give the full title as Five on a Treasure Island: An Adventure Story, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.) That is followed by The Enchanted Wood and The Secret Island at £1000 each. (I know they couldn’t list EVERY series as a series but they haven’t listed the Secret Series separately which seems an oversight). Those are the only four figure books though there are many in the hundreds of pounds such as The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage at £750, five of the early Fives at £500 each, The Island of Adventure at £550, Mr Galliano’s Circus at £400 and The Twins at St Clare’s at £300.
It seems that the first of any series will be the most expensive with each subsequent book sliding down the scale. The list of all other works by year follows a similar pattern with some exceptions.
THERE ARE SOME SURPRISES, HOWEVER
The first Barney title – The Rockingdown Mystery – is only worth £35, The Secret Seven, £65 while First Term at Malory Towers is just £40. Even the Noddy series starts at £80, the cheapest later entries priced at £40.
There are some titles I would consider truly rare and expensive but are not as highly priced as I would expect. I suppose that they are perhaps less desirable than those from the famous mystery or adventure genres which may account for that. For example some very early works (which I’ve almost never seen for sale on the usual sites) Real Fairies £225, Child Whispers £220, Silver and Gold £100 and Let’s Pretend at £45.They even note themselves that The Wonderful Adventure has only ONE known copy and have valued it at just £350. Even so, I’ll stick with my society reprint.
I thought it would be interesting to see what I paid for my admittedly few first editions in comparison to what’s listed in the book. I started collecting only a year or two before this edition came out and continue to the present day.
I have a copy of Five Go to Mystery Moor which meets their requirements – it’s a first edition with dustjacket in a Good / Very Good condition . In Very Good condition is should be worth £45. Using their ‘ready reckoner’ at the back it should be around £35 in Good condition. I paid £8 for it which I’m pretty happy with. (I had bought a later edition for around £14 when I was first collecting – which was a bit of a mistake but I got rather carried away on eBay…)
Likewise I paid £9 for a first of Five on a Secret Trail which I would class as Very Good – and should be worth £40. I also paid just £5 for a Good copy of Five are Together Again which should have set me back around £25. My only other first from the Famous Fives is Five Go to Demon’s Rocks but I don’t have a note of what I paid for it – I only started keeping records a few years ago and my Paypal transactions only went so far back. At any rate it lacks a dustjacket and there is no clear advice on pricing Good or otherwise conditioned books without a dustjacket. With one it would be £35.
The Secret of Moon Castle is listed at £30-35, and I paid around £9.50 for my copy although it lacks the all-important dustjacket. I also don’t have a dustjacket for my first of The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat but then again I got it for £3.30 rather than the £50-60 suggested for one with. I’m still happy with The Mystery of Banshee Towers sans dustjacket when one with should be £50. This is where the pricing structure falls down a little – there is only one edition of Banshee Towers and it’s super hard to find, whereas firsts of the middle books in the series are easier to find.
I have firsts (without dustjackets) of Secret Seven Mystery, Puzzle for the Secret Seven, Secret Seven Fireworks and Good Old Secret Seven (none of which cost more than a fiver) and a copy of Shock for the Secret Seven with, which set me back £5.36. According to the list they are all worth £25.
I really wanted to see what The Hidey-Hole (her last novel-length book) was priced at, as I have a lovely first with dustjacket, but unfortunately it isn’t listed.
My first of In the Fifth at Malory Towers without dustjacket is perhaps only just in a Good condition but I only paid £1.58 for it, while it’s listed as around £25 with.
I have a dozen or so other firsts but they are all in a Good(ish) condition without dustjacket. I’m fairly sure I paid far less than the suggested price however as I generally stick to a £5 budget for second hand books and consider it splashing out if I go up to £10 for something I really want!
I actually looked through the whole book – though I can’t pretend to have read every word. I more skimmed the prices looking for anything remarkable as well as seeing which authors names I recognized and so on.
I have a handful of firsts – with dust jackets – for a few other authors so I cant resist comparing prices for those either.
Starting with Angela Brazil I have what I believe is a first of Three Terms at Uplands which I can’t have paid more than £4 for. It’s listed as £35 in Very Good so probably translates to £25-30 in Good.
Then there’s my Noel Streatfeilds, namely The Painted Garden, The Fearless Treasure and Apple Bough. I don’t have records of what I paid for them but I’m certain they couldn’t have been more than my usual £5 budget. They’re listed at £15-20 so taking into consideration the Good rather than Very Good condition I think I’ve still done all right (especially as I bought them at least 6 years after the prices were set).
Lastly, I have some first edition Savilles too, all Lone Pines. These buck the trend of prices reducing through a series as they fluctuate quite a lot towards the end. I can only assume there were smaller print runs of those titles. Anyway, my copies show one of the limitations of the book as there’s no grade between Good (no more than minor faults) and Poor (really bad condition ie warped, missing pages or an irreparably damaged spine). A book worth £40 at Good is worth only £5 in a poor condition and I have a few which don’t quite qualify as Good as they have some damage to the spine or some damage from being issued in a library yet aren’t quite as ruined as a Poor copy. I discarded my £5 budget for this series as I found it very difficult if not impossible to find decent copies at that price.
Saucers Over the Moor is worth £75 in Very Good, and as the example between £40 for Good and £5 for Poor. I paid £8 for mine so possibly not the best bargain but probably quite fair. Likewise Treasure at Amory’s is much better than Poor (£5-10) but not quite as good as Good £35 and I paid £15 for it.
Lone Pine London and The Secret of the Gorge are £55 Very Good and £30 Good which I think both of mine are, while I paid £19 and £18 respectively. My copy of Strangers at Witchend is definitely Good and priced at £35 and I got it for £22.50. Lastly I feel I’m entirely justified in spending £18.50 on an Armada paperback of Home to Witchend ( it first came out in that edition) as it is listed at £25.
The book itself is very interesting and contains some useful information about identifying first editions in an opening chapter. I learned some things about authors I like or have simple heard of, too. I didn’t know about Anna Sewell’s tragic-sounding life, that Penguin Books did Ptarmigan imprints and others as well as the famous Puffins, or the real original title of Gulliver’s Travels (which is worth £20,000 as a set!)
There are many books listed around the £1000 mark (a large number of Biggles books for example) and plenty at several thousands. There are also a few with eye-watering suggested price tags. The most expensive I noted were specific editions of:
- Robinson Crusoe, The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio – £15,000
- A Christmas Carol – £20,000
- The Hobbit – £25,000
- The Wind in the Willows – £45,000
- Beatrix Potter’s privately published editions £50,000+
- Edward Lear (set of 2) – £75,000
- Alice in Wonderland [A withdrawn edition]£200,000+
This book can only be used as the loosest of guides to a book’s worth as quite often books are really worth what people are willing to pay for them. Having a look on eBay you will often see books priced into the hundreds of pounds but they don’t sell because they’re “worth” a fraction of that. Likewise the book makes no suggestion as to how to price standard later editions/impressions but as that would most likely vary from title to title let alone author to author perhaps it’s best they didn’t.
It also isn’t quite as exhaustive as it seems as there are a few titles missing – The Hidey-Hole as I mentioned already, also War Game and After the War Was Over both by Michael Foreman. Will Scott, author of The Cherrys books is very collectible and his books fetch high prices but he isn’t mentioned at all.
And to bring it back to Blyton, a copy of her favourite story The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald is priced at £1,500.