Printer-friendly version

Much of the fun of collecting is searching and finding just the right book. Here are some hints:

Specialist dealers

If you are building a collection,  looking for a collectible copy, or wanting books to keep for a long time, a specialist dealer's knowledge will be helpful. Children's publications did not necessarily follow the same conventions as the adult branches of publishing houses: an illustrated title page date may be retained in later editions,  a 19th c book may have been republished several times with no reference to previous publications, other problems may arise. There is no substitute for having seen the actual book many times. Also, you will not risk questionable condition, a cost a specialist dealer absorbs. Working with a bookseller, who understands your wishes and your tastes, you can develop your collection, adding items you might not have known about, and including suitable placeholders while you wait for the perfect book to appear.

If you are seeking an extremely expensive older book whose printing is difficult to determine, you will want to go through a very experienced high-end specialist dealer who will be familiar with the appearance of the first edition of your book. This person will also be aware of those books which rarely appear in first edition in jacket, such as The Little House by Virginia Burton, and will be able to advise you about when it's best to settle for an early reprint. Look through the stock of the Children's Specialist dealers listed on the de Grummond site to find the four or five US dealers who handle only antiquarian material of this type.

Note: If you are looking for a Reading Copy or an inexpensive, commonly available book, you will not need a specialist dealer. On the other hand, if the dealer happens to have such a copy, it will be priced at the low end of the going rate, and will be cleaned and packed with the dealer's usual care, representing a slight bargain. Truman says "I only know how to pack one way"! Because we began our business supplying children's libraries, we have quite a few inexpensive books, which we will add to our site late this year. Meanwhile, ask.


Millions of books are for sale on-line. You can use addall.used.com as a metasearch of large online databases if you don't mind wading through the duplicate listings.

Abebooks.com: The Advanced Book Exchange (ABE) has an excellent search engine and the largest number of out-of-print books, including most of the high-end books for sale on the net... and a lot of junk. It helps to know the dealers and to understand how to recognize honest listings. Some search hints: Remember that many thousands of dealers list on abe; they do not all stick to the rules or format their information in the same way, so be flexible when you use the Advanced Search. Put the publisher in Keyword, try variant misspellings, (Streetfield, streatfield...); try easily spelled parts of authors or titles (Noel.... Shoes). Almost all of the children's specialist dealers listed on the de Grummond webpage list on ABE even though they may list elsewhere, and the opportunity to communicate with the dealer and leave permanent wants is invaluable.

If only one copy of your book comes up, look up the prices of other books offered by that seller and compare them to prices of established dealers before you buy. Be especially careful of overpriced ex-library books graded Fine. To compare listing language, read our site, or try to find ABAA children's specialist dealers. Look up a fairly common valuable book (House at Pooh Corner 1st trade edition) and read their condition descriptions, publication data, and prices carefully. There are established dealers who are not members of the ABAA and they will have similarly detailed listings.

Ebay: Ebay has a huge range of dealers, from professionals, to enthusiastic beginners who are eager to learn, to people who absolutely refuse to grade and pack carefully. If you do not care at all about condition or edition or if you are looking for a book that is not in great demand, Ebay is a good place to buy. Otherwise you will need to exchange numerous emails with the seller on condition and packing. Unless you are dealing with a professional, insist on boxed Priority shipping well padded and waterproofed and spend the money for it, (Ebay is not as inexpensive as it seems). You should be prepared to discard a certain percentage of what you receive.  There are good booksellers on Ebay and they don't mind being asked about their books or shipping practices. Very popular books are usually cheaper and in better shape on Abe.

Amazon: We sell on Amazon and buy lots of modern books from them, but it is hard to see why anyone would try buying a pre ISBN book there. Unless the listings are from a dealer who already lists elsewhere, the children's books are minimally, and often inaccurately, described; the criteria for "collectible books" are usually ignored. Multiple copies of the same book are listed on different pages and, because the listing system was set up for new books, the advanced search engine is fairly useless: this situation has gone too far to be corrected. Use the quick search at the top of the page, which works better than the Advanced Search, and be sure to specify hardback or paperback in your search query. It is quite difficult to communicate with a dealer before buying a book, but possible; the dealer's stars only relate to fulfillment, not to accurate description or reasonable pricing.

Online Want Lists: The Abe Permanent Want service is a great resource, but if you are looking for popular books, like Mushroom Planets, contact the seller as early in the morning as possible by telephone, not email, or the early-bird dealers will beat you to it. Because their systems are not created to catalogue collectible books, Ebay and Amazon want lists don't work well.

Websites: Most children's specialist booksellers maintain separate sites and collections on-line. The best source of this information, again, is the page of de Grummond collection children's bookseller listings. All these dealers are knowledgeable and trustworthy. Some lovely books can be seen on ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers of America) websites.

Auctions: You can order a catalogue or buy lots at auctions on-line using a proxy bid. Make sure to read the buyer's premium percentage and shipping costs carefully and factor them in. Different auction houses have different condition grading standards and you will not be able to inspect the books. Your books will probably not be returnable, so you need to offer a sight unseen price. High-end collectors hire a bookseller to be physically present and bid for them, so if you have a good friend living near the auction house who knows something about books; you could do the same thing.


Although the net has brought a general awareness of the value of children's books, so that garage sales and Goodwills are becoming picked over, offline books still offer opportunities for a children's literature hunter.

Local bookstores: Many small bookstores now sell on the net, but you can still find inexpensive titles on their shelves.  Bookstores will also search for you. Please think about the financial advantages of shopping at these small stores: you can inspect the book, you can find related books you don't know about, you will not have to pay shipping, and returns will be easy. You may even find local music or book talks going on. The entire process is a pleasant one, not to mention the good feeling that comes from supporting the local economy and preserving "the bookstore" for your grandchildren! Here is a site that will return information about local bookstores in your area, along with maps. Indibound https://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder)
As a small gesture to independent bookstores, whose discounts we appreciated in the old days and whose demise we greatly regret, we offer them a 20% discount, see Terms.

Library book sales: If you have a large, well-run library booksale in your area and you are willing to arrive as early as the book scouts (about 4:30 AM for the best sales in Western Oregon), you can still find wonderful treasures. However, unless you are seeking a wide variety of titles, as with a topic collection, you'll expend lots of effort for just a few books. Great fun though!

Catalogues: Several of the Children's Specialist dealers on the de Grummond list still publish written catalogues, which you can purchase. Pouring over a catalogue is certainly the pleasantest way outside of a bookstore to purchase books. You may find the prices in catalogues surprisingly reasonable and, since you'll have time to look at the inventory carefully and buy a few books, you will save on shipping. Books generally appear in catalogues several weeks before they are uploaded to the net. We publish an annual illustrated catalogue in May with about 500 listings of Pre1922 books, Midcentury Books, Modern Picture Books, and Modern Juveniles, see Catalogue 21, our most recent. Please contact Search "Catalogue 21" if you would like to purchase it. ($8 postpaid)

By appointment: Although specialist dealers do not usually have open shops, they have large collections and regular work hours. You will be welcome to call and ask to visit them by appointment. You can generate a list of booksellers in your state with specialties and contact information on Abe, using the Seller's page https://www.abebooks.com/books/Bookstores/?cm_sp=TopNav-_-Advs-_-Stores  Unfortunately Bookhunters is no more. We have a small Book House with the books arranged for browsing on the shelves. You are welcome to stop by.

Secret source! Your obscure title lies waiting in the unlisted back stock of children's book specialist dealers. Many have thousands of carefully selected books that are sitting on shelves but are not yet catalogued or offered on-line. All of us, I'm afraid, have boxes stashed away of books that have not yet been entered. It takes most of an afternoon to call around, and you'll have to wait for a response, but you'll get to talk to some pleasant people who know your book.

Book fairs

At present there are no regular antiquarian children's book fairs in the United States, but ABAA and major regional fairs always have five or six booksellers who deal exclusively in children's books. It's worth going to these fairs to see what a book in Very Good or Near Fine condition really looks like and to enjoy the beautiful colours and bindings of first editions. You may be surprised to find quite affordable copies tucked among the $300 books. If you can't afford the show books, always ask the dealer if he has less expensive copies of your book at home. Only a few dealers in the United States stock nothing but show quality material.

Where do these amazing books at fairs come from? Some from the same sources you use yourself, with a lot more time spent looking and culling, some from books or collections offered by customers, some from large lots from estates and auctions, some from brokers of large estates who sell them to specialists, some from book scouts, and some purchased from other dealers.

Book searches

If you establish a working relationship with a children's book specialist dealer, she may call you or mark your catalogue when the right book comes in but this service is not a formal book search. Real offline/online book searches are hard work, involving experience and careful record keeping. Such a search is very different from the automatic electronic matching offered by certain large on-line firms, which you can easily duplicate yourself.

We highly recommend Jeryl Metz, a pleasant and highly knowledgeable children's specialist dealer who has been conducting book searches for children's books for many years.

Jeryl Metz Woitach
dba Jeryl Metz, Books
697 West End Ave, #13A
New York, NY 10025-6921
Tel. (212) 864-3055
Email: Jmwbooks@aol.com