Thursday, March 18, 2010


Through all the years of collecting children's mystery series books, I have seen very little promotional material about them and that is one reason I find the tri-fold "Who's Who" ad that was included in some Grosset & Dunlap books in 1964 very appealing (see prior article on the famous ad). Here are a few more items that I found on eBay that came from magazines or catalogs. Obviously, these ads go back some years, so those who enjoy antiquing for books, might take another look at those stacks of Sears or Penney's catalogs in the local antique mall that date in the 1940s-1970s. You might find some ads similar to these. (note, Google blogs allow any photos placed in this section of the blog to be enlarged when you click on them, so be sure to enjoy the up close view by doing so.)
This is from a Wards catalog.

This one is dated September 1942 from a magazine called Playthings.This is also a Wards listing and note the Mildred Wirt books on the right side, advertising Brownie Scout and Dan Carter Cub Scout books.

Finally, these are photos of a Grosset & Dunlap catalog from the early 1970s. I had this in my collection for a good 30 years and sold it a few years ago for about $50. Considering this was a free catalog, that is a pretty good investment for saving it all those years. The interesting thing about it is some of the books in the catalog are very hard to find books because they were books issued at the end of the particular series, so there are few copies out there to find and thus they have a higher value today. This is particularly true of the Rick Brant books for sale in this catalog. I wish the photos were better, but these were take by a camera and not a scanner. Still it is an interesting item. And in case you were wondering, I am the one who marked up the list to indicate what books I had at that time. I guess I didn't think much of it being a collectable then or I wouldn't have marked on it, but I was a kid then and we all know how kids like to mark in their books.


  1. I have picked up ephemera like this over the years. This includes a few pages from different years of department store catalogs. By the 1930s the Syndicate's publishing schedule was sometimes dictated by G&D wanting a title in time for one of these catalog deadlines. Often the entire series was not listed but rather the first couple volumes and perhaps the latest volume.

    In addition to the people who cut up old catalogs to sell pages to collectors like us, there are sites like where entire catalogs are scanned. In the past I have gone through these to find toys of interest, including series books and chemistry sets.

    It's interesting that you should mention a G&D catalog since I just won one from about 1952. It should arrive sometime next week.

    When Stratemeyer was alive he commissioned the production of series checklists for the Syndicate series. I have one of these from 1914 for G&D with the title "Best Books for Boys & Girls". It was printed and folded in such a way to fit in a small envelope. Often catalogs like this from several of Stratemeyer's publishers would be placed in a single envelope and mailed out to addresses of likely book buyers. The sources of these addresses were sometimes unusual.

    Stratemeyer engaged in a number of innovative methods of promoting his books. One novel for adults was promoted through a postcard sent to people listed in the NYC Blue Book (a society listing) with a handwritten message that said "Read it by all means" with an illegible signature. The recipient of the postcard that featured an illustration for the book and enough information for them to find it, might think that a friend sent them the card. I have one example of these and a photocopy of Edward's letter that suggested this promotional scheme.

    There were also book distributors who sent lists of available books to booksellers, whether they be book stores, department stores, toy stores, etc. I have a vintage copy of one of these from McClurg, the Chicago firm that was also a publisher of the early Tarzan books. They called this the Retail Catalog of Standard and Holiday Books and a similar edition has been scanned by Google Books:

    Since this catalog is from 1913, it is just a year too early to list the first Tarzan book.

    There are also small booklets that promote series books as prizes for some sales contest.

    To sum up, the possibilities are fairly large for ephemeral items that refer to series books. I've left out a number of items that I have found over the years to keep this post brief.

    For the older books, Cary Sternick has created a blog to show items he has found plus unusual series and authors:


  2. You always have such interesting items on your blog. Keep up the good work. I always look forward to reading what you have posted.