Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nancy Drew Collecting Question

I recently purchased three PC Nancy Drew first printings. I am attempting to buy all later PCs as firsts, and think, honestly, that now is the time to grab them up. Prices seem to be low due to the economy, and, though I doubt PCs will ever be as collectible as the older Drew formats, first printings are always more desirable regardless.

As you can see, I purchased #54 The Strange Message in the Parchment, #55 Mystery of Crocodile Island, and #56 The Thirteenth Pearl. All seem to have the proper points according to my Farah's Guide to support their printing status. They are in great shape, described well by the seller, and I am pleased with my purchase.

I am a little confused, however by the cataloging number that Grosset and Dunlap used for my #56. If you look at the next photo, here are my #54 and #55 spines:

Notice that, like all other spines, the cataloging number is a four digit number with the volume number at the end. Now check out the cataloging number for my #56:

Why does that number have a dash and an additional number? I have looked at my Farah's Guide, but see no explanation. Anyone know if this is a variant? A second printing perhaps? I don't think so, because it seems to have all the points for a 1979B-1 printing, including the mention of "The Triple Hoax", NOT in italics. Was Grosset and Dunlap getting ready to change their cataloging? If anyone knows the answer, feel free to respond.
I am very pleased with my purchase, just a tad confused!


  1. I had never really paid attention to the number. I checked and every single Thirteenth Pearl that I have in my possession has the number with the dash on the lower spine. That would include three copies in my collection (a 1st, a 2nd, and a later copy), and the several extras that I have which are 1st or 2nd printings.

    I'd have to go look at all of my PCs to see if any others are that way, but your theory about changing the cataloging is most likely the correct one. I notice that all of my #55s do not have the dash, so it is probably just #56 and all examples of #56.

    What this is like is some of the dust-jacketed Nancy Drew editions that have certain spine designs. For instance, all examples of Old Album, Blackwood Hall, and Leaning Chimney have a yellow spine symbol while no other titles do. Tolling Bell has a wrap DJ and blue spine symbol, but no other wrap DJs have a blue spine symbol. Those years were ones in which Grosset and Dunlap transitioned the style of the spine symbol until they finally settled on the style. Those titles never changed in design even after the final design appeared on other titles. Thirteenth Pearl probably represented a transitional phase, but since there was never another title, we never got to see any additional titles with the same style catalog number.

  2. Nice to know that the dash appears on other copies as well- It is always interesting to look at other copies to compare differences!

  3. Wow, I never noticed that - mine has a dash too! Wonder why "-4" and not "-1"?

  4. Mine also have the -4 on all printings I have of it. None of my other picture covers have this.


  5. The numbers at the base of the spine are the book number portion of the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for the title in trade binding.

    A traditional 10-digit ISBN has four groupings of numbers to uniquely identify a book. (Today it is becoming more common to see 13-digit ISBNs which conform to the UPC barcodes for books).

    The first digit is a language group.

    The next group of 2-7 digits identifies the publisher. In the US these publisher IDs are distributed by R. R. Bowker, the publisher of Books in Print.

    After this is another group of 1-6 digits to let the publisher identify the book internally. Different formats (PB vs HB or trade vs library) would usually get different numbers.

    Finally a single digit at the end is used for a checksum. This is a base-11 value (0-9, X) that is calculated using an algorithm from the other digits in the number.

    The ISBNs of the era we're talking about are 10 digits (except the 1966 SBN which did not have a language group and are only 9 digits). That means that the number of digits for the publisher and book ID can only be 8 since one digit each are taken up by the language group and checksum.

    How many digits are present in the publisher ID depends on the number of books the publisher expects to issue. A really big publisher might have as few as 2 digits for the publisher id (e.g. Macmillan 02). A tiny publisher might plan to issue 10 or fewer books so they get a 7-digit publisher ID and only one digit for their book number.

    Hence, if the dashes are still present, you can tell something about the size of the publisher by the number of digits in their book ID portion of their ISBN.

    In the example of the Thirteenth Pearl, the ISBN is: 0-448-09556-4.

    As you can see, they left off the 0 in their book number but added the -4 from the checksum.

    James Keeline