Did Frank Baum's books appreciate over the last twenty years?

As an active member of the Oz community and a participant in the various Facebook Oz groups, I recently have had a chance to read the online interview of David Greene conducted by a 13-year-old boy. In this interview, Mr. Greene indicated that he sold most of his Oz collection in 1993 through the Swann Galleries auction. I found a copy of this auction catalog from my reference materials, and decided to perform the analysis of Oz books sold through that avenue almost 18 years ago and to draw a comparison to the current values of Oz books.

First, I would like to make a small introduction to Greene brothers. Both of them, David and Douglas, got involved with the International Wizard of Oz Club in 1959 in various capacities. Douglas was in charge of the first official Oz Club reprints of "Animal Fairy Tales", and David was the editor-in-chief of "The Baum Bugle" for six years, co-authored "The Oz scrapbook" with Dick Martin, and contributed to the first reference Oz book "Bibliographia Oziana."

Leafing through the catalog of the Swann auction that took place on December 9, 1993, I noticed the headlines: "The Greene & Greene Collection Of L. Frank Baum & Related Oziana. This is how the auction lots were divided:

• Lot 1 to 115 was dedicated L. Frank Baum.

• Lot 116- 152 was dedicated to W. W. Denslow

• Lot 153 to 191 was dedicated to Ruth Plumly Thompson,

• Lot 192-to 211 was dedicated to John R Neill

• Lot 212 to 232 was dedicated to "Other Royal Historians & Illustrators"

• Lot 233 - 269 was "Oz in Translation"

• Lot 270 - 289 was "Oz on Stage & Screen"

• Lot 290 - 332 was "Mostly Reprints"

• Lot 333-363 was "Ephemera"

In this issue of my bi-monthly newsletter I will try to select and discuss a dozen or so items from each category that grabbed my attention, and I hope that my readers will be interested in my thoughts and conclusions. Selling prices mentioned below include the buyer’s 10% premium.

1. Lot 11 - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This was a second state copy with variant C binding. Based on the catalog description this book has had a minor rubbing and soiling and cracked hinges. I assume that the book was missing some color plates since number of plates was omitted from the description. This book was estimated to sell for $800 to $1200; yet it was sold for $1320. My observation: since the number of color plates was not mentioned, it is hard to determine what exactly this book would be worth today. However, my guess is that it will fetch around $4000.

2. Lot 19 - 1st edition copy of The Navy Alphabet. Based on the description, the book was in “Good+” condition. The estimated value of the book was between $350 and $500. This copy sold for $1100. My observation: Similar book should fetch around $2000 in today’s market, due to the rarity of the title.

3. Lot 21 - The New Wizard of Oz, Second edition, 1st state in very good condition. Estimated value was listed at $800 to $1200. The book was sold for $1320. My observation: in the last few couple of decades collectors realized the rare nature of the 2nd edition 1st state copies. It is for sure that there is less number of copies of this particular edition compared to the first editions’ copies. As a matter of fact, out of more than 10 copies of Wonderful Wizard of Oz listed on Abebooks, there is not a one single copy of 2nd edition 1st state copies available! It is also interesting to note that auctioneer assigned the same estimate to this copy as to the first edition copy of Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Although this copy was sold for the same amount as the first edition that I described earlier, the same book will probably can be purchased today for around $3000 if can be located. (I do have a few copies if someone is interested).

4. Lot 22 - The New Wizard of Oz, 2nd edition, 2nd state, in very good condition. The estimated value determined to be between $150 to $250. The book was sold for $192. My observation: This copy is not as rare as the 1st state, since publisher printed the copies of the state for almost 10 years. Today this title can be located for around $500 in the same condition.

5. Lot 32 - The Woggle-Bug Book. Based on the description, this copy was in good condition. The estimated value was listed between $1000 and $1500. The book was sold for $1210. My observation: Although it is a rare copy, there is not much demand for this title. If it is located, it can be purchased for around $2000 in a similar condition.

6. Lot 68 - Second printing of Ozma of Oz in the dust jacket from 1911 in very good condition. Original copyright of this title was 1907. The estimated value was between $500 to $750 due to the second printing. The book was sold for $4840. My observation: The rarity of original dust jacket by Reilly & Britton was recognized by Oz collectors and it was reflected in the book’s selling price. If a similar book in the dust jacket can be located, it will sell for approximately $7,000. The first printing in dust jacket will fetch around $10,000.

7. Lot 69 - First edition of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz in Reilly & Britton dust jacket. The book was listed as being in “good”; and the dust jacket was missing some chunks. The estimated value of the book was between $1500 and $2500. It was sold for $6,160. My observation: If the similar book in the dust jacket by Reilly & Britton can be located, it will sell for close to $10,000.

8. Lot 79 - First edition/1st state copy of The Road to Oz in “Fine” condition. The estimated value was placed between $500 and $750. The book was sold for $1,045. My observation: it appears that collectors are willing to pay above high estimates for the books that are in Fine condition. The similar book sells for $2500 in today's market.

9. Lot 154 - File copy of Royal Book of Oz in original dust jacket. The estimated value was listed between $400 and $600. The book was sold for $5,720. My observation: It is hard to determine how much collectors will be willing to pay today for the same file copy. My assumption is that it will be at least $10,000 based on the rare nature of the edition. It is important to note that Oz collectors were able to quickly recognize the significance of the edition, such as a file copy or an original manuscript, and were willing to pay almost 10 times the high estimate price because of the uniqueness of this particular edition.

10. Lot 203 - Lucky Bucky in Oz with original dust jacket. In this edition the dust jacket was unique because it contained a letter from Lucky Bucky on the rear flap urging reader to purchase U.S. Savings Bonds for the war effort. The estimated value of the book was between $200 and $300. The book sold for $522. My observation: Since this was title published in 1942, it is not very hard to locate it these days. As a result, this book can be purchased for around $600 in today's market.

11. Lot 361 - The Wonderful Game of OZ by Parker Brothers from 1921 with pewter pieces. The estimated value was between $500 and $750. The item was sold for $990. My observation: Game in the same condition will fetch around $2000 in today's market.


Item #Price Realized Today's PriceGain/Loss
1 1320 4000 203%
2 1100 2000 81%
3 1320 3000 127%
4 192 500 160%
5 1210 2000 65%
6 4840 7000 69%
7 6160 10000 62%
8 1045 2500 139%
9 5720 10000 75%
10 522 600 15%
11 990 2000 102%