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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; first edition, first state; illustrated by W.W. Denslow with 24-tipped in color plates; Chicago: Geo. M. Hill, 1900; 261 pages; $10,350. Photo courtesy of Pacific Book Auction
He was sitting on a hat rack in the hall of his home telling his kids a fairy tale. All of a sudden another story popped into his head and seemed to take over. He shooed the children away and grabbed a piece of paper and feverishly started to write the story down.

The fairy tale poured out of him like some long, lost legend rising up from the depths, demanding to be told. In time, it turned into a manuscript about a little girl named Dorothy who lived in Kansas. One day a tornado came and blew her away to a magical land of unusual creatures and adventures.

L. Frank Baum told different stories about how he came up with the idea for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Which story is really accurate doesn’t seem as important now as that fact that he created this remarkable fantasy quest.

It was a quest without the heavy moralizing common in other children’s stories of the era. It was a quest where smoke, machines and a little imagination made for great storytelling. In the end Baum wrote 14 Oz Books in two series, the Oz Series and the Little Wizard Stories.

He planned to call the book The Emerald City but a superstition in the publishing world about any book with the name of a jewel in it failing, changed his mind. His Wonderful Wizard of Oz hit bookstores in September 1900 priced at $1.50 and became the best selling children’s book of the year.

“I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp which, when caught, is not worth the possession,” Baum said. “But to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing…I hope my book will succeed in that way.”

Succeed it did. The movie version of The Wizard of Oz also has a celestial grip on childhood reminiscences, much more so than other movies seem to. It’s a film where children learn about the shortcomings of even the most well-meaning adults. A little girl ends up lost and learns to count on herself to find the way back home, a journey we all take sooner or later.

Children’s book publishing is one of the strongest areas in publishing right now and the original Oz books are eagerly sought by collectors. The one thing all books share is they had a first edition.

What makes a first edition valuable is that the book or its author had a significant impact on the marketplace. The scarcer that first edition is, the more desirable and the more expensive it is. First runs typically have smaller print runs than later books and this adds to the scarcity. Different states of an edition first state, second state etc., refer to when corrections were made during the manufacturing process.
On July 10, Pacific Book Auction Galleries, San Francisco, offered a selection of L. Frank Baum and Oziana books in its Children’s and Illustrated book auction. Here are some current values.


The New Wizard of Oz; second edition, second state, illustrated by W.W. Denslow with 16 color plates; Chicago: Bobbs-Merrill, 1903; 259 pages; $862.

The Tin Woodman of Oz; first edition, first state; numerous black and white drawings by John R. Neill and 12 color plates; Chicago: Reilly & Britton; 1918; 287 pages; $920.

The Wizard of Oz; Waddle Book; first edition, second state; illustrated by W.W. Denslow with eight color plates; New York: Blue Ribbon Books, circa 1934; 211 pages; $3,450.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; first edition, first state; illustrated by W.W. Denslow with 24-tipped in color plates; Chicago: Geo. M. Hill, 1900; 261 pages; $10,350.

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