Friday, May 8, 2015

Gulliver's Travels BLB

While I love to sell a rare book for several thousand dollars--a sale like that really improves the general cash flow, for one thing--my regular stock in trade is books in the twenty to fifty dollar range. It's just a heck of a lot easier for me to find a book I can make money on at that price range, and it doesn't involve quite so much cash flowing out.
1939 Gulliver's Travels BLB

But even in the twenty to fifty dollar range one can sometimes find books that qualify, in one sense or another, as "rare." I'll take the pictured "Big Little Book" of Gulliver's Travels that I recently came across as an example. 

These Big Little Books (BLBs: the label is used for a whole category of books, not only the ones that originally were published under that brand name) were a staple of childhood reading for whole generations of Americans who grew up from the 1930s to the 1970s. Because their usual format includes text on one page and a cartoon-style drawing or photograph on the facing page, they probably should be understood as illustrated books, but they are often collected today alongside comics, because of the drawing style, the frequent association with films and animated cartoons, and the cross-over of many characters from daily or Sunday comics strips. This version of Gulliver's Travels, for example, retells the story of an animated Paramount Pictures cartoon, rather than that of Swift's satire--indeed, Swift's name appears nowhere in or on the book, I think.

Because they are collected alongside comics, BLBs are listed and priced in the Overstreet comics price guides. When I brought the box of BLBs that I recently purchased home, I looked them all up in my 2005 Overstreet, the thirty-fifth edition. In the lowest collectible grade (2.0 out of a possible 10, in Overstreet's grading terms), this book was priced at 20.00--twice the price of the most generic and uninteresting BLBs.

When I looked it up in my Overstreet 41, from 2011, the same book in the same condition was priced at 50.00, and described as "Rare."

Classic BLB format: text with facing page comics-style artwork.
Now the thing about price guides is that they are guides, and often very rough guides at that. I doubt, frankly, that I'll be able to get fifty bucks for this book. Indeed, I've heard it said that 90% of the books in the Overstreet guide are over-valued there, and some old comics I've sold at auction have only brought one-quarter of the guide price. But sometime between 2005 and 2011, this book was identified as being somewhat scarce, even Rare, in comparison to the average BLB, and regardless of the estimated value, that fact is interesting in its own right. 

Only time will tell, I suppose, just how rare or common this book actually is: but for now, it's a reminder that there's always new knowledge in the market, and always interesting books to find and to find out about.

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