Whitman has produced a wide variety of materials in its corporate life. Most people know the name from jigsaw puzzles, colouring books and their juvenile books. Whitman has been producing juvenile books in various formats for many decades. One feature of most Whitman books is that being mass produced books they are fairly common but also usually found in poor shape. No one at Whitman thought of these books as being collectible but just being read and abused by the kids reading them and soon to be discarded. This makes collecting Whitman books an interesting hobby since they can be difficult to find in good shape.
I don't know exactly when I started to collect this series. It was a series I knew from my youth although the only book I know for sure I owned when I was younger was Star Trek: Mission to Horatius. (Which has been re-issued by another company and is back in book stores - at a much greater retail price.) I also wanted to pick up some books on topics of interest to me such as the Sherlock Holmes books.
Then I decided that I would collect the Whitman TV books. It was just a general interest since most of the television shows in the series were also ones that I watched as a kid. At first I was fairly religious in my collection and the book had to have the "TV" symbol on the book. Soon I realized that there were associated books that did not have the TV symbol but should be included. For example the last Roy Rogers books are classified as TV books but the earlier ones were not.
So I started to collect what books I was interested in and started to make a list of what books I had seen. Then I went into a bookstore and saw Whitman Juvenile Books: Reference and Value Guide by David and Virginia Brown (1997 Collector Books).
I have mixed feelings about this book. I remember when I first saw it, I thought "Great! A Guide to help me in my collection." I opened the book and the first page that I saw had Green Hornet, Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel and Hawaii Five-O on them. Even better! Lots of TV books were included.
My next thought was, "Where is the other Gunsmoke book?" Even with my limited knowledge of Whitman books I quickly noticed other gaps such as only one of the Bonanza and Man from Uncle books and only 4 of the Brains Benton series. If I could notice these omissions I wondered how many other books with which I was not familar could be missing. The quality of the images was lacking too.
So I did not buy it then. About 6 months later I saw it again and in a moment of weakness, I did buy it. Overall I am glad I did for it had a positive impact on my collecting. It illustrates some books I don't have and provided some information I did not know. There are times when it is pleasant to just scan it and look at books that I've never seen. It also helped me appreciate the condition of the books I wanted in my collection.
However the book does have its problems and those are typical of too many collector books.
It is the latter point that still gives me the most concern for the overall quality of the book and makes me question if the same kind of quality went into its research. If for example, a book such as Trixie Belden and the Red Trailer Mystery is only worth the $5 mint value assigned to it (and I think that is a fair value) then why could they not find a book in even fair condition? The book illustrated has an excessively damaged spine and tape holding it together. If this book is truely worth $5 mint then the copy of the book photographed is worth about 25 cents.
This is also reflected in the cover photo on the book. This is the photo that lures you into the book. The "first impression". And yet there on the cover is a damaged Bat Masterson book and barely acceptable Five Little Peppers book. Oddly enough the cover also shows a version of Heidi that is not illustrated in the text and the bottom book, mostly hidden, appears to be Red Ryder and the Secret of the Lucky Mine but with a dust cover - a dust cover not illustrated in the text.
So overall I would only recommend the book if you have no other guide to use or you want a "pretty" picture book to give visitors an overview of your hobby. It is easy to look at and has lots of "I used to have that" value.
But this Guide did help me decide to collect all the Juvenile Whitman books and I began my list in earnest. However after a year or two I realized there were just so many books and variations that I would likely never complete it and certainly not without substantial financial cost. I guess the other problem is that I love to read and yet here I was collecting books that I did not have any plans to read. That seemed very contradictory to me.
So I decided to go back to my original goal of just collecting the TV related books. I still had no plans to read them but I had most of them already and I really wanted them just for their attractive covers.
So my main collection is now just the TV books plus a few others of general interest to me. So while I'll update this list as I go along - it is really only valid based on what I have seen up to January 2001.
For more information go to the following pages on my site:
Whitman Juvenile Book List. I did do up a list of many hundreds of Whitman books including many variations in the cover. This list was valid up to April 2001 but I don't know if I'll update it after that. If I do, I'll note the date at the start of that page.
Whitman TV Books. This is a list of all the TV books that I know exist plus notation of the ones that I have in my collection.