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How to Make Money Selling Old Ladybird Books
The Ladybird book celebrated its centenary in 2015. Since then, the wave of nostalgia has been pushing the value of these childhood favourites. Many people in their 50’s and 60’s enjoyed reading The Three Little Pigs, The Elves and The Shoemaker and more. They have read the same Ladybird books to their own children and grandchildren before bedtime.
Many of the popular Ladybird books were printed in their millions. As such, surviving books are not worth more than a fiver. But if you find a first edition or rare copy, it is worth hundreds of pounds. The appeal for rare Ladybird books has grown to the point where collectable editions change hands for more than £300 a copy. Not bad for books that sold for pennies.
Want to know how to make money selling your old Ladybird books? Keep reading!
Which Ladybird Books are valuable?
If you want to make money selling rare Ladybird books, you’ve to know what collectors and booksellers are looking for. Life for the Ladybird book started in 1915 when Wills and Hepworth began publishing healthy literature for children. This was after a fall in demand for its car brochures.
The first books published under the Ladybird label were Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and Tiny Tots Travels. These books now command a price of £100. It was not until the 1940s when the publisher adopted the popular pocket-sized format.
Wills and Hepworth choose this format because the paper was short in supply. They realised they could make a 56-page book from a single sheet of 40 by 30 inches of paper. This made the books affordable at two shillings and sixpence.
The first pocket-sized book published under the Ladybird label was Bunnikin’s Picnic Party in 1940. Angusine Jeanne Macgregor wrote and illustrated the book. This was also the first Ladybird book to receive the code – Series 401. It came with dust jackets and illustrations pasted onto the cover. This edition can fetch more than £50.
The price of Ladybird books depends on three factors:
- How rare the book is
- The books condition
- The series they are from
For example, Series 401 includes classics such as Bunnikin’s Picnic Party and Piggy Plays. The initial two digits – 40 – represent the year the Ladybird book got published, while the last number is the book’s place in the original series of eight.
If you get a Series 417 book such as the early six-book set of Adventures of Wonk, you will surely make a lot of money. This collection is sought after by collectors of vintage Ladybird books. These books feature stories about a koala bear. Illustrated by Joan Kiddel Monroe, the collection sells for as much as £260 to £280 on eBay.
Another book that did not sell back then is The Impatient Horse. Since there are fewer reprints today, the surviving books are rare and valuable. First editions in pristine condition that were changing hands for £5 a copy can go for £300. High Tide, the last book in Series 401 is also considered difficult to find.
Other classics that will always fly off the shelves include:
- Cinderella Series 606d – £200+
- 1a Play with Us – £30+
- What to Look For in Winter Series 536 – £25+
So, if your children have their nose in one of these classic Ladybird books, wrest it out of their hands and keep it safe.
How Can You Tell if a Ladybird Book Is a First Edition?
According to children’s book specialists, it’s tricky to know if you have a Ladybird first edition or not. To know if it’s a first edition, check the publication date.
Another clue is the Ladybird logo. In 1961, the logo changed from an open to a closed winged ladybird. In 1965, the publisher abandoned the dust jacket in favour of the matt board cover.
Each Ladybird book has a tally number that corresponds to a different year. The tally chart also informs you how many books they published under the Ladybird label at the time. If your Ladybird book has a tally number, check below to know the print year.
- 1963 – 100
- 1965 – 120, 135, 140
- 1966 – 150, 160, 170
- 1967 – 190, 200
- 1968 – 210, 220, 225
- 1969 – 230, 240, 250, 260
- 1970 – 270, 280
- 1971 – 290
- 1972 – 300
- 1973 – 320, 33, 340
- 1974 – 350, 360, 370
Remember, the older the book, the more money it will fetch.
Where to Find Vintage Ladybird Books
You can find them at car boot sales, charity shops and jumble sales, but opportunities are getting rarer. A decade ago, you could get a whole box of Ladybird books for as little as 5p each in charity shops and £1 at car boot sales. Thanks to their popularity, the prices shot up over the past five years.
People became aware of what they can get for their old Ladybird books. As such, it is becoming harder to find great bargains. Five years ago, the much-loved title, Cinderella, was changing hands for £5 a copy. Now, expect to get a copy for £250, especially if it’s one of those rare copies with a dust jacket. To find local car boot sales, head to Carboot Junction.
You can also trawl online sites such as eBay UK, Gumtree and Preloved.co.uk. Also worth a look are specialist bookshops as they don’t know much about Ladybird books. As such, it’s possible to get first editions at cut-price prices.
Finding first editions is tricky as the earlier books do not have the obvious markings. For example, only later editions from the 1970s onwards stated “First Edition” on the copyright page of the Ladybird books. Earlier books from 1940 to 1965 are harder to identify. To know if you found a Ladybird first edition, visit The Wee Web. Type the title of the book in question in the search form.
When purchasing Ladybird books at car boot sales or online, the condition of the dust jacket and book is critical. If the book and dustjacket are “As New,” the more money it will fetch. Interested in making money selling first edition Ladybird books? You need to familiarize yourself with the basic descriptive terms.
These terms are usually used by booksellers and collectors to describe the condition of a book. To learn more about the jargon collectors and booksellers use, check out the Abe Books handy guide.
How to Care For Your Vintage Books
Once you acquire your vintage Ladybird books, you need to care for them. Here is how.
Do not shove your first edition Ladybird books too tightly on the shelves. The pressure on the spine will damage the old books as you try to pull them out. If the books are more than 3 inches or wide, store them flat. But not in stacks of more than three. You can choose to store them upright on a shelf with books about the same size as the Ladybird books. This prevents warping.
When pulling books off the shelves, do not pull by the top of the spine. Reach back and pull the books by the pages. You can also pull them with your fingers on either side of the spine.
Wrap the vintage Ladybird books in acid-free UV resistant plastic book covers. This will protect the dust jacket from the oils on your hands. It will also protect the cover from overhandling and dirt. It is crucial to keep the books away from heat sources like air vents. Dry heat makes book glue brittle.
You also need to keep the books away from potential water sources like leaky old windows, pipes and A/C units. Condensation can lead to mould growth on paper. The National Library of Scotland recommends the ideal temperature for book storage is 60 to 66 degrees F. The ideal humidity is 45% to 60%.
Insects and Rodents…
Check the surroundings for signs of rodents and insects. Avoid using boxes previously used for food storage. The leftovers and odours attract rodents and other pests. Instead, use plastic totes or small boxes which are moisture-proof.
Store your vintage Ladybird books out of direct sunlight. The Sun will permanently fade the covers and dust jackets. This will severely devalue your old books. If your shelves are in sunlight, wrap your vintage books in a UV resistant book cover. This is available online and in craft stores.
Where to Sell Your Vintage Ladybird Books
When ready to sell your rare Ladybird books, you can choose to list them on eBay or Gumtree. Alternatively, look for local specialised dealers. A quick search on Google will bring names of book dealers in your area.
Before selling, make sure the book is not damaged. If there are signs of wear and tear, take it to a professional restorer or bookbinder. Do not mend the old book yourself. Someone at your local bookshop dealing in antiquarian books can help restore it.
Before listing your vintage Ladybird books for sale online, write a clear description. In your description, highlight the flaws and damage. Don’t forget to take several high-quality photos. Remember, do not send the goods before receiving payment.