A Guide to Little Golden Books [1st Editions & Values]
Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. We’ve been pounded with snow here in the northeast–one foot on Thursday and another yesterday–with delicate, downy snow flakes. You can’t deny their beauty.
Today I wanted to talk about a collectible that has almost universal appeal: Little Golden Books (LGB’s). If you didn’t own one or two as a child, then you borrowed them from the library, or listened as your teacher read one aloud, or perhaps you discovered them in your pediatrician’s office while waiting for a check-up, like I did(!).
Avid collector’s seek earlier editions, while those who collect for the love of it enjoy any edition in decent shape because the books bring back childhood memories and make them feel good.
Gain access to my free Little Golden Books Price Guide when you SUBSCRIBE HERE.
Bright and colorful, produced with varied enough topics and characters to please any child, LGB’s bring a smile to just about anyone’s face. I find them fairly easily at garage sales and thrift stores for a dollar or less. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks about how to figure out their desirability and value on the vintage and antiques market.
My Little Golden Books Video
Early History of Little Golden Books
Simon & Schuster published twelve LGB’s in 1942; each cost just 25¢ and contained 42 pages. During the war, the page number was reduced to 28 or 24.
The first twelve titles, issued with blue spines and dust jackets, included:
- Mother Goose,
- Three Little Kittens,
- Bedtime Stories,
- The Alphabet A-Z,
- Prayers for Children,
- The Little Red Hen,
- Nursery Songs,
- The Poky Little Puppy,
- The Golden Book of Fairy Tales,
- Baby’s Book,
- The Animals of Farmer Jones, and
- This Little Piggy
First edition examples with their DJs range in value from $250-600. Yikes.
Blue Bindings on Little Golden Books
The Golden Book of Birds has the early blue binding that the publishers used until 1947, when they introduced the first version of the gold spine.
Original Pricing of Little Golden Books
LGB’s were developed as a cheap alternative to more expensive children’s books selling at the time for $2-3.00 each. The dramatically lower price of 25¢ made them available to almost any child, not just the more well-to-do.
The price remained fixed until 1962, when the publisher raised it to 29¢. LGB prices can usually be found on the upper right hand corner of the cover.
How to Determine Whether Your Little Golden Book is a First Edition
When trying to determine whether you own a first edition, one clue to look for is a letter hidden in the lower right corner of the last page. Sometimes you have to pull the back cover up a bit to spy the letter.
“A” means first edition–like this edition of The Sky–“B” means second edition, and so forth. The publishers used this [odd] method from 1947 until 1970. Prior to that, the edition would be listed on the first or second page of the book.
From 1971-1991, you will find a series of letters on the first or second page. If the letters start with A, you have a first edition, if B, you have a second edition and so on.
Each book title received a number, which can usually be found next to the price or opposite the price in the far left top corner.
Many copies of LGB’s have a list similar to this one on the back cover or inside the back cover. One way to tell if you have a first or later edition, is to see if there are any books with higher numbers than yours. Cleo, #287, is followed by only one book, Three Little Kittens, #288.
This edition of the book was likely published the same year (1957), so yes, Cleo is a first edition. If you found a number of books with higher numbers and later copyright dates, then you know you don’t have a first edition.
[Note: The long list of titles that follow the Three Little Kittens, starting with Circus Time (#A2), reflect a different numbering system used for special books, like Disney. If you were to check #D51, Sleeping Beauty, you would find a 1957 copyright.]
Little Golden Books with Special Features
In the 50’s, the publisher developed several volumes that contained interactive features, like Circus Time with it’s rotating wheel (above), and other volumes with puzzles or paints.
Many well-known illustrators collaborated with LGB’s, including Tibor Gergely, the artist responsible for Circus Time.
Little Golden Books, TV, & Disney
No one could have anticipated the wild popularity of LGB’s. Before long, big names like Disney and television shows like Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, and Bozo the Clown each became the subject matter of an LGB. In fact, think of a kid’s show and very likely, it has a corresponding LGB.
It didn’t take long for Disney to jump onto the LGB bandwagon. In 1944 Simon & Schuster published the first Disney book, Through the Picture Frame, and the Disney-LGB relationship continues to this day.
This first edition copy of Ben and Me, worth about $10-15.00, makes the 37th Disney LGB. In 2011, a 1950’s edition of Donald Duck’s Adventure, with a Walt Disney signature, sold for $900 at auction. Crazy!
Bambi, #D90, © 1941, 1973, 35th printing, value: $4-6.00.
As mentioned above, after about 1970, the publisher began putting the copyright dates and printing numbers on the title page.
Famous Authors Who’ve Written Little Golden Books
Both Margaret Wise Brown (of Goodnight Moon fame) and Richard Scary (of Busytown fame) have published numerous LGBs. In fact, Brown wrote The Color Kittens, published in 1949. The copy you see here, however, is a much later edition. Available.
Over the years, the LGB back cover has varied quite a bit. Here are a handful to give you an idea. On the far left you see a fairly early back, listing just twenty-five books. (The black marks are due to aging.) The example on the far right reflects a much more modern back cover.
Where to Find Vintage Little Golden Books
Over 2 billion copies have been published since 1942. Interested buyers can find loads of them at thrift stores, where vintage copies can be purchased for as little as 10¢, at flea markets for upwards of $2-3.00, and at antique shops for higher depending on the edition and condition of the book.
Serious collectors like to find copies in very good to excellent condition and typically will not pay much for those in poor condition.
Today, new LGB’s sell for $2.99-4.99 a copy, and they are still an excellent value. But I guess the old ones, like this one about how a rhinoceros learns to make friends, will always be my favorite. Which is your favorite?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down LGB lane and have picked up some valuable information that will help you with your buying (and/or selling). Happy hunting!
Thanks so much for stopping by–
If you enjoyed your visit, I hope you’ll subscribe and never miss a post!
Gain access to my Member Library when you subscribe
and find this Little Golden Book Price Guide:
Bye for now,
I’d love it if you’d pin me for later 🙂
Ten Things You Didn’t Know about Little Golden Books
Collecting Little Golden Books (store)
I really enjoyed this post Diane and of course I wish I still had all the Golden Books that I had as a child. We were up in Racine Wisconsin and saw a beautiful Golden Book display at one of the rest stops along the highway of all places. 🙂 Definitely pinning this for future reference and will be keeping an eye out at estate sales from now on.
I’m so glad you liked the post, Kim. Smart of Racine to take advantage of their connection to LGBs (home of Western Pub. an original LGB pub.). Thanks for the pin!!
This was very interesting Diana. I never knew so much about the books or how to tell if you had one that was valuable. Wish I still had my old ones. Pinned.
So glad you enjoyed the post, Florence 🙂
I did keep all the Golden Books we had when we moved. I’ll have to pull them out and check them out.
BTW I never heard back from you about the Lancaster Co cookbook that I emailed you about a week or so ago. Did you sell it already?
Hi Marcia–thanks for dropping by. I just went and check my emails and was unable to find an email from you about the Lancaster Cookbook. It has not sold yet. I listed it for sale in the “Kitchen” section of my blog shop ($7.99): https://adirondackgirlatheart.com/kitchen. I will take 10% off because you are a regular reader 🙂 if you are interested. Have a great day!
One of my favorite collectibles…I have a good sized collection, including some of my childhood books…
They are SO nostalgic, aren’t they Linda?
I pick up vintage Little Golden Books quite often. They are a great collectible and fun too.
We are on the same page, Sharon!
Do you buy little golden books?
No I don’t Janet. I have a YouTube video about how to sell your vintage and antiques if you’re not an antique dealer. You might find it helpful: https://youtu.be/4tyZGJ1gHnA Good luck!
My sister and I have many of the little golden books. They were the first books in our home library.
They sure do bring back memories for many of us 🙂
A fascinating read, Diana. I will be checking out the links you shared, as well. I have loads of Little Golden Books from my own childhood and some from my own kids’ childhoods as well — though I have tried to make sure they had those to use with their own children, some slipped through the cracks.
Glad you enjoyed the post, Mrs. T!
I love how much I learn from your blog posts! I have been looking at LGB at thrift shops for awhile now but I was unsure what to look for and how to figure out their true value. Thus helps enormously! Thank you so much!
So sweet of you to say, Kelly! Happy hunting 🙂
Diana, thanks SO much for this post! I have always loved Little Golden Books and I have a lot of them from my own childhood and that of my daughters, as well as more recent ones. I love collecting them but have never searched for information about their publishing or their value. I’m grateful for your extensive research and for your sharing it. Now, maybe I will be able to sell some of mine and know what price I should be asking.
Very good info. I just went to check my Golden Books. Rats!! I don’t have any valued beyond their cover price. I will be watching at sales for sure. Thanks!!
I love this info Diana! I have a small collection of Golden Books. I’m going to get them out of the bonus room and see just what I have. I know a few, but not sure about all of them. Love that cute birds one! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
I enjoyed this article! I know a bit about collecting, but always interested in learning more. My childhood favorite was We Like Kindergarten, or anything illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. I also love to collect Rand McNally, the Jr Elf books, and the Whitman Tell-A-Tale books. I love the history of LGB and happily remember that they were affordable!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post Stacy–thanks so much for taking the time to let me know 🙂
We were remembering a line from I believe a Little Golden Book. The line was something like, “The sky was blue and pink and yellow, And little Sally was going to the fair!” I am pretty sure this was an LGB my sister and I had when we were very young. Can you identify it? It would be greatly appreciated!
I’m so sorry Willis! I wish I could help you–unfortunately, I’m unfamiliar with that book. Good luck!
I am looking for a children’s book that may or may not have been an LGB. It was the story about four collies from puppyhood to adult. I loved that book as a child but it belonged to the school. Does the collie story sound familiar? Or could you refer me to someone familiar with older children’s books?
Thank you. Peggy
So sorry Peggy, but I’m not familiar with a book about the four collies. You could post the question in my private FB group, Your Vintage Headquarters. I have about 2600 members who love vintage and antiques. Perhaps one of them is familiar with the book. Good luck!
There’s a Little Golden Book called Four Puppies that sounds like the one you’re looking for. A favorite of mine, too!
The book you want might be Four Puppies. You can see the cover on my website, goldenbookguy.com. Let me know if you would like me to check out the inside story. Dick
Im hoping someone may be able to help me. My father used to read to me A Little Golden book as a child in the early 1960’s. I remember that it was about a cow and a baby calf and I think the mother cow died. My father got so tired of me crying every night that he threw the book away. Would anyone know of this book.
I wish I could help you out Leanne, but I’m not familiar with that book. Perhaps someone reading this article will have some info for you. Good luck!
I did a bit of searching to see if I could help.
“The cow went over the mountain” was first published in 1963. It’s about a cow who thinks life will be better on the other side of the mountain so he leaves his mother to go on an adventure. Not sure how it ends.
Another possibility is “The little calf who couldn’t moo” but I’m not sure of publishing date.
Here are a few other titles you could google to see if they are the book you’re thinking of:
The Cow and the Elephant
A Day on the Farm
Animals on the Farm
Mr. Meyer’s Cow (1950’s by Miss Frances)
The Animals of Farmer Jones
Hush Hush, it’s Sleepytime
Wishing you luck! Please let me know if you end up finding it, I’m curious to know which it is 🙂
Thanks for the helpful info Mel! You are a sweetheart doing all that research. I hope Leanne gets the info and finds the book she’s looking for 🙂
Thanks for the post, Diana! I like finding favorite books for friends, and I was curious to see what you had to say. 😁
I recently found ‘The Big Tidy Up’ (A Big Golden Book by Norah Smaridge) for $7 dollars instead of $100-$300, and in perfect condition! Sometimes I’m amazed that the great prices I find, but then I think, ya know, the book’s value is not necessarily based on how rare it is, but rather, how many memories it holds.🥰😊
Have a great day!
Great find AJ!! Yes, the memories are often what we’re trying to recapture, right?
I recently purchased a container of these books from a woman who said they were her mother-in-law’s. She collected had about 180 books! Thanks for your insights; I can’t wait to look them over. I bought them because I personally loved them as a kid and I have three new grandbabies 🙂
Sounds like quite a purchase Teresa! You’ll have fun going through them I’m sure, and reading them to those grandbabies will be amazing 🙂