Saturday, August 6, 2016

Little Golden Books To Turn 75

One of the earliest memories I have of reading books and of having books read to me is attached to Little Golden Books. I loved Dr. Seuss and Curious George books the most, but I fondly recall reading those colorful little books that were so neatly packaged.  The illustrations looked like water color and the text was in bold black lettering. Do you remember these books?

There were titles like The Party Pig, Roy Rogers and Cowboy Today, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Baby’s Mother Goose, Lassie and Her Day in the Sun, Pussy Willow, and so many other cute ones that appealed to the imagination and curiosity of children all over the world.  I fell back in love with those almost square-sized books when I read Collecting Little Golden Books: A Collector’s Identification & Value Guide 2nd Edition (1994) by Steve Santi.

Most books for children sold for $2 to $3 in 1942.  Some cost-conscious competitors dipped as low as a 50-cent cover price.  Little Golden Books launched for just a quarter a piece -- a great bargain for a 44-page book filled with 14 full-color pages and 30 black and white ones.

Though the books sold out upon their release, not all were satisfied. Santi wrote:

“Little Golden Books, with their colorful bright pages, were designed to be handled by a child, inexpensive enough that a child could now read or handle their book whenever they wanted to.  Wish these qualities and many more, the books became very popular with parents, but not with librarians in those early years. Librarians felt that these books did not contain the quality of literature that a child should be reading.  They did not consider that a book a child could handle was better than a book on a six-foot shelf or that an affordable book was better than not owning one.”

 The first dozen books, released nearly 75 years ago, consisted of the following:

Three Little Kittens
Bedtime Stories
The Alphabet A-Z
Mother Goose
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
This Little Piggy

Within five months of the line’s release, 1.5 million copies had been printed. According to the author, “They became so popular with children that by the end of 1945 most of the first twelve books had been printed seven times. Simon and Schuster, Inc. published Little Golden Books while the Artists and Writers Guild produced them and Western Printing and Lithographing did the printing. In 1958, Western Publishing and Lithographing Co., Inc. and Pocket Books Inc. became joint publishers. The company name was then changed to Golden Press, Inc.”

The books were priced so low and they were getting great distribution. “When the books were first released they were sold mainly in book and department stores,” says the author. “From there they moved into variety stores, toy stores, drug stores and finally, in the late ‘40s, something new called the supermarket.”

These books launched during World War II and a paper shortage had developed. 

“To help ease this shortage the War Production Board put restrictions on paper use in 1943,” wrote Santi. “To do their part for the war effort, retailers were receiving only one of every ten books they ordered. Some Little Golden Book titles were being printed with less than the original forty-two pages. In some cases the size of the book was also reduced slightly.”

A decade after their release, in 1952, approximately 182,615,000 Little Golden Books had been sold. The Night Before Christmas had sold over 4 million copies. Sales were booming. 

“Over half of the titles printed by 1954 had sold over 1,000,000 copies each,” said Santi. “Little Golden Books were now available almost everywhere in the world except the Soviet Union. With the distinction of being labeled a capitalistic story The Poky Little Puppy was not allowed to be sold along with any Little Golden Books in the Soviet Union.”

Though price gradually rose, these books remained under the going market price. Twenty years after coming out, these books sold for just 29 cents apiece. This was followed by a raise to 39 cents in 1968, 40 cents in 1974, 59 cents in 1977, 69 cents in 1979, 89 cents in 1982, and 99 cents in 1986. 

Little Golden Books have been printed in over dozens of countries. In 1982, when Little Golden Books turned 40, over 800,000,000 books had been sold. On November 20, 1986, the one billionth Little Golden Book was printed – it was a copy of The Poky Little Puppy.

Won’t you read one tonight before bed?

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016.

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