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.
I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT I AM SEEING?
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.