Children’s books create fond
memories and may fetch top dollar
By Hope Katz Gibbs
THOSE PICTURE BOOKS on your child’s bookshelf may be worth a small fortune, say Salt Lake
City Costco members Linda and Stan Zielinski. In
their newly self-published book, The Children’s
Picturebook Price Guide: Finding, Assessing, &
Collecting Contemporary Illustrated Books, they estimate just how much.
“All across the country, numerous collectible
picture books lie dormant on a bookseller’s shelves,
or sit boxed in someone’s attic, leaving a tremendous
opportunity for collectors,” explains Stan in the
guide’s introduction, which provides an in-depth
look into the history of children’s book publishing.
He points to several factors for today’s boom in
the number of picture books being published, including the fact that the books are highly approachable—
for adults as well as children—and that every year a
growing number of highly talented illustrators venture into the burgeoning picture-book business.
The only illustration in the Zielinskis’ guide is the
artwork on the cover (a piece by David Christiana
from his 2001 book The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous
Coat), leaving room in the 488-page, 8½-by-11-inch
softback for current market prices of more than
22,000 picture books by 700 illustrators.
In the 15 years they’ve been collecting picture
books, the Zielinskis have learned to do a lot of research. The sources they use to come up with the
prices include antiquarian and used-book stores,
antiquarian book fairs, Internet book markets,
catalogs distributed by children’s booksellers and
Additionally, the Zielinskis believe six factors
make a picture book valuable:
Its aesthetic quality, including its ability to tug
on the heartstrings (as do Guess How Much I
Love You and Rainbow Fish)
The eminence of the illustrator (Steven Kellogg
and Mercer Mayer, for instance, pop out a
book a year)
Awards the book may have won (such as a
Caldecott or Golden Kite)
Its popularity as a movie or TV show tie-in
(e.g., the Magic School Bus series)
The number of copies sold (Shel Silverstein’s
1964 classic, The Giving Tree, has sold more
than 5. 6 million copies)
Whether it is part of a franchise (Madeline,
Babar and Eloise books have been spun off as
games and dolls)
So, how do the picture books on your shelves
rate? If you have a copy of Maurice Sendak’s 1963
book Where the Wild Things Are in very good condition, the Zielinskis believe it’s worth about $10,200. A
copy of Dr. Seuss’ 1937 story And to Think That I Saw
It on Mulberry Street in very good condition would
likely fetch $8,400, and Seuss’ 1940 book, Horton
Hatches the Egg, could bring in about $7,400.
One contemporary book that would generate a
nice chunk of change is Chris Van Allsburg’s 1981
hit Jumanji. A first-edition copy in fine condition is
worth about $1,000.
In fact, $1,000 is the price point that nearly 50
picture books on the list will garner if sold on the
open market today. Not bad, considering most hardback children’s books run about $20 when purchased new. The best place to try to sell that valuable
book, the Zielinskis note, is online, with eBay and
abebooks.com as Web sites to consider.
Of course, the trick to having a book hold its
value is keeping it in pristine condition.
“Whenever you buy a new picture book, the first
thing we recommend is to remove the dust jacket
and put it in a safe place,” Linda explains. “Also try to
keep the book away from any peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches and tall glasses of milk that may sit
beside a child’s bed. Then go ahead and enjoy reading the books with your children. After all, that’s
what they are for.”
The Zielinski’s own brood—Ruby, 12; Jessica,
10; and Quintin, 4—are the beneficiaries of the collection Linda and Stan started in 1996. Back then,
the couple’s favorite haunt was Books of Wonder, a
renowned children’s bookstore in New York City.
They befriended owner Peter Glassman, who
encouraged them to start buying first-edition
Caldecott Medal books. That led to more acquisitions, and today the couple’s bookshelves hold more
than 4,000 titles worth upward of $400,000.
“Of course,” Stan admits, “the rarest of the
bunch get stashed in a safe-deposit box.”
For more details, or to buy the book, log on to the
Zielinskis’ Web site,
CROCKE T T JOHNSON
on a bookseller’s
Hope Katz Gibbs is a freelance writer in Clifton,
Virginia. She and her husband, Michael, have been
collecting children’s books since long before their
babies were born. Luckily, no PB&J stains have
marred the most valuable tomes on their shelves.