Big Little Books

Deke's Words

I collected these Big Little Books ("BLBs")when I was a boy in Magnolia, Arkansas, in the early 1940s. Buck Rogers took me away. Actually, I donít think I have ever gotten over it. Wilma was not bad, either. After many years, my first cousin, Jane, gave me as a Christmas gift in 1997, Jacobís reference book, which led me to real collecting. eBay had just been introduced online, so I was quickly addicted.

These books created a strong desire in me to read. I wanted to find out what happened next. The moment I would turn a page, I would see the picture, and then, I had to know what it was about, so I would read the opposite page. I have two memories about blbs then: I would carry one in my book sack (satchel) when I went to school and I kept my first copy of Buck Rogers vs. the Fiend of Space way beyond when the covers fell off. To protect myself from such a loss now, I have several copies of that book throughout my house.

I want to tell you all of the stories about the acquisition of each book. But, I will restrain myself. Okay, just one: A homeless man was cleaning out a storage locker in San Francisco, put up three BLBs for auction on ebay, including an incredible soft cover 3-color variation, Dick Tracy Solves the Penfield Mystery. I paid the man $21 for the three. Best deal I ever made!!! I dare you: Spend the next 97 days looking for it on eBay. You are not likely to find it. But, if you do, please let me know.

When you look in publications on BLBs and variants, you will seen outstanding, MINT versions. They command a lot of attention at auctions. Well, you can relax. My collection is not even close to Mint, but there are some better than average versions of some of the books. My collection is real, untouched, and each one of these is in its designated space on one of my wall-to-ceiling shelves in a special room reserved for my viewing of them.

If you want to talk to me or ask me about my various collections, please do contact me at and I will tell you what I know or refer you to the experts.

Historical Information

During the Great Depression, big little books ("BLBs") became a favorable alternative for comic publishers due to their compact size and cost. Whitman Publishing Company first marketed BLBs in 1932. Dubbed "Big Little Books," a delightful paradox that at once described their size ("little") and the quality of the reading experience they had to offer ("big," one hopes), these Whitman publications presented reprints of newspaper comic strips and eventually expanded to incorporate characters from classic literature, radio, film, television and even original creations never before seen in any other medium." These Whitman books are widely regarded as some of the most collectible.

BLBs, like the Barclay toy figures, enjoyed success through distribution deals with Woolworth's. Originally selling for 10 cents each, the first BLBs were The Adventures of Dick Tracy #707, Dick Tracy and Dick Tracy Junior, Little Orphan Annie #708, Little Orphan Annie and Sandy, and Mickey Mouse #717. Soon the line would expand to include other comic and cartoon characters, US history and cowboy stories, stories about magic, and more. The characteristic size of BLBs, 3 5/8" by 4 1/2", would also become standardized during this time.

The Golden Age of BLBs consists of books published between 1932 and 1938. Steps were taken to produce more durable books, and other publishers became part of the BLB world. In 1938, Whitman abandoned the "Big Little Books" moniker for the grander sounding, "Better Little Books." Collectors may notice that books from this period had an overprinted blank circle covering the words "Big Little Book" on the cover. Also during this time, Western began production of another popular series of children's books, Little Golden Books, which remain popular today.

The Silver Age of BLBs lasted between 1938 and 1949. Due to paper shortages during World War II, BLBs in general were produced with fewer pages than their Golden Age predecessors. Patriotism became a popular theme in BLBs of this era.

We currently find ourselves in the Modern Age of BLBs. The popularity of BLBs waxes and wanes as various publishers produce new books, often based on popular cinema or television of the moment (notice some of the latest include titles for "Xena: Warrior Princess," the "Star Wars" series, amongst others).

Deke's Collection is comprehensive in its scope and variety. Books from every era are present and well represented. Each book is wrapped in archival-quality film and is proudly on display in Deke's home. The books are presented as they sit on specially-made shelves in his home. Special collections are also featured below. For more information, check out Blumberg's excellent guide, available from Gemstone Publishing.

Source: Blumberg, A. (2004). The Big Little Book Book. Timonium, MD: Gemstone Publishing.

Each of the following pages will display approximately 10 images.

Note: Some titles will overlap between the pages due to the display of the collection.

Big Little Books: Ace Drummond-Draftie of the U.S. Army

Big Little Books: Dan Dunn-Maximo the Amazing Superman

Big Little Books: Maximo the Amazing Superman & the Crystals of Doom-Mr. District Attorney

Big Little Books: The Lost Patrol-The Texas Ranger

Big Little Books: Smokey Stover-Zane Grey's King of the Royal Mounted

Big Little Books: Zip Saunders, King of the Speedway-Modern Big Little Books

Big Big Books

Engel-van Wiseman Books

Fast-Action Story Books

Lynn Books

Movie-Size Big Little Books

Radio Star Series

The 710 Series

Whitman Tall Comics

Whitman Premium Books

Mighty Midgets

English Mighty Midgets

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