Best in Children’s Rare Books

by The bookworm on April 10, 2011 · Art of the book, Children's rare books

Between 1957 and 1961, Nelson Doubleday publishers, contributed the most amazing children’s books encapsulating the classical stories of the time with contributions by some of the better known illustrators and artists of our times. This was a very important series as it contained much original material from 7 Newberry Winners and illustrations from 8 Caldecott Winners. It is a series of Rare Books.

There are 42 volumes to the original set that include many notable children’s writers and illustrators. Volume 1 with the story of Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s  story of the Winged Horse: Pegasus in Volume 21, the Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder in Volume 28 and the Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Illustrators also include some early works by Richard Scarry, Johnny Gruelle, Andy Warhol, Leonard Weisgard, Feodor Rojankovsky, Ezra Jack Keats, Paul Galdone, Adrienne Adams, Peter Spier, Barbara Cooney, Ruth Ives, Don Freeman, Garth Williams, Leonard Kessler and Maurice Sendak.

Several of the books are now considered collector’s items and have become hard to find, especially if quality is desirable. They are indeed rare books. Most of the volumes available are either missing their attractive dust jacket or have some other significant limitation such as stains, tears or writing, so the drive to complete a full set has now become a popular undertaking for a great deal of collectors, who have exhausted the easy picks from the market.

A quick search on-line reveals that some of the most desirable volumes, particularly the ones containing the works of Andy Warhol, Sendak or Richard Scary have been posted asking over a hundred dollars. I have still to come across a full set for sale that is in relatively good condition, without dust jackets missing, and in its original state. Yes original. While the majority of collectors concentrated their effort on the first two they have not paid much attention to the latter, simply because it is not well identified or described anywhere. After some extensive research, it has now been established that there are clear markings to identify an original from a reprint. Here they are listed below:

  1. Any Volume numbered with an “A” suffix is a later edition.
  2. Any book with a number and letter coding on either page 151 or
    page 111 are later printings.
  3. Any book without “Printed in the United States of America” on the fep and/or rfep is a later state.
  4. Any dust jacket with a 4 number code on the rear end flap (bottom center) is a later edition dust jacket.

If you are collecting Warhol, Sendak, or the many writers and illustrators in the series, you would want a first printing; on almost any book a reprint is less desirable.  It would be disappointing to purchase a first and find out it is a reprint, especially with a treasured series such as this.

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawn June 12, 2021 at 10:43 pm

I have volumes 2-42. I’m missing volumes 1, 5, 24, and 26. I have two of volume 10A for some reason. Volume 19 is 19A. The rest are without the “A”. All but the two volume 10’s have the jackets. Most of the jackets are in very good condition. Some have more tears than others. I’m looking to sell the whole set I have if anyone is interested.


Chris March 24, 2021 at 5:14 pm

I discovered the page 151 and 111 coding over 20 years ago. The earliest coding I have found was for volume 1 (F51 – 1966). I have shared this information with many people, both on EBay and ABE.
Did you know that a complete set has at least 46 volumes?
I have a complete set in djs and hundreds of others plus a listing of variants I have found.
Contact me.
Christopher Grahame-Smith


Jodi Roeding February 26, 2021 at 4:29 pm

I have the First Edition book with Abraham Lincoln with dust jacket.


Mercedes Scott October 5, 2020 at 3:43 pm

I have volume 24 original edition in near perfect condition. No dust cover


Amber Nardino April 21, 2020 at 2:28 pm

I am looking for these books to share and read to my 3 boys. Their ages are 6, 4 and 18 mo. Is anyone still looking to sell?


Bárbara May 3, 2020 at 6:11 pm

Hola, tengo la primera edición de los volúmenes 4, 19, 22, 23, 30 y 31 si le interesa


Gail March 25, 2020 at 5:28 pm

Hi! I have 27 books all in beautiful condition. No jackets, though.


Paul April 12, 2021 at 3:26 pm

I’m Interested in buying the set.
We had a number of them growing up. My father sold World Book encyclopedia. These may have been part of those products for sale through Field Enterprises.


Gina December 9, 2019 at 1:20 am

Hi there,
I’m wondering if anyone knows the approximate date on this…
I have one of the children’s classics that says, “printed in the United States of America” but no date and no dust cover. It’s Alice’s adventures in wonderland illustrated by Tenniel.
Thanks for your help.


Lin Carson November 10, 2019 at 1:23 am

I’m looking for the volume with the story about two boys left in charge of a store. They get robbed while there but a carton of red pop explodes, scares the robber and saves the day.
Linnie Hodge Carson in FB


Linda Rosen November 3, 2019 at 10:48 pm

I have 7 first print Best in Children’s Books, 2 with dust cover.
Vol 1, 15, 17-22 that I would like to sell. Where would I do this?


Todd Ritornato January 4, 2019 at 1:26 pm

I have 15 of these books I’d like to sell. How, who, and where do I go about doing that?


Melanie June 22, 2019 at 9:37 pm

Hi Todd,

I am looking for various volumes to complete my set of these books. If you are still interested in selling, please reach out to me. Thanks.


Adam McInturf November 30, 2018 at 11:59 pm

I’m curious, is the James Baldwin who contributed several of the abridgments and retellings in this series, THE James Baldwin?


Gena October 2, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Hi, interesting article and facts. How do you know if you have one of the Worhol books or the other illustraters? I can’t find where it would be mentioned.


Cynthia September 27, 2017 at 5:56 pm

My grandmother had a partial set we read as children. The pictures on the spine were endless fun for me. I’m looking for information mostly, about two stories. One was about a magic porridge pot that overflows and and one about a French girl with a beret? I’m hoping to find the titles and maybe another source for the stories. They maybe somewhere around volume 26 Swans.


William Puckett February 12, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Thanks for the great detail regrading this fine children’s series. I just purchased twenty clean copies with their dust covers in great condition. 1st editions, no A suffix, vol. #’s 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12,13,14,15,17,18,34,40,41,41 & 42.


Julie October 23, 2016 at 10:29 am

I have these books. I won them in a contest and they became my best friends. I took at least one book with me wherever I went. There was a stack of them in my bag when we went on family vacations to the lake. I still have them, well, most of them. They look like they were well loved, and they were, by a very shy little girl.


Kimberly Ann Hall September 17, 2016 at 8:44 pm

I have a bunch of them that I’ve had since I was a little girl. I don’t remember them having dust jackets, but they probably were probably taken off in short order after I got them. How do you know what numbers you have? I don’t see anyplace on or in the book that tells what number it is in the series. For not having the dust jackets, most of them are in pretty good shape. I do remember waiting anxiously for the newest ones to come in the mail in the cardboard box with the tab to pull to open them. My grandmother had ordered them to come two per month or something like that. Also, I have others that are stand alone books, for example The Blue Fairy Book, Aesop’s Fables, The Black Stallion, were these also part of this set?


Matthew Falk August 9, 2016 at 9:10 pm

I recently came across a set of Peter Spier’s Little Animals board book series. Is there any explanation why some of the prices for the Little Rabbits book are so high? Was it a limited print?


Karen A Hartsell June 14, 2016 at 7:55 pm

I found another book containing Dickens Short Stories. This Best in Children’s books edition is not in the best shape. There is a little damage to the cover. So I have eight books instead of seven. thank You.


Karen A Hartsell June 6, 2016 at 12:20 pm

My birth date was 1949 and My family starting buying Best in Children’s Books in the fifties published by Nelson Doubleday Inc. They never had dust jackets and are hardbacks. I have seven. I was going to donate these to the public library but changed my mind. I am curious as to their worth. Thank you.


Kimberly Ann Hall September 17, 2016 at 8:54 pm

Mine are hardcover with no dust jackets either. Of course I was little, but I don’t remember them ever having them. I was born in ’63


Jeannette January 28, 2016 at 7:40 am

I have a 7 first edition, 1958 and 4 reprints, 1959. Not all of them have their dust jackets however. I would like to know how to price them


Shelia September 13, 2015 at 2:20 am

I loved my Best in Children’s Books as a girl, and still love them, my children do too. I was wondering why a few of the volumes were replaced (the ones with the “A” suffix.) Just curious…


Admin September 13, 2015 at 9:39 pm

After the last title in the series was released in 1961 the publisher tested the market by re-issuing some of the most popular titles of the series with a new dust jacket illustration and an extra story. These carried the original number in the series plus the ‘A’.


Renee June 17, 2015 at 3:01 am

I have 11 of the originals from my childhood. I’ve always loved these books! Would you be able to tell me which of volumes have the most value. Unfortunately, no book covers but the fronts are in excellent condition. Some discoloration of the pages because of aging. Here are the volumes I have: 4, 6-8, 10-15, 17.


Anita August 14, 2015 at 11:16 pm

I have BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS with stories: Marco Polos’s Travels by Roger Duvoisin to last story LET’S GO TO PERU. Total 11 stories. Each story has a different illustrator.
It has a light blue cover pictures of a man shaking hand drums, a man on a horse, a barber cutting a pig’s hair, a cat with clothes on and a bird. Where do you see the volume number?


Admin September 13, 2015 at 1:34 am

Small number inside bottom of table of contents or inside bottom of the back flap.


Katrina Tiller May 7, 2015 at 4:23 am

I have three of the Best in Children’s books (10, 17, and 22) and would like to get the rest of the books to give them to my niece. The three that I have have the dust covers.


Lynn Wallace January 19, 2015 at 7:18 pm

My husband has one book from 1957 but there are no numbers. The only thing it has is copyright by Nelson Doubleday Garden City, New York. Just curious is it worth keeping or best to go ahead and give to goodwill. No numbers and I think it has different stories by different author’s.


Vanessa McCarthy October 24, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I have 32 of the books any takers?


Terri August 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I have an almost complete set of these books. #2-26, #29-42. Missing # 1, 27, 28. All have original dust jackets except # 13 and #30. All in very good condition. I also for some reason have a second copy of #29. We will be retiring and downsizing in the next year. What is the best way to go about selling these books for maximum value?


Admin August 27, 2014 at 12:47 am

Try to complete your collection. Make sure they are all first printings. Sell on-line. Be patient.


Rose August 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I forgot to say “Thanks,” for the informative site.
It is fun to read about the books on our shelves and their history.


Rose August 25, 2014 at 5:00 pm

The books are really worth only what you can get out of them when you decide to sell them or what they are worth to you personally.
I often come across these at garage sales, thrift stores, etc. and no longer purchase them (unless they are in top shape, have a dust jacket, or are one of those that I’ve learned may be worth more than $5 -Warhol, etc.). We have about 80 of them — collected/gifted for our children to read. If I were to try to re-sell them today, I might not get more than a dollar or two for most of them — and that is with the added hassle of mailing, etc.
I do know that we are missing one or two books in the entire series, and the fun is just in keeping my eyes open to find one of those some day, but only if I find the book(s) for a dollar or two.
My advice is to realize that unless you are a serious collector and really know what you are doing (which ones to buy, how to properly store them, where, when and how to sell them) you’ll end up with a pile of books that literally collect dust and take up space.
Enjoy them if they make you happy, but don’t collect them thinking that you are going to make a tidy profit on them. Look at ebay or other secondary market sites if you want confirmation.


J C Johnson August 18, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I have 24 of these, 4 of which are the Warhol’s…..all have dust covers and are in really good condition……Was wondering on a value, as there are so many, and which several are worth the most?


Admin August 21, 2014 at 12:32 am

The complete set in first printing is quite valuable. Warhol’s series is also collectible.


sharise April 13, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I am considering selling mine. They are well loved, but I have 29 books. Can you recommend a site or person? I am moving very soon, and don’t have the time or energy to mess with research and pricing, I just want to sell all of them for a reasonable price.
(I also have other children’s book collections, any help on where to go for them?)


Amy April 6, 2014 at 5:27 am

I purchased a set of 24 with dust jackets and in nearly perfect condition from a neighbors yard sale this morning ($5 for all). I bought them for my children because I remember the stories and thought they would enjoy them. I was looking to see how many were in the set originally and came across this site. I may be hiding them from the kids!


Janet Depoma February 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I have a set of 21 books with jackets in good to excellent condition. I am pretty sure they are 1steditions because I don’t find the letter A on any of them. Is there suppose to be a volume number on them? I keep seeing where everyone is referrng to volume but, I don’t see that on my books. They are from 1957-1960 and are printed in the United States. How do you go about finding an interested buyer?


Admin March 4, 2014 at 2:04 am

Each book in the series is often referred to as a “volume.” Any volume with a number and letter coding on either page 151 or
page 111 are later printings (not 1st editions for the series). The books are very popular, you should have no problem locating a dealer interested in buying them or try selling them yourself for higher prices.


J.D. January 17, 2014 at 10:15 pm

I see some people referencing volumes by letter (“volume A”) or series (“1-6”) but I can see no letters or numbers indicating the order of publication. We have about a dozen original printings (w/orig. dust jackets) including volumes illustrated by Warhol and Scarry so we’re very interested in knowing how discern publication order.

Some help?


Admin January 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

“A” volumes are reprints of some of the original volumes with slight variations, such as new jacket illustrations and/or an additional story. For example volume 10 was reprinted in 1963 as volume 10A with Lassie on the cover. I believe there were 2 such reprints. Series is normally used to designate the volumes included in a particular year of publication.


Amy September 8, 2013 at 2:53 am

I have a set of all 42, with dust jackets. All the books are in excellent condition, and most dust jackets are as well. I believe according to what is written here that they are first editions/first printings. I would like to know what I could reasonably expect to get for them if I try to sell them as a whole set. I can’t seem to see any complete sets that have sold anywhere to get an idea.


Admin September 8, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Sold a complete set for $580 last year. The set included 2 copies re-issued with new covers (44 total) . The set was approximately in the market for a year.


Tea July 3, 2014 at 12:17 am

I was curious if you still have these books? I had them as a child & I read them to my children when they were little. Ours got ruined by water from a roof leak. I would love to be able to buy a full set to start reading them with my grandchildren.


Amy Beernink July 17, 2015 at 9:06 pm

I have 33 for sale original first editions


Admin July 20, 2015 at 9:05 pm

With dust jackets, in good condition?

Stacy McSwain February 6, 2013 at 12:13 am

I have a few questions about some Best In Children’s Books that I recently bought. I have 26 and they all have their dust jackets. I have 1-6, 7-12, 15-19, 27-29, 30, 31, 34-36, 41 and 42. They are in very good condition. I collect Golden books, but came across these in a thrift store. I paid $2.60 for all of them. I would like to know how I could find out more about them. Thank you for your time.

Thank You,
Stacy McSwain


Admin February 6, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Great bargain? The first printing editions sell around $10 each with some of the more collectible copies containing works by Sendak, Freeman and Warhol asking well above that. The books have historically been treated as if they are book club editions when in fact they are originals that have gained collector interest and price appreciation in recent years.


Cecilia November 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I have 10 books. I have one with Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry W. Longfellow. I would like to see the value of my collection.


Admin November 14, 2012 at 12:20 am

Probably from our younger generation of followers and book collectors. Great start Cecilia, keep collecting and reading.


Debbra Wiggins July 7, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I have 2 copies separate books and wanted to know their value,best in childrens books: 1st story in the first book is Marco Polo, and in the other,Lassie Come Home. How can I find their value if any?


Admin July 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm

The Best in Children’s collection does have value. It is currently priced below its potential because collectors of children’s books are assuming that this is a Book Club series. Not true. The first printing of the books (see article on how to determine), with dust-jackets in good condition are worth quite a bit of money.


James Sekkes April 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Nice introduction.
Just as a site note, the “A” volumes were specific to volume 10 and 19 (10A, 19A). These can be considered First Printings since they were modified from the originally released volumes by having a different dust jacket and containing new or having old stories removed. For example, volume 10A contained two new stories – “Fern and Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web” and “Theodore Roosevelt”. It also had the “Travelling the Underground Railroad,” removed. There are identifiable reprints to the A volumes as well. Some collectors are considering the two additions as part of the complete set.


Amy Beernink July 17, 2015 at 9:05 pm

I have a whole set ranging from 1957-1963 wondering where i can find out how theyre worth they are first editions most have pristine paper jackets still on them


Andy Goldman April 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Keep up the good work


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