Nancy Drew Mystery Stories
Values and Collecting Tips

Buying and selling Nancy Drew books is a big business on eBay.  New buyers need to understand that many sellers are uninformed about the books that they have up for sale and often make incorrect statements.  Even worse, many informed sellers grossly overstate the value and scarcity of the books that are up for sale.  Unfortunately, this can result in buyers paying far too much for commonplace books.  It is because the prices of certain common Nancy Drew books are getting out of control that I felt that this page needed to be created.

Note:  The word RARE is grossly overused on ebay and is usually capitalized, so I have decided to capitalize the word on this page as a salute to those sellers who are so fond of using it.

The definition of RARE that I use states that RARE books are ones that show up for sale around once every 5 to 10 years.  A book is not RARE when it is up for sale on eBay all the time!  Another definition of RARE states that a RARE book is one that a dealer will see only once in his or her entire career.

I have discussed the definition of RARE as well as several related eBay topics at length in my blog.  I am trying to educate buyers on making better decisions.

eBay Tips

If a person has just decided to collect Nancy Drew books and has no idea which books are more collectible and how much the books are worth, then that person needs to spend at least a couple of weeks viewing auctions and reading all available information on different websites.  The eBay search page is a buyer's best friend.  Do a completed item search for Nancy Drew sorted by highest price first in order to see what the prices have been for the collectible books.  This will give the buyer an idea of how much to pay.

During early 2008, eBay changed the default search option on the site to Best Match.  Best Match sorts the auctions by keywords that it considers to have a higher value.  Best Match is not the best match for Nancy Drew collectors!  The human brain is the best discriminator of collectible books.

Another problem with Best Match is that it uses the seller's Detailed Seller Ratings (the stars seen at the top of the feedback profile) and whether the seller is an eBay Power Seller in order to determine the ranking of the item.  This means that desirable Nancy Drew books may not ever get seen near the top of the search.

I recommend that buyers change their default search to items ending soonest so that they get to see all of the Nancy Drew books up for sale presented in a nondiscriminatory fashion.


RARE and Not-So-RARE Nancy Drew Books

There are very few Nancy Drew books that actually are RARE.

1930-1932 Blank Endpapers Editions

These books are highly scarce and would come closest to being RARE of any Nancy Drew books.  Without the jackets, they are scarce, and with the jackets, they are very scarce.  The first printing dust jackets for the first three books—the jackets that list only to Bungalow Mystery on the front flap—are indeed RARE and warrant the use of the word.
The later printings with blank endpapers and dust jackets are very scarce but not necessarily RARE.  However, any blank endpapers edition is scarce enough that it would be acceptable to refer to it as RARE.

1933-1961 Editions

The vast majority of these books are not RARE.  There are some books that are harder to find than others, but all of them can be found without a great deal of trouble.  It is harder to find the books from the 1930s than it is to find the ones from the 1950s, but they still can be found fairly easily.

Some books are much more scarce in dust jacket, such as The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, because it went through fewer printings before the books switched to the picture cover format.  Even so, it is not RARE.


The 3rd art dust jacket for The Mystery at Lilac Inn and the 2nd art dust jacket for The Message in the Hollow Oak are often described as RARE but are just scarce.  The 3rd art Lilac Inn dust jacket went through two printings, but the 2nd art Hollow Oak dust jacket went through just one printing, so it is the harder to find of the two.

Another book often mentioned as RARE is Nancy's Mysterious Letter in the blue tweed binding with the title printed on the book as The Nancy's Mysterious Letter.  It is scarce, but not RARE.  I recently saw a listing in which the seller stated that it was a mistake that was caught quickly, so only a few books survived with the mistake.  This is not true.  There are five different print runs of Nancy's Mysterious letter with the mistake from 1952, 1953, 1954, 1956, and 1957.  This means that there should be thousands of these books.  It certainly is not a mistake that was "caught quickly."  It is more like a recurring oddity.

In 1950, the dust jacket artwork was changed for #1-9 and #11.  #2, 5, 8, and 11 were printed with the wrong numbers on the spine.  In this case, the mistakes were caught quickly, and the numbers were hole-punched from the dust jackets.  The hole-punched dust jackets are quite scarce but not RARE. 

It is a different matter for the jackets with the intact wrong numbers.  Farah's Guide gives equal value to all four dust jackets with the wrong numbers, but I have noticed that several examples of #2 with the incorrect #8 on the spine have surfaced.  I can recall perhaps one example of #5 with the incorrect #11 on the spine.  I may possibly have seen one example of #8 with the incorrect #2 on the spine, but I do not believe I have ever seen an example of #11 with the incorrect #5 on the spine.  This means that the incorrectly-numbered volume 2 is quite scarce but findable while the other three are indeed RARE.

Cameo Editions

The Cameo Editions are the book club editions that feature artwork by Polly Bolian.  The books have color frontispieces that match the front cover illustration.  These books are usually described as RARE on eBay.  Some of the jackets are quite scarce, but the bare books are not that difficult to find.

The inexpensive auctions almost always sell to one of several people who then resell the books at high prices, often adding a reproduction dust jacket when the book has none.  Sometimes the books with reproduction dust jackets sell for very high prices, even higher than Cameo Editions with original dust jackets.  This is odd, since the reproduction dust jackets only add a few dollars to the value.  I always wonder why the buyers who need the books do not purchase the lower-priced listings but instead buy a high-priced book that is described as RARE.

1960s - Present Editions

These books are quite plentiful, so they are not RARE.  There are, of course, some printings that are harder to find than others but cannot be considered RARE.

The very first picture cover printing of The Clue in the Diary has the 1932 text.  Sellers always call it RARE, but it is just scarce.  It is possible to find it at a reasonable price.

Sellers seem to always refer to the "man with pipe" artwork of The Clue of the Broken Locket as RARE, but there are usually always a couple of them on eBay at any given time.  They are not even that scarce—at least not with the original 1934 text.  What is scarce and dare I say RARE is the "man with pipe" artwork of Broken Locket with the 1965 text.  It is very hard to find and is seldom on eBay—no more than once per year if even that. 

The 1960s yellow spine book club editions with the blank back covers are also supposedly RARE but they are just scarce.  They can be found at reasonable prices.

Sellers also like to refer to The Thirteenth Pearl as RARE when it is found in the matte edition, but I see it for sale all the time.  It isn't worth paying $40-$50 for it.  I have seen quite a few copies of it sell for $5-$10 to people who are buying for the purpose of resale.

Wanderer Hardcover Editions

#57-78 were published by Wanderer in hardcover with dust jacket.  Most of the books were sold to libraries, so it is very hard to find a Wanderer hardcover book that is not a library discard. 

These books are almost always described as RARE, but #78 is the only book that is RARE.  I have been trying to purchase #78 for 10 years and still haven't found one that is in acceptable condition and within my price range.  #76-77 are very scarce, and #61-75 are scarce.  I have now had so many duplicate copies of #57-60 pass through my hands that I no longer consider them to be that hard to find.

The Applewood Editions

These books went out of print in late 2006, and buyers have freaked thinking that they will never surface again.  Sellers have manipulated the buyers into thinking that the books are RARE and valuable.  They are recent reprints and nothing more. 

I will concede that #9-18 are scarce.  However, they can be found for reasonable prices.  The people who are reselling them on eBay are buying them on eBay at lower prices.  With a little patience, buyers can get them for lower prices.

Recently, sellers have stated that #20 and #21 are RARE and valuable.  Both volumes are still available from Amazon.com for $12.21 as of August 2008.  The supply will run out eventually, but until it does, there is no reason to pay inflated prices for these two volumes.  There were several instances during the summer of 2008 in which #20 and #21 sold for around $100.00 to people who did not realize that the books were still in stock.

Library Bindings

All library bindings are scarce, and some of them, such as the ones I call the Nancy Drew 1940s Style Library Binding, are RARE.  However, very few people want them.  It is only me and a few other collectors who want them, so the prices are usually low.  I have found when selling duplicates that it doesn't matter what I say about them.  Since I refuse to use the word RARE, I have tried uncommon, scarce, neat, and unusual but cannot sell the library bindings for more than a few dollars each.  Sometimes I have to group a large quantity of them together and sell at a low price.  This is one case when the buyers are not allowing themselves to be persuaded to purchase something based on rarity.  The lesson to be learned from the library editions is that just because something is RARE does not mean that anybody wants it.

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