Saturday, October 2, 2021

A Mystery Concerning a Few Nancy Drew Books Found Locally

I purchased some books locally. 

I saw some Nancy Drew books with the double oval endpapers.  That format was the final matte format from the early 1980s.  The books do not have ink on the top edge.  Most collectors do not seem to like this format, although for several years I have been aware of an increased interest among certain collectors.

As I looked over the books, I pulled Old Album off of the shelf followed by Sky Phantom. 

The final cover art for Old Album is scarce in the matte edition, which makes even the double oval endpapers edition desirable.  Sky Phantom is one of the scarcest of the high-numbered Nancy Drew matte editions.  The most scarce title is Thirteenth Pearl followed by Crocodile Island and then Sky Phantom.  Sometimes I find that Sky Phantom is harder to find than Crocodile Island.  It just depends.

After I had the above books in my hands I realized that they appear to be new old stock.  The covers are very smooth and unblemished.  Some of the books have minor bumping to the spine ends, but otherwise, they have no wear and have never been fully opened.  The paper is still white, which is unusual for the books with double oval endpapers.  They appear to be in "as new" condition except for the minor bumping.  

As soon as I made those observations, I pulled the other four books with double oval endpapers off the shelf.  I wasn't going to leave any of them behind.  The books were definitely worth purchasing.

Once I got home with the books, I looked over them more carefully.  

Missing Map, Crumbling Wall, and Old Album are stated as being 1985 printings on the copyright pages.  This is no surprise.

This is where it gets odd.  Double Jinx, Glowing Eye, and Sky Phantom are stated as being 1987 printings on the copyright pages.  I was taken aback, because I have always understood that the flashlight editions began by 1986.  What is going on here?

The books from 1987 have a suggested retail price of $4.50 on the back cover.  For one book, the price is printed on the back cover.  The other two books have a publisher's price sticker on the back cover. 

Not much is known about the transition of the matte picture cover books to the flashlight editions.  Most collectors have completely ignored both formats.  There is a story that has passed between collectors ever since the late 1980s that some very early flashlight edition books had double oval endpapers.  The explanation would be that the final text blocks printed for the matte era were instead used on the first flashlight editions.  However, nobody has ever come forth with a picture of one of these books.  

It's possible that some matte bindings were left over and accidentally not used when they should have been.  These three books might have been bound from some leftover matte bindings that were paired with text blocks intended for the flashlight editions.  

This sort of thing does occasionally happen.  I own one odd example of a Nancy Drew book with a 1949-1950 binding that contains endpapers from later in the 1950s.

I also purchased these books.


kittygirl1 said...

That is a super interesting find! Very exciting! I was a reader of the matte Nancy Drew editions from around 1976 when I was in 4th Grade until 1981 when I was a Freshman in high school. I remember buying #53 - 56 in the years when they were first released. I was heartbroken when they switched to the Wanderer Paperbacks. Even though the stories were similar, I just couldn't get past the look and feel of the matte covers. I needed those covers to really enjoy the books. I only bought three of the paperbacks before I moved on to teen romance novels because I was in high school by that time and I had kind of given up on Nancy and Ned's romance going anywhere. LOL! I still have all my original childhood Nancy Drew books. Over the years I have filled in the gaps of missing books in the 1 - 56 series whenever I came across them in used book stores or yard sales. I recently bought some from you this summer on eBay and Etsy, so thank you so much for making them available. I believe I read all the books when I was young, but my friend and I used to exchange books so we didn't have to buy them all. I distinctly remember borrowing the books that I was missing and I know exactly which were my original books and which are those I purchased later. (Well, I did write my name in all my originals, but I know even without checking the inside covers since I re-read them many times over.) I am hoping to eventually have copies with all the different illustrations that came in the matte cover and re-read all the original and revised versions of #1-56. When I was young and came across a matte edition that had the original text, I thought I scored a bonus with the 5 extra chapters. LOL! I actually enjoyed the original text and illustrations more that the revised versions. Over the years I have also picked up a few copies of other versions of the books such as the Nancy Drew Files, The Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew Super Mysteries, Nancy Drew Girl Detective, and the newer Nancy Drew Diaries, but none of them hold my attention like the matte cover books. I checked my books and I do not have any with the end papers that you described in the books that you just found. This makes sense since it sounds like they came out in the mid to late 80's after I stopped buying the hard bound versions. I have two daughters in their mid to late 20's and bought them a few of the flashlight books and the Nancy Drew Girl Detectives when they were young, but they never got into them. I guess I was kind of selfish, but I never let them read my original matte covers because I didn't think they would take care of them like I did. I thought they might lose them or ruin them. Maybe I will trust my granddaughter with them someday, but she is just 6 months old right now so that won't be for awhile. Hmmmm....I think I will still need to get her own copies. I guess they will have to pry them out of my dead hands! LOL! Thank you again for all the great information on these books. I enjoy reading about all he versions that were produced and hearing about all your great finds! Appreciate you taking the time to share all this info! ~Maria

50's Girl said...

I have a copy of Glowing Eye that says "1987 printing" on the copyright page and has the publisher's $4.50 price sticker on the back.
I got it at a library book sale, but it's not an ex-library edition, thank goodness!
I've had it for a few years and have always been curious about it, since I also thought that the glossy flashlights came in in '86, so why would a matte edition be printed a year later?
I also have a copy of the Hardy Boys "While the Clock Ticked" that says 1987. Its young owner gave the date he started it as 3/1/88, if that provides any useful information. (He left a spot for himself to write in the date he finished it, but he never did.) A list in the front lists to Mysterious Caravan (plot twist!) and order forms in the back list to Scorpion and Bobbsey Twins to Coral Turtle Mystery. The back cover has a barcode in the bottom left corner but no price anywhere, printed or sticker.
I also think I have another ND book (I can't recall which one) that says 1986 printing on the copyright page, which is also interesting, since glossy flashlights went in print that year...or did they? I have always wanted to just see a glossy flashlight book with the oval ends, but maybe they don't exist? I think your theory about the leftover matte boards sounds plausible, and now we have another interesting thing to collect.

TheBargainSleuth said...

You found some great books in excellent condition; I've never been that lucky. I have one book that has a 1987 date on it as well. Posted in one of the groups about it and for some reason no one answered. Certainly has me interested as I'd like to find out more about it since, as you say, flashlight editions started in 1986.