Sunday, February 14, 2010


Many of our favorite children's mystery series books involve searching for a treasure, whether it is valuable stamps, gold, lockets or weathervanes, our heroes are usually involved in the search of some item that will make them rich or, more likely, help out someone in need.
Now for most of series book collectors, we never have the chance to do such searching and probably that is why we enjoy reading about Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins or the Happy Hollisters doing so. But many of us are treasure seekers, and our treasure is series books to complete our collection or enhance it.
Over my many years of searching out series books, I have had many successes and many more failures, but much of the joy is the searching and when you succeed you feel a great thrill.
Most of my searches involve old book stores, but these days I am more likely to find a series book at an antique mall. In this column I will devote some time to some of my best or most unique treasure finds.
Let me start with the most recent one, which happened about a year ago.
In my home city of Oklahoma City, we have a fair amount of book stores, less than a mere 10 years ago, but there still are a few left.
I walked into one about a year ago and upfront was a push cart containing a lot of Rover Boys books. On the side of the cart was a sign that simply said: "$2 each". Before I even began looking at these books, I asked the store clerk if this was a true price, not a mistake. It was not a mistake!
There must have been at least 70 Rover Boys, many early and many later editions, and only about 20 with dust jackets. I went through the dust jacketed books and they were all in very good condition. I didn't hesitate a second to take those books to the front desk and I went through the others, looking for the earliest editions and noting their condition.
I am no expert on the Rover Boys and I have about 15 of them right now, some with dust jackets, but in all honesty, I have never read one. I have so many more books of interest and I just never got around to enjoying one of them. So my interest in these books was not to complete a collection, but rather offer them to other collectors for resale on eBay. I estimate I spent about $100 on these books and probably have made about $300 in profit. Some of these books went for $10, a few went for $50 each, but most somewhere in the middle. Had these books at the bookstore been Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, or Don Sturdy, I would have gone through them and added them to my collection as either an upgrade in condition or to complete my collection.
I did a little study of the history of the Rover Boys and discovered that they were actually written by Edward Stratemeyer, founder of a syndicate that was responsible for the creation of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift and many more series. Most of those series were written by hired writers who worked from storylines and characters created by Stratemeyer. But the Rover Boys were strictly the product of his imagination.  Created in the early part of the 20th Century, they were very popular and highly read by America's youth of the time.
This collection of books I bought was from the estate of a man who was very active in the field during his lifetime and who was an expert in Horatio Alger's books. I don't know how this gentleman, from Ohio, had his books transported to Oklahoma for resale.
While not a fan of the Rover Boys, I enjoyed going through the books and checking their condition. While doing so, I found a small, yellow pennant that read: "BATAVIA OLD HOME WEEK, SEPT. 19-24, 1921". I did a little research on the internet and could not determine if this was a college or high school. I also found some correspondence from the original owner. But my greatest thrill was the discovery of a inscription on the title page of  THE ROVER BOYS WINNING A FORTUNE. It read: "Harriet Stratemeyer Adams daughter of Edward Stratemeyer". Now if you know anything about my interests in series books you will know I corresponded with Harriet Adams as a child in the 1960s. Elsewhere on this blog you will see copies of my correspondence and her autographs. But to find a book inscribed by her, and using her maiden and married name, is very thrilling. This book (see photos) is apparently a first edition and one I will keep in my collection till I die.
Getting back to the subject of this column, these kind of treasures can still be found out there if you hunt long enough and hard enough. I never dreamed of this kind of find. In the future I will add to this column with a few more stores of similar finds.

1 comment:

  1. The Rover Boys series (1899-1926) was popular in its day and for probably a decade after Edward wrote the last volume. While Tom Swift sold about 6.5 million copies by 1934, the Rover Boys sold around 5 million. Tom Swift is still comparatively challenging to find but the Rover Boys are often easier. The difference comes to demand.

    Tom Swift is often sought by Baby Boomers who grew up with the Tom Swift Jr. books and the two series are fairly closely tied together. Hence, it is not unusual to read about Tom Jr. using his father's giant magnet or great searchlight during one of his adventures.

    Technically the Rover Boys had two series as well. After 20 volumes of the Rover Boys, Edward started the "Second Rover Boys" about four of the children of the original three Rovers. There were 10 of these and most collectors see the 30 volumes as a single series. (The Motor Boys also had a "Second" series but the same characters were used).

    The Rover Boys began as boarding school stories with the usual pranks and sports and comparatively little actual education as you might see in Tom Brown's Schooldays or the large body of such works in US and UK juveniles.

    Since they are still fairly plentiful, I usually hold off on making eBay bids on Rover Boys books unless they fall into one of a few categories:

    * early publishers -- i.e. actually published by Mershon, Stitt, or Chatterton-Peck
    * G&D green cloth editions with dust jacket for volumes 1-21 (or 22) where the jacket illustration resembles the book cover design.
    * G&D brown cloth editions with jacket for the others

    Hence, I don't do much with the orange or red cloth books and the later full-color jackets. It is quite possible that the last couple have these since G&D went to full-color jackets in 1924 for Tom Swift. I also haven't gone for the Whitman editions.

    I think it is often a disappointment to collectors to pay a premium for a jacket when a series uses the same image on all of the titles. Cupples & Leon did this a lot on its books and G&D did so for series like the Bobbsey Twins and the Rover Boys. This might also limit the demand for these books.

    The Harriet Adams signature is obviously a prize. I have a few examples of her signature. One is on a scrap of notebook paper (99c on eBay), another is on the Syndicate letterhead, and a third is in a late Nancy Drew book.

    More than likely your signature was obtained during the period when Harriet was in contact with the Horatio Alger Society and even attended one or two of their annual conventions.

    I have a fourth Harriet Adams signature that is similar to yours on an 1888 booklet with the text for a comic operetta called Love's Maze. Edward wrote the text while his brother Louis wrote the music which is not part of this booklet. Hence the item is the libretto of this operetta. Some music by Louis is part of the Stratemeyer Syndicate Records Collection at NYPL but I have not looked at it since I can't read music and evaluate its merits.

    The signature in Love's Maze by Harriet mentions her relationship to Edward and Louis and was presented to an HAS member, Wallace Palmer, a man with some interesting connections to Edward Stratemeyer.

    James Keeline