Like many people I know, I have one or two Little Golden Books (LGBs) around the house that I remember enjoying as a child. I'm certain that many of you have also saved these mementos of your childhood, and you most certainly have seen them at yard, church, and estate sales, crammed into boxes along with baby clothes, plastic toys, and Candyland games. But did you know that LGBs are highly collectible, with some titles commanding prices as high as $100+? Not bad for books that originally retailed for as little as 25 cents!
As collectibles, LGBs have a lot going for them. Many are beautifully illustrated with charming little stories with a moral or educational purpose. Titles are plentiful, allowing collectors to specialize in categories, as they do with stamps. And they are small and light in weight, making them easy to display, store, or mail.
Since the first Little Golden Books in 1942, there have been over 600 original titles published, not counting the 140+ Disney titles, Ding-Dong School books, etc. Many of the original titles are still available today, having passed through several editions and innumerable printings. How, then, can you determine which are collectible and which are not?
As with most other collectible books, First Editions are generally the most sought after, but with LGBs, determining whether that #1 Three Little Kittens is a 1st or 21st can be tricky, since the company employed a number of methods to designate editions. (Remember: do not rely on the copyright date, since any book can be issued in any number of editions without an alteration in the date.) To determine an LGB edition, try the following:
ONE: Look at the bottom of the title page. Some LGBs have the edition listed, or there might be a series of letters, with the letter farthest to the left designating the edition. Example: c d e f g h i j = 3rd.
TWO: Check the bottom corner of the last page, near the spine. A letter or double letter corresponds to the edition. Examples: A = 1st, B = 2nd, CC = 29th, etc.
THREE: If the book has been published since 1991, it may have Roman Numerals at the bottom of the title page in addition to the copyright date. If the Roman Numerals are preceded by an A, it is a First Edition. An R preceding the numerals indicates a Revised Edition.
FOUR: Remember Classics Illustrated? You could pretty much figure out when an issue was printed by the last title listed on the back. The same with LGBs. If your copy of Three Little Kittens has a 1942 copyright date, but the last title listed on the back board (cover) is Little Mommy, then it had to have been printed no earlier than 1967.
(Read more at http://www.thesantis.com/home2.htm.)
Rarity also affects the values of Little Golden Books, and age is not always a factor. You know that book I mentioned above, Little Mommy? It was first published in 1967, but its rarity has pushed it way past most LGBs that are much older. One is presently up for auction, and with several days to go is already past the $150 mark, while another copy in only fair condition recently fetched $47. Another book that consistently garners high prices is Little Black Sambo, a title that is rare for obvious reasons.
And one last major consideration affecting value is, of course, condition, condition, condition. For a more comprehensive treatment of the subject, you will want to consult the 4th edition of Steve Santi's book, "Collecting Little Golden Books" http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0873418727/auctionbytescom.
The book has photos of every LGB ever published between 1942 and 1999, and includes a detailed guide to determining editions, grading condition, history, promotional materials, plus lots more.
I also recommend a trip to Steve Santi's Web site http://www.thesantis.com/home2.htm. It is an abbreviated version of the book, with tips on dating editions, determining condition, etc.
For a look at the subject through the eyes of a major collector, try Holly Everson's site at http://goldenbook.com. She has over 8,000 items in her collection, and hosts a forum for anyone interested in the subject.