Most children's non-fiction is worthless, with some exceptions. Grab anything written by Isaac Asimov. His books are likely to be found in the Science section (Dewey Decimal Number in the 500s), and he's collectible. It doesn't matter how old the books are; in fact, the older, the better! Asimov was very prolific, so it's a rare sale that doesn't have at least one of his books. Old books on space exploration-the ones that claim that "one day man will go to the moon"-have fans among gizmo geeks, who treasure the illustrations.
Another exception in non-fiction: Cookbooks (Dewey Decimal 641). Many juvenile authors had a cookbook tie-in. Look for Beany Malone, Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Cathy Leonard, Boxcar Children, Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh. Many of these cookbooks had short runs toward the end of their series and are hard to find. Any cookbook entitled The So-and-So Cookbook is worth a second look. These books have a dual audience: series fans and cookbook collectors.
The only biographies worth picking up are in the Childhood of Famous Americans series. These are short biographies you may have read yourself. Bindings began with turquoise cloth and then moved to orange or light beige. The focus is on the youth of such notables as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Robert E. Lee. These books are held in ill repute by current librarians; you'll find multiple titles if a librarian has recently decimated that section. The books are easy to spot. Their size is distinctive, and the titles all follow the same pattern-Franklin Roosevelt: Boy of Four Freedoms, Herbert Hoover: Boy Engineer, Pocahontas: Brave Girl. They have been reprinted in paperback for the home-school market, but collectors want the hardbacks. For photos, check out this site.
In History (900s), keep an eye out for Landmark Books. Published by Random House in the 1950s and 1960s, many of these books were written by well-respected historians such as Bruce Cantor and Frank Dobie. Potential customers include home schoolers and collectors. You may also find Landmark Books in Biography (920) and Social Science (300s). I have had especially good luck with the World War II titles. For flashpoints, check out Valerie's Living Books.
Sell the valuable titles individually, and put the others together in lots.
The only other 300s worth bothering are the 398s. It is often possible to strike FOL gold with fairy and folk tales. Watch for books illustrated by collectible artists such as Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, and Arthur Rackham. Libraries tend to hold on to these and weed them out only when space is a premium, so you may find some very old books in this section. Don't let shabby exteriors deter you. Inside you'll often find stunning illustrations printed on shiny paper.
Also in the 398s are the holiday books, another area worth mining. Tasha Tudor wrote and illustrated a book for almost every seasonal celebration. Not all of her books have been reprinted, and she has an avid following. She also wrote a couple of cookbooks.
You can also find Tudor's books in Religion (200s). Also worth a look in both 398 and the 200s are books by the author-illustrator duo Edgar and Ingri D'Aularie. They won a Caldecott award for their biography on Abraham Lincoln, but pass on that one because it's a common book. Their other biographies, however, are worth snatching up. Keep an eye out for their collections of fairy tales, folk tales, myths and legends. These are highly prized oversize books. The D'Aularie style is very distinctive.
You'll find stacks of worthless series books in the 300s and the 900s. These books quickly become obsolete nowadays and are being weeded out at a rapid clip. Books on individual countries, states and careers are a dime a dozen.
The 400s (Language) also aren't worth bothering with, except for books by Fred Gwynne Better known as Herman Munster from the TV show, he had a successful second career as an author-illustrator of children's books. He specialized in idioms, so librarians cataloged his books in the 400s. However, his titles look like picture books, so keep an eye out for them in that section also. His books appeal to both his TV fans and collectors of kiddie lit. Titles to look for include Chocolate Moose for Dinner and The King Who Rained.
I normally bypass the 700s (the Arts) entirely, other than horse books written by Marguerite Henry or illustrated by Sam Savitt. One other title worth grabbing is Noel Streatfeild's First Book of the Ballet. Ballet books illustrated with photographs of famous ballet stars can do well, but skip any books by Jill Kerment such as A Very Young Dancer or A Very Young Gymnast. Also resist any sports or craft books.
There are some poetry books of interest in the 800s. Pick up books illustrated by Tasha Tudor or other classic and collectible artists. Mother Goose books will be either in the 800s or 398. This genre has many collectible illustrators, such as Jessie Wilcox Smith and Marguerite D'Angeli.
I will leave for another time two other gold fields to explore in children's books: easy and fiction. Meanwhile, at your next library sale make your way though the elementary school teachers, the home-schooling moms, and the kids wrestling under the tables and check out the children's selection. You'll be glad you did!
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