Most Valuable First Edition Children's Books
> There are forty-four picturebooks in the Price Guide which have an estimated market value of $1,000 or more for a first edition copy. The list is a virtual "Who's Who?" of American picturebooks, topped by Where The Wild Things Are. Most of the books are staples within the picturebook industry - the list includes such classics as Make Way For Ducklings, The Story Of Ferdinand, Millions Of Cats, Madeline, Curious George, Harold And The Purple Crayon, Eloise, and Babar.
Fifteen of the books are by Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss! Virginia Lee Burton has two books in the top ten, Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel and The Little House.
Nine of the books are Caldecott Medal books, while seven of the books are Caldecott Honor books. The Polar Express (1985), by Chris Van Allsburg, is the most recently published book with an estimated market value over $1,000.
Probably the most difficult book to find in collectible first edition condition would be Robert McCloskey's, Make Way For Ducklings. In all our years of collecting, we have seen only a couple come to market. Harold And The Purple Crayon is nearly as difficult to find, as are the three Smith and Haas published Babar books.
> The early Seuss books are also difficult to find in collectible, first edition state. The first edition Dr. Seuss books published after 1954, starting with On Beyond Zebra, can be found in collectible condition with a modest amount of effort. The exception to this, to a certain extent, is the first edition ("200/200") of Seuss's milestone book, The Cat In The Hat, and to a large extent, is the first state (stickered) of Green Eggs and Ham - the first state of Green Eggs does not surface too often. As for the other books in the list, we have found that most of them come to market several times per year.
Why Are These Books Valuable?
> For this list and the lists that follow ["lists that follow" refers to lists in the Children's Picturebook Price Guide of the twenty most valuable picturebooks from each decade, covering the 1930's up the 1990's.], note the key factors that impact the collectibility of the books.
Each is a high quality story with imaginative or inventive illustrations, therefore the reading public has recurrently purchased the books for decades. Because of this, the books have stayed in print since their original publication and gone into many, many printings.
Many of the books have earned a children's picturebook award, while many of the illustrators have won numerous awards. All of the illustrators have high esteem within the book publishing market place.
Many of the book's characters became franchise characters, where one or more sequels were published, and line extensions have been made into other consumer product areas (i.e. toys, games, dolls, costumes, decorations, etc...). Lastly, many of the books or characters have crossed over into pop culture, either via a TV or feature film adaptation.
First Edition Books, with Dust Jackets!
> The estimated values in the table are for first edition books with dust jackets. The Children's Picturebook Price Guide includes first edition identification points for twenty-nine of the books in the list.
Click on the book's title to see first edition identification points for a particular book. The link is to the blog post on Collecting Children's Books, where we are posting first edition points for key children's books at the rate of 2 or 3 per week. In most cases, we are posting photographs of the book's first edition identification points.
To see an indexed list of all the first edition identification points from the Blog, go to First Edition Identification Points.
Most Valuable First Edition Children's Picturebooks
Average Value of Books by Decade
The table (right) lists the number of books in the price guide from each decade, and the average estimated market price for first edition books.
Not surprisingly, in general, a first edition book’s value increases with age. The anomoly in the 1950s is due to the influence of the Dr. Seuss books on the sample set.
Even though we consider Wanda Gag’s 1928 publication of Millions of Cats as the beginning of the contemporary children’s picturebook industry, the price guide does include works published prior to 1928 from notable picturebook illustrators.
These books were not picturebooks per se, more like chapter books with some accompanying pictures, however included illustrations from notables such as Johnny Gruelle, Maud & Miska Petersham, and Dorothy Lathrop.
Most Valuable First Edition Books By Decade
From the Children's Picturebook Price Guide, lists of the twenty most valuable books published in each decade:
For some selected completed eBay auctions for children's picturebooks, covering the period from 1999 to 2006, then go to:
© Stan Zielinski
© Stan Zielinski. Author of the Children's Picturebook Price Guide
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