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Golden Stamp Books

Does anyone still remember Golden Stamp Books?

These books were prolific in the 1950’s and popular well into the 1960’s, coming out in many versions: Golden Play Books, Walt Disney’s Stamp Books, Highlights of History and Golden Stamp Classics. They all followed the same format – concise write-ups with pen and ink illustrations and spaces for the stamps. The stamps could be found altogether, on a few pages at the front of each book, perforated like real postage stamps (as stamps were back then), with glue on the back so they could be easily separated and stuck onto the allocated spaces.

The books – usually 48 pages long – were like miniature encyclopedias but much more fun because one could color the illustrations and paste in the stamps. Also, they were inexpensive (50 cents back then), informative (to a point), accurate to what was known at the time and useful when one had no access to a library. (To my younger readers, in the days before the internet that’s all we had.) I’m certain I used some of the information, and even the stamps, for several school projects.

Without much difficulty, collectors can still find old Golden Stamp Books on Etsy and eBay not to mention Amazon, but for a lot more than 50 cents. In fact, if one types “golden stamp books” into Google search, one gets over 30 million links (which may well answer my original question).

The stamp books were but one part of an entire realm of books for children, owned by the New York-based Simon and Schuster publishing empire (now part of ViacomCBS), who wisely rode the post war baby boom up and up. Simon & Schuster eventually sold its entire Golden line to the books’ printer, Western Publishing (of Racine, Wisconsin).

There were about 60 (to my reckoning) of these books, covering everything from transportation (trains, airplanes, cars, boats, space travel) to animals (domestic and wild), political history (American presidents, Napoleon) to natural history (dinosaurs, early man), classic literature, both children’s and adult’s (Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick) to American historical figures (Wyatt Earp, Daniel Boone).

Western Publishing had its origins in 1907, with the purchase of Racine’s West Side Printing by Edward Henry Wadewitz, the 30-year-old son of German immigrants. It changed its name to Western Printing and Lithography in 1910, and grew ever bigger. Through acquisitions and expansion, it began selling a 10 cent children’s book in 1918, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, stationary, greeting cards in the 1920’s and 30’s and, during World War 2, even maps to the US military.

The company got into producing children’s books in a big way in the same era, winning the book rights to Disney licensed characters in 1933 and developing a long-standing relationship with both Dell (color comics) and Simon & Schuster (Little Golden Books).

Western purchased the entire Golden Book line from the latter company in 1958. It eventually became America’s largest creator, producer and publisher of juvenile books and owned one of the largest printing operations in the country (1960’s and 1970’s). Unfortunately, it fell victim to changing tastes (amongst other things): after recasting itself as Golden Books Family Entertainment in 1997, by 2001 Western was bankrupt and its assets acquired by Random House (now part of Penguin) and Classic Media (which became part of NBC Universal).

For those interested, Wikipedia provides an excellent synopsis of the company’s rise and fall and its various product lines.

My sister, brother and I collected quite a few; I still have four of them. Here are three (the fourth had to do with dinosaurs):

The ensuing question, as always, is why do I mention this subject here?

Partly, it’s because – like comics – they were a part of my growing up, and everything in that category had something to do with who I am now, providing entertainment, enjoyment, knowledge and the opportunity to share, ultimately influencing my ideas and path in life.

The other answer is – I actually used the first book on cats for background on some of the big cats I mention in The Ravenstones series. It contained valuable detail on the specific species, information I was unable to find elsewhere. And, clearly, even back then, I had an affinity for animals, and cats in particular.

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