Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Surprising Rise of the Nancy Drew Library Edition

In around 1999, I decided that I wanted to own Nancy Drew #57-78 in the hardcover Wanderer edition with dust jacket as issued by Simon and Schuster.  As I searched for those books, I noticed all of the hardcover library bindings of Nancy Drew #79 and up that were for sale online.  I began purchasing those books in order to acquire hardcover copies of those books, which were only published in softcover.

As I began building my set of hardcover copies of Nancy Drew #57-175, I then noticed all the library bindings for Nancy Drew #1-56 that were for sale online.  I was quickly hooked and began working on multiple sets of the library editions.

Nearly all collectors scorned them, actually hated them.  As best I can understand, there are two reasons for the traditional overwhelmingly negative opinion of the library binding.  First, the books are library discards, and collectors have always hated any kind of library discard.  After all, a trade edition without library markings is infinitely better than a trade edition with library markings.  That's a given.  Second, a book with a library binding has been rebound, that is, bastardized.  The book was taken apart to be put back together with a substitute binding.  So it's understandable why almost nobody wanted them, and very few people thought otherwise during the 2000s.

I can think of exactly two other people who also wanted the Nancy Drew library editions during the first years in which I purchased the books.  I was able to purchase dozens of bulk lots containing some or many library editions during the 2000s.  In the early years, I typically first offered the extra books to those two people.  Whatever was left that they didn't need went on eBay in bulk lots.  I had to sell the extras for cheap, since nobody else wanted them.

It was discouraging, in a way, although at the same time I was fortunate that everyone else ignored the library editions.  That's why I own over 1,000 library editions, many of which are extremely scarce.  Some of them can be considered rare, and that's a word that I tend to avoid.  I believe that a few of my library bindings are unique examples in which my book was the only one ever bound that way.

It was incredible to have a collection of rare or unique books in a widely collected series and to know that my rare or unique library editions were unwanted by nearly all other collectors.  I typically paid around $2 to $4 for the average library edition back in the 2000s, although I sometimes had to pay significantly higher prices in the few cases in which someone bid aggressively on an eBay auction.

I mentioned my library editions in discussions during the 2000s, and the response was always a certain statement.  It went like this:  "I like the way those books look.  However, the only way I will ever buy a library binding is if I can get one in excellent condition that was never used in a library."

So those strict limits kept everyone away.  99% of library bindings were used in a library, and probably at least 75% of the books have moderate to heavy wear with library markings everywhere.  That's just how it is, so no one wanted them.

Somehow, the tide has turned, and this has taken me by surprise.  It was suggested to me recently that I had a lot to do with the change in opinion.  I undoubtedly played an important role, but other factors came into play.  I don't understand exactly what they were, but I can mention what could have influenced people.

It has been since 2010 that the interest has increased.  I think I sold a lot of library editions in individual listings on Bonanza beginning in 2009.  Bonanza was such a pretty site.  (The site still exists, but it doesn't have the charm it did in 2009.)  My Bonanza booth did attract a lot of attention via Google search and my relentless promotion of it in this blog.  It might be that people began to notice the library editions through my individual listings, which might then have sparked an interest.

I might be wrong about that, but something had happened by 2010.

In 2012, some of my library editions were featured in Country Living Magazine.  Perhaps the magazine's endorsement of the library binding and my mention of the article in this blog influenced a few people.

On August 5, 2013, the Nancy Drew Book Fans group and the Collecting Vintage Children's Series Books group were created on Facebook.  On that auspicious day, a collector commented on Jenn Fisher's Facebook timeline, suggesting that we needed groups in which to discuss Nancy Drew and other series books.  As a result of that comment, Jenn Fisher created the Nancy Drew group, and I created the series book group.  As I recall, I created the series book group, then I added Jenn and a dozen or so other people to it.  Immediately thereafter, Jenn created the Nancy Drew group, and she added me and some others.  The two groups were created within an hour or so of each other.  And off we went!

Facebook groups make it very easy to share photos.  I have shared many photos of library editions in the groups since 2013.  I believe that my images strongly increased interest in the library editions.  After all, when you see the beautiful rainbow of library bindings in the below photos, how can you possibly resist the allure of them?  The books are gorgeous when shelved together, even when they have library markings and lots of wear.

The interest further increased in around the last two to three years, especially since 2019.  A number of people who are fairly new to collecting Nancy Drew books have embraced the library binding, and their enthusiasm has influenced others.  Interest has increased so much that I am astonished.  I never thought that other collectors would ever catch up with me and share my love of all library editions.  I think library bindings are beautiful works of art.  Now others do, too!

These days, I find it very easy to sell my extra Nancy Drew library editions.  The green APC and the FLB bindings are especially in demand.

These images show recent eBay sold items.  Notice how much people are paying for individual green APC editions.  Remember that you can click on an image to see a larger version.

In the 2000s, I considered the green APC editions to be worth around $5 each.  In the last five years, I decided that they were worth around $10 each.  It's now apparent that if the books have light wear—which is the case for the books seen in the above results—that the books are worth $35 to $50 each.  Here is an image that shows two of the books that recently sold on eBay.  They are in very nice shape.

Books in rough shape are not worth as much.  Many sellers make the mistake of taking books in rough condition and pricing them like they are in excellent condition.  That's not an effective strategy.

I recently sold some green APC books that I priced at $10 to $15.  I might have gotten slightly more for some of them, but my books had some wear and tear.  I also tend to price my books on the low side.  I would rather sell the books quickly to people who want them than try to get the highest possible price.

Let's cover some of the other bindings.  Another type is the patterned binding.  One example that sold at $26 can be seen in the above eBay sold listings.

This is actually a very desirable binding, which is probably a revelation to those of you who do not collect library editions.  Country Living Magazine borrowed some of my patterned library editions for a photo shoot.  Read "Judy Bolton in Country Living Magazine" for more information.

I consider the patterned bindings to be worth $15 each if in excellent condition, but they might be worth a bit more depending on the pattern.  I have not seen enough sales results to know the actual current value.  Certainly, any book with a more striking pattern is worth more than one with a less interesting pattern.

My all-time favorite library binding is the one seen below.  I have 184 of them; yes, that's one hundred eighty-four of them.  I want every book in every color.

This binding has become difficult to find.  I have no examples of sold listings except for books I have sold and for one bulk lot shown in one of the eBay screen captures.  That bulk lot contained seven of them, but the books were in rough shape with very heavy wear.  The bulk lot was listed at $24.99, and a best offer was accepted.  The books were priced appropriately for the rough condition.

I have never sold one of these books for more than $15, but I have also never sold any in excellent condition, since I end up keeping the nicer copies when they come into my possession.  I am confident that books as nice as the ones pictured above would be valued at $35 to $50 each in the current market.

The FLB library editions have been in demand for at least five years.  Four different examples are seen below.

Nearly all of the books are pink or salmon like the one seen at the top left.  Some scattered books are blue, green, or gold, and these books are quite uncommon.  While I have seen some pink books sell at around $50 each, the value is probably more around $20 each.  The other colors would be worth a little more.  Again, keep in mind that these values are for books in excellent condition.  I do not believe that I have ever sold an FLB book for more than $10.  The books I have offered have had moderate to heavy wear.

The books seen below are from the "multi" library binding.  The covers mimic the design of the multi endpapers used inside Nancy Drew books.

I have no information on current value for these books.  I have never sold one for above $10, and I don't know how much the current buyers value them.

The Grosset and Dunlap lavender spine library edition is seen below.

The Grosset and Dunlap library edition was an official binding, so the books were not bastardized.  The collectors who scorn most library editions do want this type, but with the restriction that the books be in excellent condition and not library discards.  These books are slightly easier to find in uncirculated examples.  For all other library bindings, 99% are library discards.  For these books, probably around 80% are library discards, so uncirculated examples can be found through careful searching.  The value of uncirculated examples in excellent condition is probably $25 to $35.  That's a guess since I haven't seen many sales of them.  Circulated copies with moderate wear are worth no more than $10.

There are also other types of Nancy Drew library editions, but the above examples are the ones seen the most often.


Phyl said...

Just counted, I have 14 library bindings, mostly patterned and similar to the apc ones you have pictured but more olive green in color. A few are solid dark green. I got them for very cheap when my library purged a lot of their books. I’ve never been picky about editions. I do prefer original cover art and illustrations on any children’s books I buy. I tend to stay away from, say, 70s reprints with new cover art - unless it’s a book I can’t find in my price range.

sax player said...

A large lot of the 'patterned binding'library books sold about 10 days ago on ebay.