Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ten Rarest Nancy Drew Books and Collectibles

I found the phrase "ten rarest Nancy Drew Books" as a search term that led someone to this blog. I decided to list some of the rarest Nancy Drew books and collectibles. For people who are not very familiar with collecting Nancy Drew, be aware that the book or collectible has to be exactly like what I mention. If I state that a book has to list to a certain title, then an example that lists to any other title does not match.

Many Nancy Drew collectibles or book variants are scarce or perhaps rare, but I am only going to mention the ones that seem to be so scarce that most people will either never own them or will have much difficulty in acquiring them.

For a few items, I will give you an idea of value. For others, too many factors would influence the value. In some cases, the value may not be particularly high, because few people might be interested. Just because an item is rare does not mean that many people desire it.

Here is my list of ten rare (or at least very scarce) Nancy Drew books and collectibles in no particular order.

Nancy Drew Canister Puzzle

Courtesy of

The boxed versions of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys puzzles from the late 1970s are findable, but the canister versions are extremely elusive. I recall seeing them up for sale only once online, and I believe that this picture is from that listing. Since the canister puzzles are so extremely elusive, I wonder whether the canister version was some type of promotional item. The canister puzzle is probably worth at least several hundred dollars.

#78 The Phantom of Venice Wanderer Hardcover with Dust Jacket

#57-78 in the Nancy Drew series were published in hardcover editions with dust jackets in small print runs, unlike the very common softcover versions. I covered this topic in greater detail in this blog post. The dust-jacketed versions are much harder to find, but most interested collectors are able to acquire the majority of them.

#78 The Phantom of Venice is the one that is just about impossible to acquire and, with its dust jacket present, is probably worth more than $100 as a library discard and worth more than $300 if not a library discard. If the book does not have a dust jacket and is a library discard, then I expect that it would sell for well under $100.

My Nancy Drew Date Book and Homework Planner

Courtesy of
This homework planner seldom comes up for sale, which makes it extremely scarce.

The Mystery at Lilac Inn first printing book

The first printing book for The Mystery at Lilac Inn is very elusive. The first printing dust jacket seems to be slightly more common, and it is also very elusive. I have a first printing dust jacket that is mismatched with a later book. I also have a second printing dust jacket that is mismatched with a later book. For some reason, quite a few of the early Lilac Inn jackets are matched with later books, which makes the first printing book extremely hard to find. My guess is that sales of the first printing of Lilac Inn were lower than sales of the first printings of other early Nancy Drew books.

The first printing Lilac Inn book has four post-text ad pages. The ads are "This Isn't All!" followed by Hardy Boys to Airport Mystery, Outdoor Girls to Canoe Trip, and Blythe Girls to Margy's Mysterious Visitor in that order. The order is important, because a later printing has the same ads in a different order.

The Secret of the Old Clock with the 1930A-1 dust jacket

This jacket is now showing up more regularly than it once did, but few examples are known to exist. The dust jacket has a front flap that lists three Nancy Drew titles, ending with Bungalow Mystery. The value depends upon the condition. Examples in rough shape have sold for several thousand dollars. All other printings are not worth anywhere near this much.

Nancy's Mysterious Letter first printing book

The first printing dust jacket is scarce but can be found without a huge amount of trouble since it was used on the first three printings. The first printing book is nearly impossible to find. The first printing book has a post-text ad that ends with Clue in the Diary. Some buyers have had trouble with sellers answering questions about the post-text ad wrong, which adds to the difficulty in acquiring this book.

The Sign of the Twisted Candles first printing book

This first printing book is just about impossible to find, especially because sellers do not answer questions correctly. The post-text ads are "This Isn't All" with a line drawn around it in the shape of a box, Nancy Drew to Mysterious Letter, and Judy Bolton to Invisible Chimes. A later printing has the same Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton lists in the same order, but has "This Isn't All" without a line drawn around it. This is the cause of all the trouble.

Sellers don't understand the difference, and questions have to be phrased very carefully. I had to return a book for a refund due to this problem since I used the phrasing in Farah's Guide. I asked the seller if "This Isn't all!" was within a box, and the seller said that it was. The seller thought I meant that the text was in the shape of the box rather than with a line drawn around it.

Nancy Drew #5, 8, and 11 with incorrectly numbered dust jackets

In 1950, the cover art changed for ten Nancy Drew titles. The wrong number was placed on the spines of four of the dust jackets, #2, 5, 8, and 11. Read this post for a complete explanation. #2 with the incorrect number, 8, on the spine is very scarce but can be found. #5, 8, and 11 with the incorrect numbers are infinitely harder to find than #2. The vast majority of collectors will probably never be able to find misnumbered examples of #5, 8, and 11.

The Clue in the Crossword Cipher first printing book

This book lists to The Phantom of Pine Hill on the back cover. As I recently explained, the book is elusive, although I know of several people who own it. The book is very difficult to locate, especially because sellers do not answer the question about the back cover list correctly.

Nancy Drew: Detective Dust Jacket Wrapper

Courtesy of

Two printings of The Password to Larkspur Lane came with a wrapper on top of the dust jacket that advertised the movie Nancy Drew: Detective starring Bonita Granville. The wrapper is extremely scarce and is worth several thousand dollars in excellent condition.


Paula said...

Thank you for the extremely interesting post!

Kelly Robinson said...

Neat post. I work in a used book store, and I've always thought about collecting some of the nifty series books I come across. Now I have an idea of what sort of things to keep an eye out for.

Jennifer White said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. This post was in the works for at least a couple of months. I wrote up a few that were obvious, abandoned it, came back several times, added more, and finally ended up with ten items.

Other items might be worthy of being on the list, but I selected these particular items because of how hard I have tried to get some of them or because of how much trouble I have had in obtaining them. I had to use photos from another website since I do not own all of them myself. Anyone who owns any of these items is quite fortunate.

Lian said...

Enjoyed this post and had no idea of some of these collectibles. Would you go further and do another ten rare books and collectibles? Please?

JackWayne said...

Now that is has been a few years, are there any items on this list or that have appeared on the market that you would revise/delete/add? I'm thinking specifically of the two copies of the promo wrap that sold this past summer. Is that still a top ten rarity in your mind?

Jennifer White said...

I wouldn't change anything on this list at this time. The promo wrap is still impossible to acquire. Most people are not willing to pay $2,000 for one, so the price itself makes it impossible to get one. We are going to have to see quite a few more of them come up for sale before I would consider it easier to find.

Paula said...

I think two rare or should I say 'scarce'? collectibles are the large River Heights map published in conjunction with Betsy Caprio's book 'The Mystery of Nancy Drew'. It was about 18" x 18" and the only ebay listing I ever saw...was mine! I'm not sure if ND collectors thought it was rare as I think it sold for less than $30.00 (I honestly don't remember the final sale price). The other 'rare' and definitely scarce! collectible is the sales flyer for that map! :) About 5" x 7", you filled it out, enclosed a check and voila! you got a 'rare' River Heights map in the mail! :) I sold one on ebay as well at a very low price. In retrospect I am sorry I sold the map, as it would have made a really neat framed picture for my bedroom.

Unknown said...

I just bought a 1932 "Nancy's Mysterious Letter" with no dust cover. Good condition. Is it worth anything

Jennifer White said...

You can determine the value by running a search on Enter "Nancy Drew" with at least two words of the title, like "Mysterious Letter." Do not use quotes around the words. On the resulting search page, click on "sold" in the left sidebar. Find books that look like yours, and you will then know the value.

Nora said...

What about true first printing of Clue in the Crumbling Wall as maybe not 'rare', but certainly hard to find. I've only seen 3 in 4 years.

Jennifer White said...

The first of Crumbling Wall is scarce, but it is nowhere near the rarity of the items selected for this post. I don't see it often, but I have had a few extras pass through my hands over the years.

Unknown said...

I have a nancy drew the spider sapphire mystery/ the invisible intruder 1968 bounded upside down and backwards what's it's worth?

BrendaE said...

I have 4 Nancy Drew books I have had since I was approx 10-12yrs old and I am 70 now. One is from 1931! Have wondered at their value for a long time. Thank you for all the info. Unfortunately, I have no jackets on any of mine and in 3, I wrote my name and address in for safety...way back when. Does that severely affect their value? Otherwise, they are in very good shape.
Now that I am retired, you have given me something to search for when I go to garage and estate sales. You never know!
Also, very happy to see how long you have been doing this. Good job!!
Thanks, Brenda E

Jennifer White said...

Books that are bound upside down and backwards are worth no more than copies that were bound properly. Some people do desire them and might be willing to pay slightly more. However, most people do not want them and see them as worthless. The two opposing views cancel each other out, so the book is worth about the same as other copies.

Regarding names written in books, this doesn't affect value greatly. To find out what the books are worth, go to and run a search for your books. Click on "sold" in the left sidebar, then look at the results. Find books that look like yours, and you will have an idea of value.

I'm sorry that it too so long for me to approve the two most recent comments. Blogger did not send me the notices for them, and I finally noticed them today.

Nora said...

Since this is a relatively old post, are there any new 'rare' books that you could add to this list? Thanks!

Sher said...

I have two old - first edition- I believe.
The Mystery at the Moss-covered Mansion
The Secret of the Wooden Lady
How can I find out the value so I can sell them?

Jennifer White said...

Regarding rare books to add to the list, I'd have to think about it. When I wrote this post, I selected books and collectibles that are the very hardest ones of all to find. I still think that these 10 items are the most difficult ones to find.

Regarding finding the value of old Nancy Drew books, go to Enter "Nancy Drew" along with part of the title of one of the books, like "Wooden Lady." Do not use quotes around what you type in. After you see the results page, narrow the search to sold items. Find books that look like yours, and you will have a good idea about what they might be worth.

Mad Mind said...

In regards to The Sign of the Twisted Candles first printing. This book was given to my Grandmother for her birthday on May 1st, 1933, according to the signature on the inside of the front cover. It even has the dust jacket.

It contains two of the three things detailed which indicate a first printing: The "This Isn't All" with a line drawn around it in the shape of a box, and the Nancy Drew to Mysterious Letter ad. The Judy Bolton ad however lists one book beyond Invisible Chimes to Seven Strange Clues.
I take it that it isn't a first printing then, even though it contains the "This Isn't All" with the line around it?

Jennifer White said...

The Judy Bolton ad to Seven Strange Clues is the second printing book. It was likely printed in early 1933.

Dann said...

Hello, My name is Debbie and I love books. I have several Nancy Drew books, a few Donna Parkers and Trixie Belden books. None of the books have dust covers and I really hate to trash them, but young readers don't seems to be interested in those types of stories. Any suggestions?

Jennifer White said...

If you are on Facebook, you could offer them there. There are several groups for selling. You can locate them by typing each of the following into Facebook's search.

Sleuthing for Vintage Children's Series Books
Series Book Swap & Sell

Another option would be to take the books to a local bookstore. You could also donate them to your local library, which would then most likely sell the books in its library book sale.

Irena! said...

After I read this post, I looked at my Sign of the Twisted Candles book and saw that it had a box around "This Isn't All!" I looked further and saw that the ad for the Nancy Drews in the back went up to Nancy's Mysterious Letter. Then I looked at the Judy Bolton page but saw that instead of going up to The Invisible Chimes, it went up to Seven Strange Clues. Does this mean it's a later printing?

Jennifer White said...

Your book is the second or third printing (both are identical) from late 1932 or early 1933. While not the first printing, the second/third printing is the next best one to have. It is not anywhere near as scarce as the first printing, but it is still desirable.

Unknown said...

I just bought the whole set for my granddaughter, they range from copyright 30'sto 60's. The question i have is, The Clue in the Diary,1962 and the book binding is upside down. Is this normal sometimes. Thank you

Jennifer White said...

Some copies do end up bound upside. It is not that common, but at the same time, it does not increase value. Some people like books that were bound upside down, and others avoid them. The two views cancel each other out so that the books end up being worth no more than regular copies.

mcg said...

I have 3-4 Cameo editions of Nancy Drew books. They are x-library copies but in good to very good condition with dust jackets and mylar covers. Are these collectible and valuable?

Jennifer White said...

The Cameo editions with jackets are collectible. The value varies on condition. Go to and run a search for "Nancy Drew" along with "cameo" as an additional search term. Next, select "sold" and look at the prices. This will give you an idea of possible value.

gs9665 said...

My friend has a book -- cover is "The Secret of the Old Clock", but it is bound to a Hardy Boys "The Clue of the Hissing Serpent". Is this collectible / valuable? I have not run across something like this with the Nancy Drew series. Appreciate any ideas or guidance you might have to offer.

Jennifer White said...

Misbound books are of interest to some collectors while most people don't want them. Taken together, this means that the value will not be any higher than the average copy. If the copy is being sold, there will be a few people interested in it as a variant.

Unknown said...

Hi I enjoyed your blog very much I started collecting Nancy Drew Mysteries 40 yrs. ago for my granddaughter she was not the fan I was and I still have 75 to 85 books. some in really good condition some not, some 1930's.up to 1980's. Would love to sell the whole collection since I'm 84 and think they would just end in a garage sale. That would break my heart even if I am dead then, since I know some are worth some money. How can I get them appraised? I live in Canon City CO. about 2 hrs. from Denver. I could take them there but don't have a contact, do you have any ideas?

Unknown said...

Hi there, i read somewhere that the nancy drew editions where the title is in blue and the silhouette is blue and in the middle, they are auppose to be rare. They are suppose to be rare because they were only like that for a year. Is that true?

Jennifer White said...

That would be this format:

link to image

They are harder to find than most formats. They aren't anywhere near the rarity of the items in this post, but they are fairly hard to find.