Back when books were golden, Little Golden Books were a staple in every home. They were also a huge source of product placement. The Little Golden Book empire included products like Kleenex and Rolls of Tape, and even Happy Meals! In fact, they were so successful that Little Golden Books actually came packaged with products.
Early Little Golden Books
Early Little Golden Books are among the most collectible of all Little Golden Books. Their value depends on the condition, illustrations, author, and subject matter of the book. Famous authors’ Little Golden Books tend to fetch higher prices. Wartime editions are less desirable because of the thin paper and reduced page count. Nonetheless, these books still hold their value, even if they’re slightly worn.
To identify early Little Golden Books, look for a series of letters on the first page or second page of the book. First editions start with A, while second editions begin with B. The letter identifies the edition number, which can be found on the first few pages, either opposite the price or on the far left corner. Many copies of the Little Golden Books include a list of their titles inside the back cover, as well. For example, Cleo is #287, and Three Little Kittens is #288.
When books were golden, characters seemed to be golden too. In addition to books from the past, Little Golden Books also featured popular characters from other media, such as Disney, Looney Tunes, and The Muppets. Other popular Little Golden Books characters have included Barbie, Power Rangers, and Thomas the Tank Engine. The company has even produced books based on film properties such as Hopalong Cassie, a character from the movie “Babe”.
Publishers when books were golden were not always men. Many women had to overcome obstacles in their early career to enter the book publishing industry. Some were forced to work in male-dominated environments while others embraced change. Among them were Jane Friedman, who began her career in 1967 as an assistant at Random House. She recalls how Bennett Cerf used to pull her ponytail. Other women faced the same challenges, but they managed to make their mark.
Publishers when books were golden were able to sell millions of copies. Several books sold more than one million copies in a year, including “The Poky Puppy,” which was the best-selling children’s book of the 20th century. But many of these books were also criticized by feminists for maintaining gender stereotypes. In response, many of the books were reprinted with female characters driving cars and male characters cooking in the kitchen.
There was a time when children’s books were expensive and out of the reach of many families. That changed when Western Publishing Company introduced the Little Golden Books in 1942. The small books were cheap to produce and used very little paper. They were durable and easy to hold in the child’s hand. Their popularity skyrocketed during the war years and they remain popular today. Today, prices for these books range anywhere from five to six dollars.
In 1942, the Little Golden Books retailed for just 25 cents. The popularity of the books was immediate, and within five months, 1.5 million copies of the book were sold. In fact, the original 12 titles were already in their third printing.
In the early 20th century, children’s books were often large and lavishly illustrated. Despite their price, they were out of reach for most American families. Instead, children enjoyed them in schools or libraries. In contrast, today’s children often have no access to these books. Fortunately, the Little Golden Books (also known as Golden Books) are affordable and come with colorful illustrations.
Since the first release of Little Golden Books, over 1200 titles have been published. According to Penguin Random House, 573 are still in print.