What Are Rare Children's Books?

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What do the terms "rare" and "scarce" mean? Steve Trussel has put together a series of articles by Robert Lucas with a helpful chapter on the two terms. http://www.trussel.com/books/lucas06.htm The easy availability of book records on internet continues to modify this classic definition. Just because your book is very scarce, it won't necessarily be all that desirable or valuable; other factors come into play.

At a minimum:
Rare: Only encountered once over a period of years or not at all; the term often implies that the book is also desirable. (as opposed to an extremely scarce book of no conceivable interest to anyone).
Scarce: Encountered only a few times over a period of years.
Uncommon: If you are just selling a single book, and you are not able to find it on the net, "uncommon" is a safe term to use. Your book could very well have been online the month before and have been sold. It is not necessarily scarce just because you can't find it in a one-time search.

Volumes can also be described as rare or scarce in jacket, or rare or scarce in a particular binding or printing, rare or scarce in the condition offered.

We stock only a few children's books, off and on, that are truly rare. Looking through our database, I see four books identified as rare, and a couple of jackets. We do have a good sized collection that would be considered scarce or scarce in the condition offered and "scarce" is the term we use, not "rare".

Unfortunately, the term Rare is used very loosely on the net, usually by book dealers who have never seen a rare book.

There are only about half a dozen children's book specialists in the United States who genuinely carry a proportionately large stock of rare children's books: Justin G. Schiller http://childlit.com/childlit.html, JoAnn Reisler http://www.joannreisler.com/, the Youngers at Aleph-bet http://www.alephbet.com/ and Hobbyhorse Books http://www.hobbyhorsebooks.com/ come to mind. It is delightful to look at their sites, or to see their books in person. You can also send for their catalogues and read about beautiful and interesting books you never knew existed.

However, these dealers do not come up high in the search engine rankings. Search engines only go by what they are told, so if an Ebay dealer claims they have a "rare" book, that book will come up way ahead of Justin Schiller's website! Since these high-end dealers do very little of their business over the internet, I don't suppose they care. But if a dealer on Ebay or Amazon claims that their book is "rare", be very, very cautious. Check for yourself.

We have "rare" listed as a metatag, not in our text, a legacy from a website designer who worked for us for a few months before RHP took over in 1994. By now the tag is so old that we hesitate to drop it; still, we would come up higher on a "rare book" search if we threw the term around more!

By established usage, bookstores and libraries still refer to a "Rare Book Room" although few of the books in it may be rare.

And a note on prices: If you find many copies of a book whose price seems mysteriously high, for instance the Churkendoose mentioned in Still no Luck, it was probably once "scarce" but has now has become common, through the ability of the internet to expose every possible volume for sale. Over the last ten years, the price of the middle range of children's books has dropped as more and more books appear. A dealer with thousands of books has to go through and reprice each one, not a pleasant occupation, and what you are seeing is books that were priced quite high a few years ago or ones whose prices are based on those books. Wait, and the price will fall.

All the books on this site have been priced-checked in the last two years. We try to avoid dealing in those books, we call them "internet specials", whose price is sure to drop in the near future as new copies come on the market or as the books are reprinted. This is particularly true of $200 ex-libraries in supposedly NF++++ condition. Some books, like Ant and Bee, are so perenially popular that even reprints in nice condition hold their high prices.

Comments

King and the Princess

A children's 1949 book about a dog and a peg leg cat that escape a forest fire

lost book from my mothers childhood

Around 1930-1932/probably Doubleday-Doran/ paper board cover, oversized, ivory background with pink and black borders. The main illustration is of a boy and his grandfather escaping in some sort of wagon from a group of people chasing them. There is a huge roll of cheese in the rear of the wagon. I would pay anything to recover a copy of this book.

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