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Vintage Coloring Books

Paper collectibles have always been popular among collectors, weather it be postcards, valentines, trade cards or other ephemera. Coloring books can be added to that category, although collectors of specific characters are already familiar with adding these items to their collection.

Coloring Books have been around for more than a century. As early as the 1880s, the McLoughlin Brothers, a 19th century giant in publishing children's books, produced "The Little Folks Painting Book" illustrated by Kate Greenaway. The firm continued to publish books of this type through the 1920s when it became a part of the Milton Bradley Company.

Vintage Coloring Books

Some of the first advertising premium coloring and painting books appeared in the 1980s including "Hood's Sarsaparilla" painting book in 1984. During the early 1900s, the Stokes Company issued some of the first true coloring books with "Buster's Paint Book" and the "Buster Brown Stocking Paint Box", a cardboard folder containing packets of pictures to color. Both booklets starring Buster Brown, were the work of Yellow Kid comic strip artist Richard Outcault.

Among the major coloring books producers of the 20th century were Saalfield, Whitman, and Merrill Publishing. Saalfield was founded in Akron, OH, in the early 1900s and achieved fame with the popular Billy Whiskers series and later with the immortal Shirley Temple coloring books. Whitman Publishing was founded in Racine, WI in the early 1900s, and today as Western Publishing is one of the one of the country's largest producers of children books. Merrill Publishing came along in the 1930s, but for the next 20 years they provided a major challenge to Whitman in the field of coloring books.

Walt Disney's immortal characters were naturals for the coloring book medium, and that went for Disney's TV heroes as well, like Fess Parker as Daniel Boone. In the early 1940s, Western film heroes burst into the scene with their own books. Gene Autry and Roy Rogers joined fictional heroes like Red Ryder and Hopalong Cassidy. Cowboy heroes continued as coloring book stars into the 1950s, as did a host of comic strip and comic book characters like Captain Marvel, Superman, Blondie, Bugs Bunny and Little Lulu. Adventures in Flash Gordon to publication as a newspaper comic strip, but Flash Gordon appeared first in a 1934 painting book, followed a year later by Whitman's Buck Rogers paint book.

The 1960s could be called the golden age for coloring books. Television provided a wealth of worthy subjects, from sitcom to cartoon characters. Aside from Disney and other comic classics of the 1930s, the coloring books of the 1960s tend to be among the most popular collectible because of the heavy following of character seekers.

Walt Disney Coloring Books

Walt Disney Coloring Books

Condition is very important when grading coloring books. A mint condition coloring book should not be colored in, and the cover and pages should be in prime condition meaning no creases, tears or marks. Character related books especially Disney, western and superheroes tend to be the most highly sought.


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