Saturday 7 July 2012

The Value of Vintage Penguin Books

"Wow!" people say, "Those books must be worth a fortune !"  They may be worth a fortune but more for me providing a fortune to other people as I snap them up everywhere I go.

I think about my Penguin book collection quite a bit. I can't really help it because it is in my face almost constantly.  To me this collection is invaluable.  But not many of them are monetarily valuable.  Yes, there are a few Penguins that are worth more than others.  I'm not telling you which ones because I am still looking for them and besides that is not the purpose of a Penguin collection.
However they are seldom the ones you think they may be.  Penguin, No 1, Ariel by Andre Maurois is not one of them. I tend to find them quite often.

These are some of my "rescued Penguins".
The whole list is on Library Thing and will soon have a link on this blog.

Books are more valuable the more unattainable they are. It is hard to know when I may or may not find an old Penguin book. I seldom find the ones I am looking for. I am sure when I do finally find them I will have to pay more.  Normally I don't spend more than $3.00 or $4.00 per book. Often I get them for 20 cents, 50 cents or $1.00.

Lately I have been working in a huge warehouse that belongs to the estate of a deceased book seller I knew. If I help sort the myriad of books for the closing out book sales I can set aside the Penguins and put an offer on them. It is a good situation but won't last much longer.

P-U-L-P      A horrible word. Wonder who saved this one.
Thank you whoever you are.
I think what bothers me the most about Penguin books are book sellers asking outrageous prices for them especially in on-line auctions. Currently the book, The Black Girl in Search of God by Bernard Shaw is listed for $34.70 + $8.60 postage within Australia on eBay. I have seen numerous copies of this in the Tip shop down the road. Also the $8.60 postage should be $3.00 for the weight of the book (if that). A complete scam.

Vintage Penguin books are collectable because people love reading them. They love their history. With publication having begun in 1935 and ending in approximately 1970 a voracious reader could follow quite a chronological social history of not only the UK but of the world.

Some people only collect the cerise Travel and Adventure ones or the Green ones favouring Crime stories.

There are also all the other series of Penguin books from this time. The Puffins for children, the non fiction Pelicans, music scores, film magazines and many more too numerous to mention here.
Why can't the book seller just give these to a nursing home
instead of scribbling all over it like this?

The illustrations of some of the Penguin book covers especially for people who collect specific illustrators are exciting for many.

Hunting down the Penguins and ticking off the numbers on their spines are fun for more obsessive people such as myself. Love to see those chronological numbers in order on my shelves.

However there is a silent war happening against Penguin books.  For example there are two major charity services in Hobart. One is Vinnies (St Vincent de Paul) and the other the Salvos (Salvation Army).  I have never in my life found a single Penguin book in a Salvos shop. I find them all the time in Vinnie's. Obviously Salvos are not saving the Penguin books that come in. They receive so many donations that are not suitable for anyone they apparently have included old paperback books amongst this lot.

Someone got a bargain here.
The main problem is they are paperbacks.  Most of these old books are not in mint condition. I almost throw a party if I find one with a dust jacket still intact.

Paperbacks appear to equate with rubbish to many. Keep the hard covered books but an old paperback with an orange cover, no picture might as well be first on the pile.

Second hand booksellers toss them when they can't get $12.00 or $15.00 for them. I wonder if they notice though how they sell when the price is marked down to $3.00.  The whole premise of Allen Lane establishing the Penguin publishing company in 1935 was to provide a good read for a very affordable price.

The thought of going through life with extinct Penguins makes me quite sad.  My goal is to get as complete of a set of Penguins that I am able to in order to have a full collection of them.  I will never reach this goal and I may have a good 20 years more to collect these if I'm lucky.  But I hope they go somewhere to someone who will love the romance, the detectives, the war heroes , the explorers, the comediennes and the animals as much as I do. I visit all the continents through these  stories. I meet incredibly hilarious people or excruciating bores. Men, women, children. The young through to the elderly. The morally upright to an old lady crook stuffing diamonds in loaves of bread as part of her smuggling ring she belongs to.

Where do you think the next stop is for this book
if it does not sell?
Penguins are not predictable.  They were written by brilliant, creative authors. Some more well known than others. Some were one hit wonders and then disappeared. Others like Hemingway, Graham Greene or John Steinbeck will never be forgotten. 

If you're so inclined wandering around in Op shops and you see a Penguin book in the "Last Hope for Life" bin as I like to call it buy it. Give it a home. Make up a little collection. Put them some place safe.
I know nothing is forever but I would love to keep them alive and maybe thriving for yet another century.

 Save a Penguin. If not for yourself then give it to someone as a gift. They are a wonderful piece of literary history within this world of modern, pop culture and e Books ....... and "No" you won't get rich with them but they will bring lots of fun to your reading life.


  1. Lovely post Pam - you are so enthusiastic.Allen Lane's original concept was so good, and it is sad that so many Penguins are discarded, and that so many of the authors and titles are now forgotten.

  2. Thank you for your encouraging comment.Penguins are just such fun little books, I don't know why everyone doesn't collect some part of the series.

  3. What a wonderful post. Its the ephemera that eventually becomes precious. Give it time.

  4. We have a book shop here in Colchester which stocks a lot of old Penguins. do send me a list off blog and I will keep an eye out for yuo!

  5. Thanks Elaine, you realise if you start looking for certain ones it will take over your life!!! Hope you survive Wimbledon this weekend. We worry about doubt you have a strong heart!

  6. Your bookshelves in the first picture look fantastic Pam


    1. Thank you Frances,I probably have another two bookshelves worth of books, a third one on right of those two that is almost full and several boxes of extra ones. Need to find homes for some of those.

  7. I'm buying new bookshelves in the next week or so and I'm looking forward to being able to see my pretty orange Penguins gathered together on a shelf at last. I ran out of space right about, erm, a month after we bough the last bookcase! I've only started picking up Penguins in the last two years but it started when I found a box of them in a bookshop where they were being left to gather dirt (and probably mould if it got any damper in the shop!) and I just didn't want to leave them all there. I was quite broke at the time but it definitely felt good to rescue a couple of the poor orange booklings that day. :)

    1. Well done!! I hope you post up photos of your new bookshelves. Funny how bookshelves tend to just pop up when you least expect it. So much fun!

  8. I love your collection! I was searching for vintage Penquin books and this post came up in the goole search. I read a book as a young teen and loved it but cannot remember what the title is. I wonder if you might be able to help me?

  9. Am so delighted to have discovered your blog! I've thought about collecting Penguins for a while, as I had a handful of them, but have now really got into it and am planning on making it a wonderful lifelong quest. I shall have to see whether it suddenly gets harder to find them over the years...

    The PULP stamp on that cover makes me feel very sad!


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