Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nancy Drew Readers' Club Books

The Nancy Drew Readers' Club was the name used by Grosset and Dunlap for a book club that was active in 1959 and 1960.  Collectors refer to these books as Cameo editions.  The set consists of 12 books with dust jackets.  The following pictures show the promotional materials for the set.  Remember that you can always click on a photo to see a larger version.

As usual with book clubs, the books were not numbered and were not issued in sequential order.  

The Clue of the Velvet Mask was the introductory volume.  Six of the books were issued in 1959, and the remaining six were issued in 1960.  The books issued in 1959 were The Clue of the Velvet Mask, The Ringmaster's Secret, The Scarlet Slipper Mystery, The Witch Tree Symbol, The Hidden Window Mystery, and The Haunted Showboat.  The books issued in 1960 were The Secret of the Wooden Lady, The Clue of the Black Keys, The Mystery at the Ski Jump, The Secret of the Golden Pavilion, The Secret of the Old Clock, and The Hidden Staircase.

Since The Clue of the Velvet Mask was the introductory volume, it is the easiest one to find.  The books from the 1959 set are easier to find than the ones from the 1960 set.  The Secret of the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase are consistently the hardest ones to find, so they were likely issued last.

Each book has a colored ribbon on the front endpapers.  These are the colors used on each book.

Velvet Mask - turquoise
Ringmaster's Secret - purple
Scarlet Slipper - red
Witch Tree - green
Hidden Window - turquoise
Haunted Showboat - purple
Old Clock - turquoise
Ski Jump - red
Golden Pavilion - purple
Hidden Staircase - orange
Black Keys - green
Wooden Lady - purple or turquoise

The Secret of the Wooden Lady has two variants.  One version has a purple ribbon on the endpapers, and the other version has a turquoise ribbon on the endpapers.  If I remember correctly, the turquoise ribbon version is much harder to find than the purple ribbon.  Both Wooden Lady books have a purple ribbon on the front cover.  This means that it is impossible to tell which ribbon is featured inside by looking at the outside of a Wooden Lady Cameo book.

The books feature artwork by Polly Bolian.  She illustrated the dust jackets and drew the internal illustrations.  The dust jacket art also appears inside each book as the frontispiece illustration.

The Cameo editions are rather hard to find, especially with dust jackets in nice shape.  Farah's 12th edition values the bare books from both sets at $15 to $20.  He values the dust jackets from the first set at $50 each and the dust jackets from the second set at $75 each.  In the last 15 years, I have seen the prices all over the place, from very low up to $200 or more.  The primary factors are condition and how many people are seeking the books at any given time.

When I first began collecting, I had no interest in these editions.  The Cameo edition jackets pick up dirt very easily since the jackets do not have a shiny finish that repels dirt.  The jackets are usually soiled, worn, and torn.  I do not remember the exact details, but at some point I acquired a Cameo edition with a jacket in nice shape.  From that time on, I saw the books as desirable and began seeking ones with nice jackets.

It was difficult.  I purchased my books in 1999 through 2003 when bidding on eBay was always brisk.  I recall that prices were often up towards $100.  I recall buying a lot that contained most of them, which is the only reason why most of mine only cost me around $30 each.  For the remaining titles, I paid $53.22 for #35, $62.22 for #27, and $66.00 for #28.  Those were the books that were the toughest for me to acquire with nice dust jackets.

By around 2005, several people who collect Nancy Drew books and who also sell them on eBay decided to focus on these books.  Between them, they managed to buy up just about all Cameo editions that surfaced on eBay.  These sellers then relisted the books at much higher prices, calling them "RARE."  In fact, the books were rare to everyone else, since these sellers were buying up all of them.  The prices became artificially inflated.

The prices peaked in the summer of 2008 when a certain buyer purchased $20,000 in series books per month for several months straight.  This buyer had laundered approximately $300,000 from her bank and used much of it on books.  Since she was not spending her own money, she was willing to pay extreme prices.  During that summer, Cameo editions were selling for $200 to $300.

Also from around 2005 to 2008, one of the sellers who bought up all of the Cameo editions especially liked to buy up all of the ones that did not have jackets.  That seller then created reproduction dust jackets and resold the books at much higher prices, always emphasizing how impossible it was to find the books with original jackets.  This was true, but only because this seller and several others were buying up all of them.

Since 2008, series book prices have fallen, so the Cameo editions now sell for relatively low prices.  The Farah's Guide estimates are probably about right for these books, if the jackets are truly in excellent condition.  I see many books with jackets that have some wear but are still in pretty good shape selling for only around $10 to $20 in current eBay auctions.

Another problem that could be contributing to the current lower prices is the fact that dozens and possibly hundreds of Cameo editions are in circulation with the reproduction dust jackets that were created by the one seller.  I have seen a few resold at times on eBay.  Whenever I see a Cameo edition with a dust jacket that looks to be in as nice of condition as the books I photographed for this post, I am always concerned that the jacket might be a reproduction.  If the jacket is in a mylar cover, I am extremely concerned, since the reproduction jackets are always placed in mylar covers to make them look better.  If the jacket is in nice shape but not in mylar, then I figure that the jacket is more likely to be a "new find" from an estate and therefore more likely to be real.


Paula said...

The reproduction dust jackets are a problem in that many inexperienced sellers may not even realize the jacket is a copy. Ironically, I received an Applewood book with a reproduced jacket once that was sold that way, without any mention of it. (I say it was ironic because those are the newest books with dust jackets and you would think the jackets would still be original.)

Your set of cameos looks lovely!

Jennifer said...

You are absolutely right that many sellers fail to notice when jackets are copies.

I had an experience sometime in the last year or so in which I bought a lot of around five Dana Girls books with the blue and red dust jackets. The dust jackets had the "too nice" look of reproductions but I made the mistake of thinking they were real. I should have asked.

I received the books to discover that the jackets were copies made by Jim Towey. They were marked on the front flap as copies, although I would have still been able to tell without them being marked. I asked to return the books for a refund. The seller took the books back and refunded me.

In this case, I am pretty confident that the seller had not noticed. I believe he was a general bookseller, and something like that would have been easy to miss. I noticed that he never listed the books again, so he must have disposed of them in some other fashion.

That's really strange that an Applewood book already had a copied dust jacket. I wonder if the copy was made by one of the several people who were buying up all the Applewood editions for several years. That situation was similar to what happened with the Cameo editions, and it was some of the same people who did it.

It's possible that one of them might have copied a jacket for the book and then sold it as rare just like what happened with the Cameos.

Kansas Mad Man said...

I think your volumes do look nice. I think the Reader's Club promotional material should be put into the "hard to find" category. I've only seen a flyer/poster on eBay twice in five years. As for Cameos, they are a core piece in my collection. Velvet Mask is my favorite book, so it is fitting and appropriate. Interesting that Nappi (you can see his bold signature) was chosen to do the promotional artwork; his Nancy has the same hairstyle as the end papers he designed about the same time. These are indeed, beautiful volumes. The price is seriously inflated and falsely stated due to some collectors over-buying, making scanned jackets (and pretending they were missing a flap), etc. It is hard to tell a scanned jacket on flat paper, from an experiment I did with a scanner and a cameo jacket. The availability was greatly reduced and the affordability went ridiculous due to people buying for PROFIT instead of to upgrade their own collection and selling off. I have a few duplicates, but most are not in great condition; they would serve for reading or viewing copies. Bolian's artwork is indeed, very cool, and trendy for the era.

I'm not an expert on these books, but have a little more knowledge than on some other areas. The turquoise Wooden Lady was the hardest for me to find. I think Hidden Staircase was out earlier than Old Clock, because back in the day, it showed up more than the other books in the second set, albeit, without a jacket. . .

Jennifer said...

I've had several extra Wooden Lady Cameo books in the last 10 years, and they have always had the purple ribbon. This meant that I continued to keep the book with the turquoise ribbon with its chipped dust jacket. I finally ended up with a jacket in better shape and switched the jackets. My "new" jacket for the turquoise ribbon Wooden Lady is the one on the far right in the photo. Making that exchange caused me to reflect that most people probably don't know about the turquoise ribbon, so I wrote this post.

I didn't mention anything about the scarcity of the promotional materials, but they are very hard to find. I'm pretty sure that no more than six have shown up on eBay in the last 10 years, and I don't know for sure if even that many have. I paid $87.22 for my promotional materials, and I don't think I paid too much.

Jennifer said...

If you like the Cameo editions but do not have any of the books, consider purchasing a 2013 Cameo Editions calendar from Jennifer Fisher.

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