Little Golden Books have been childhood staples for over 75 years. First published in 1942, these sweet picture storybooks are instantly recognizable by their signature gold spines. The books were known for being widely available at department stores, and originally cost just 25 cents, a price that made them accessible to a variety of families and helped instill a love of reading in children from all kinds of backgrounds. And many collectors are realizing that Little Golden Books value have gone way up over the years — both in monetary value and sentimental value!
There were 12 books in the original Little Golden Books series, including The Poky Little Puppy, an original story (the other 11 books were all classic fairytales and nursery rhymes). The series was a huge success from the start, and by its 10th anniversary, 183 million books had been sold. Today, that number is in the billions, and well over 1,000 different titles bear the golden spine.
How Little Golden Books have changed over the years
While Little Golden Books have gone through many changes in their long history, they’ve kept their signature golden spine and low price (adjusted for inflation, naturally). In 1944, the first Disney Little Golden Book, Through the Picture Frame, was published. The book was based on a Hans Christian Anderson story and illustrated by artists from the Walt Disney Studio. Many more Disney books would be published, including Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Snow White, and other beloved childhood touchstones like Barbie, Sesame Street and Star Wars have been given the Little Golden Book treatment. Today, you can even find Little Golden Books about pop culture icons like Lucille Ball and Dolly Parton!
There may be a vast variety of Little Golden Books today, but the popularity of the classics from the ’40s and ’50s hasn’t waned, and classic titles have been consistently reprinted and remain readily available for a cheap price. In today’s dollars, an original 25-cent Little Golden Book would cost a little over $4, which is close to the current sticker price. While the books were originally published by Simon and Schuster in collaboration with Western Publishing, Random House acquired them in 2001, but fortunately, the look and cost of the books stayed the same.
Little Golden Books value
Like so many other beloved things from our childhood, Little Golden Books have become collector’s items. As with any collectible, scarcity and condition greatly impact the value, which means most Little Golden Books, even vintage ones, won’t be worth much since so many of them were in circulation and the ones that made it to today likely show signs of being well-loved, like stains and torn pages.
Steve Santi, an expert who’s quite literally written the book on appraising Little Golden Books, has a helpful guide on how to tell what edition your book is, based on the letters or numbers on the first or last page of the book. You can see what that looks like in the video below.
Antique Trader reports that first editions of the original 12 Little Golden Books can fetch between $50 and $200. On eBay, packages of many Little Golden Books have sold for up to $535, while a first edition Little Red Riding Hood book in excellent condition from 1948 went for $200. This Little Golden Book, and others that have sold for hundreds, feature intact jigsaw puzzles, so make sure to check if any books you have include these, as they’ll often increase the value. Certain Little Golden Books even featured paper dolls. If you have a book with the paper dolls intact, it could sell for nearly $100.
Got a pile of Little Golden Books sitting in your garage? Confirm which editions they are and see if they come with any charming extras like puzzles or paper dolls, and you may be able to sell them for $100 or more. If none of your individual Little Golden Books are in mint condition, you may still be able to turn over a small profit by selling a collection of multiple books as a lot, but keep in mind that for the most part, the value of these books usually comes more from their nostalgic illustrations and the warm and fuzzy childhood feelings they induce than from the money they bring in.
Here, we take a trip down memory lane with 30 classic Little Golden Books — some of which are valuable as first editions.
Animal Little Golden Books
This is where it all began. Originally published in 1942, The Poky Little Puppy, written by By Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, became the bestselling picture book of all time.
Written by Cathleen Schurr and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, The Shy Little Kitten is a bestselling tale of a kitten who goes on an adventure. Tenggren illustrated many of the most classic Little Golden Books and went on to be a concept artist for Disney.
Written by Kathryn and Byron Jackson and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, this book features an elephant who learns how to appreciate the way he looks after being mocked by a parrot.
This collection of stories, songs and poems was written by Margaret Wise Brown, the author of children’s book classics like Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.
This book, written by Kathryn and Byron Jackson and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, tells the tale of rabbits who teach a hungry lion to eat carrot stew instead of eating them.
Written by Jane Werner Watson and illustrated by Tibor Gergely, this story comes from Kenneth Norris, a whale expert.
Written by Carl Memling and illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, this book offers an educational yet adorably illustrated introduction to different forest animals.
Written by Jeanette Krinsley and illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, this book tells the tale of a cow who finds out the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Written by Virginia Parsons, this book was based on a real-life cat who lived at a California firehouse in the early ’60s.
The beloved children’s author and illustrator Richard Scarry, who was well-known for his Busytown stories, wrote a number of Little Golden Books featuring his signature animals.
Little Golden Books with children
This book features stories like Chicken Little and Little Red Riding Hood, with charming illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren.
A Little Golden… Cookbook? You bet! This book, which featured simple, kid-friendly recipes, was written by Annie North Bedford with illustrations by child actress turned visual artist Corinne Malvern.
Take a trip to the beach in this book by Kathleen N. Daly, who also worked as a Little Golden Books editor.
Written by Kathryn Jackson and illustrated by Corinne Malvern, Nurse Nancy was an innovative feat of interactive marketing, as the book featured samples of Band-Aids and taught children about first aid.
This festive book by Elsa Ruth Nast with illustrations by Reita Worcester features birthday bonuses like party cutouts, games and place cards.
This book about sisters was written by Esther Burns Wilkin and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin, a real-life sister duo.
Written by Janet Frank and illustrated by Eleanor Dart, the book is subtitled What Children Do the Whole Day Through.
You’re never too young for a book! This one was written and illustrated by Garth Williams, who provided art for classics like Charlotte’s Web and the Little House on the Prairie series.
This book, written by May Justus with illustrations by Hilde Hoffmann, is composed entirely in rhyme.
In this book, written by Lois Meyer and illustrated by Ruth Sanderson, a girl realizes her old rag doll is better than a new store-bought one.
Pop culture Little Golden Books
The Disney Bambi was based on the book Bambi, a Life in the Woods, making this a rare book to movie to book adaptation.
The author of this festive Looney Tunes–themed book, Elizabeth Beecher, was also a screenwriter who wrote Westerns.
The popularity of Westerns in the ’50s was such that even The Lone Ranger was adapted into a Little Golden Book.
This book featuring puppeteer Shari Lewis and her iconic creation, Lamb Chop, is one of the rare Little Golden Books to have a photo on its cover.
Decades before Barbie was the subject of a blockbuster movie, she appeared in many Little Golden Books.
Even ice cream brands could be Little Golden Book subjects!
This classic Sesame Street book is notable for its wildly self-referential story, in which Grover tries to keep the reader from turning the pages in increasingly silly ways that make use of creative illustrations.
The iconic public service mascot was the subject of many Little Golden Books, including this one written by Eileen Daly with illustrations by Al Andersen.
Given Dolly Parton’s long history of charity work for the noble cause of childhood literacy, we can’t think of a better real-life subject for a Little Golden Book!
Can’t get enough childhood collectibles? Keep reading!
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