Coloring books that in the past could be purchased for a pittance in five-and-dime stores have caught the eye and captured the heart of collectors who shell out sizable sums for certain examples.
Although there is little collector interest in examples that picture things of a general nature -- such as flowers, birds, country scenes or children -- it's a whole different picture for books that depict popular story books, comic book and Disney characters, or radio, TV, movie and western stars. Also add presidents and royalty, plus trains, planes and other modes of transportation.
A terrific new book citing coloring book histories, descriptions, copyright dates and background information on whichever subject, character or personality they represent, and their current values is "Collectible Coloring Books" by Dian Zillner. It is available for $26.95 postpaid from Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1469 Morstein Road, West Chester, Pa. 19380; phone (215) 696-1001.
According to the book, values for coloring books may vary from one section of the country to another and from dealer to dealer, and therefore the coloring book prices found listed at the back of the book should be regarded as estimates.
The book also explains that a coloring book in mint condition with no wear or colored pages may be worth twice as much as one in used or colored condition, even if the coloring is perfectly done within the lines.
Desirable coloring and paper doll cutout combination books picturing such stars as Esther Williams, Loretta Young or Kim Novak can command more than $100 each if in mint condition, or about $50 if they've been used but are still decent. On the other hand, such combination books picturing Janet Leigh or Jane Russell can be worth $75 and up if mint, or between $35 and $40 if used.
Ms. Zillner's book also pictures and prices old paint books such as a "Gone With the Wind" example published by the Merrill Publishing Co. in 1940 that's worth $40 to $100 depending on condition. Another example is "Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy Paint Book," published by Whitman and copyrighted in 1938, worth $35 to $65, whereas a "Walt Disney's Bambi Paint Book" with a 1941-'42 copyright date is valued at $50 to $100 plus.
Still another category is advertising coloring books made to promote food, products, events and companies. Promo samples can range from $5 to $10 for a 1963 "Peter Pan" book advertising Peter Pan Peanut Butter to $10 to $15 for a 1967 Chiquita
Write to Anita Gold at the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611. The mail volume precludes a personal response.