Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #131

Well Hypers! After all that traipsing around Hawaii, the poison leis, fighting sharks and flitting around in the Golden Pavilion playing hula ghost, Nancy finally finds the Golden Pavilion's hidden treasure! And it was a.....lousy scratch n' sniff sticker! That doesn't even smell anymore! 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Celebrating 91 Years of Nancy Drew



As we pass the 91st Anniversary of Nancy Drew, I often wonder how we're all celebrating the milestones that keep coming. Are we collectively celebrating or are we individually doing our own Nancy thing in our own Nancy way as we Sleuths often do. What do you do to celebrate Nancy Drew? What do you know about the series and how it began and those who created it? Are you interested in the history or are you more into the collecting aspect? What level of a collector are you and how do you collect? These are some questions that intrigue me as I meet new collectors and interact with many of you online.

It's often said, that if we don't learn from history we'll be doomed to repeat it. But what of Nancy Drew's intricate history over the years? What is the history there, lessons to be learned, things one should know about? What's that mysterious Stratemeyer Syndicate and who was Edward Stratemeyer?

If you think about the mystery behind Stratemeyer, his businesslike demeanor, his ability to create and put out a lot of stories through ghostwriters employed by his Stratemeyer Syndicate, even with what we know, he still has an air of mystery about him. One can picture Stratemeyer commuting to NYC to his office, stories running through his head, characters all around him in the lively streets of New York. His days at work spent churning out story ideas capturing the latest adventures in the world and capitalizing on popular themes and farming out manuscripts to publishers around such beloved characters as the Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and Nancy Drew. After whipping up adventures with the stroke of a pen, off he went back to New Jersey to his storybook home and family, most unassuming in his manner and what he did and all those amazing ideas on his mind. His was certainly a storybook life. I think he's quite fascinating. To many, he's a mystery of sorts. One which you can get a sense of by picking away at the puzzle pieces throughout the Syndicate's business files at the New York Public Library. Letters, plots, manuscripts, and news clippings all tell part of the tale there.

What about his untimely death nearly two weeks after Nancy Drew debuted in May 1930? The fate of the Syndicate in the hands of his daughters, Harriet and Edna. It was a cliffhanger that Stratemeyer might never have imagined. One that would engage the publishing world for over 50 more years until the Syndicate closed its doors and sold to Simon & Schuster in 1984.

And what of the ghostwriters who have churned out over 600 Nancy Drew books since 1930? Most have vanished into the literary netherworld, without a trace. Some more infamous, we know about today. Including the original Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson, who I'm writing a biography about.

There have been so many real life characters involved in creating Nancy Drew and in ensuring her enduring appeal over the many generations of loyal fans. It's a very fascinating history and it's a very important history to study and not sweep under the annals of history rug.

There are websites dedicated to Nancy Drew, like mine at nancydrewsleuth.com and other similar series and Stratemeyer. Numerous essays, articles and books have been published over the years that touch on various aspects of this literary history. Many were published before the Stratemeyer Syndicate records were available for research and those records have cleared up a lot of mysteries and some misconceptions in print over the years like some of the more slanted versions of facts put out by the Syndicate in later years in an effort to keep some of its history a mystery. Who wants to think Carolyn Keene is a "dour-looking naval captain," after all, ghostwriter Walter Karig once joked. Nancy's history though, is full of some of Nancy's best mysteries waiting to be fully solved and revealed. There's missing pieces of the puzzle, real life ghosts, real life Nancy Drews, conspiracies, legal threats to "stay off the case or else," even court room drama. Nancy's journey over the last 91 years has included some real cliffhanger moments just like in a Nancy Drew mystery. Some you've read about, some you've no clue about, but that will soon change.

The gist of this history, who the creators behind Nancy Drew were, and highlights of her history along the past 91 years are subjects I focus on in a nice overview in Nancy Drew History & Collecting Zoom talks I've been giving - mostly for libraries - about Nancy Drew for fans who want to learn a little more about their favorite sleuth. Growing up with these wonderful mysteries we solved along with Nancy Drew, for some of us, we're intrigued about the real life mysteries behind America's favorite teenage sleuth. I like to keep that history alive and give fans something more to think about and perhaps intrigue them enough to go sleuth a bit and learn even more. Donating my Nancy Drew collection to the Toledo Public Library is another way to enhance everyone's knowledge of the history behind Nancy Drew but also to showcase another aspect of my Zoom talks - Collecting Nancy Drew 101. With over 600 books to collect since 1930, many of which went through numerous formats, cover art changes, some with text changes, plus various types of editions from library to book club to foreign editions, there's a lot to learn and I like to give a nice overview of it all. Visiting my collection in Toledo is a great way to visually see it all and be inspired about what you can sleuth for out there to add to your collections. In addition to beloved books, there's a whole other category of Nancy Drew collectibles and paper ephemera one can collect. One can view the many hundreds of known items at my Nancy Drew Pinterest in various collectible board categories.

However you celebrate Nancy Drew's anniversary today and whatever your connection is to this intrepid  heroine, take a moment today to reflect on what you love about this character and these books. How did a fictional sleuth like Nancy Drew inspire so many of us in all walks of life even all the way on up to our lady justices on the US Supreme Court? Read  a Nancy Drew book. Stop by your favorite local book haunt and sleuth for something fun to add to your collections. Join us at our Facebook group "Nancy Drew Book Fans" and meet other fans. Ultimately, it's the fans and their loyalty and love of this character and her timeless history that will keep Nancy Drew alive for generations to come.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Rediscovering Nancy Drew - A Tribute to Carolyn Stewart Dyer

The world is a much less richer place today, with the loss of someone beloved in our community, former Univ. of Iowa Journalism Professor, Carolyn Stewart Dyer. I am so sad to share this news. But I want to say a few things about Carolyn, who was friend and mentor in my journey to write and write about Mildred "Millie" Wirt Benson. I first became aware of Carolyn and the amazing Nancy Drew Conference that took place in Iowa City, IA back in the late 1990s. I had missed out on the 1993 conference, but I was so happy to hear about it and get Carolyn and Nancy Romalov's book, Rediscovering Nancy Drew, so I could read all about it. And I enjoyed the book and hearing all the memories from other fans who had attended.

Carolyn & Nancy (also above) at the Nancy Drew Sleuths 2015 Nancy Drew Mini Anniversary 
Convention in Iowa City at the University of Iowa Library and Women's Archive

Carolyn along with Millie's family and members of 
Nancy Drew Sleuths at Millie's childhood home

For those of you new to the never ending series and celebration that is Nancy Drew, it was discovered back several years before the conference, that one of their famous alumni had written Nancy Drew books when staff were going through alumni files. Years before, Millie had corresponded with the university about her writing, they had been putting together a list of all her books and acquiring them for their collection. And not only was she famous for that small aspect of her life, she was also the first person to graduate with a Masters in Journalism in 1927, so they wanted to recognize her and out of that grew the idea to host a conference. It's all chronicled in Rediscovering Nancy Drew, and I recommend it highly to everyone who hasn't read it.  And if you have read it,  pick it up again and refresh, because it was this conference that really put Millie on the nationwide radar as having been the first Carolyn Keene. She wasn't the only one recognized there, it was all about Nancy Drew and her history and Simon & Schuster even had one of the modern "Carolyn Keenes" there for a day to talk about ghosting the series. Many aspects of Nancy Drew from fan based to academic were all touched on.

At the time, it became such a phenomenon that I don't think anyone at first in the planning, even Carolyn, realized what it would snowball into. Over 500 attended from all over, the news media covered it from far and wide and even ABC recognized Millie as their person of the week. It was overwhelming to all,  but in a good way, for so many women and men had so many stories to tell about how Nancy Drew had influenced them and made their lives better. So  many fans, collectors and enthusiasts came together thanks to Carolyn and Nancy and all those who worked hard to make the conference a success. We were all better for it and it's such a legacy for Carolyn, among a lifelong career in journalism, teaching and writing that Carolyn will always be remembered for.

Millie's copy of Rediscovering Nancy Drew 
She signed it to her daughter Peggy as "The 'Real' Nancy Drew" 
And noted that it was a fine account of her identity as Carolyn Keene

After meeting Millie in person in 2001 when she was in her 90s still working at the Toledo Blade on a weekly column, it was inspiring. Our online discussion group, Nancy Drew Sleuths, decided that each year we'd get together and we wanted to go to Iowa the next year to see Millie's childhood home and research at the Iowa Women's Archive where Millie had donated a lot of her papers. We also wanted to meet Carolyn and Nancy and they were both so gracious to host us along with Kären Mason, curator of the archive. We held a small event at the university and several of us gave presentations, Nancy and Carolyn included. We enjoyed hearing their memories of the event and how it all came to be. It was wonderful to meet them both.

Soon after, Millie passed away and I was asked to write an OP-Ed about Millie. Carolyn stepped in to help me with it and give me advice. I always appreciated that. Over the years on numerous visits to research in Iowa and future convention events we held there, she and her partner Wendy were always there for me and always encouraging. Dinners and catching up were something I always looked forward to. Traveling around with her to Ladora and surrounding areas to research was always an adventure. It has meant a lot to me over the years. I feel such a loss today as does everyone who got to know Carolyn.

So I say let's all celebrate Carolyn's life and her contributions to Nancy Drew by Rediscovering Nancy Drew today in some aspect of your day! Pick up a favorite book, read Rediscovering Nancy Drew, or reflect on what Nancy Drew means to you. I think that would mean a lot to Carolyn.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Happy 90th to Nancy Drew & Real Life Nancy Drew Mildred Wirt Benson

2020 has been an unusual year to say the least. No matter what's going on in the world though, we all have those things that comfort us in times that are rough. Things we turn to, to escape. Our happy places. For Nancy Drew fans and collectors, that's Nancy Drew. This year is the 90th anniversary of Nancy Drew, the series being published beginning April 28, 1930 with the first three books. Plans were made to celebrate among fans - there were conventions and activities, but due to the pandemic, plans had to be changed. We'll all belatedly celebrate together in 2021. We've held celebrations online and in groups at sites like Facebook, chat rooms like Zoom and through podcasts and written zines like The Sleuth.

I would be remiss to let the 10th of July go by without dwelling on that infamous Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson, whose biography I'm currently still plugging away on. Writing her biography has been much like solving a Nancy Drew mystery in some ways. Lots of puzzle pieces to be uncovered. I wanted to give an update and chat about some of the interesting things that have happened along the way in researching this biography. I am hoping to get it finished by the year's end. I was delayed for several months away from my research, unable to travel back to get to it - like a Nancy Drew mystery foible of sorts.

She was one of the most interesting women I have come to know in my research, highly intelligent, very tenacious, and a very good writer. She was born July 10, 1905 in Ladora, IA. She lived most of her life in Toledo, OH. She had many adventures, much like her legacy heroine Nancy Drew. Some wonder if everything that has to be said about Millie has been said in numerous articles or even in previously published books. But there is a lot more to Millie than just being the first woman to graduate the University of Iowa with the first Masters in Journalism degree. There's a lot more than just her legacy of having written some of the original Nancy Drew books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. And her life is much richer than just being a journalist from Toledo, OH. There's a lot of interesting layers in there that haven't ever really been spoken about in regard to her life - early and later - in which she went on many adventures around the country and the world, much like Nancy Drew. There's a kidnapping that has never been fully revealed and told about. There's a mysterious hunt for her autobiography that ensued for over a decade - was it found? And what did she have to say in it? I have the answers.

My research has taken me to the rolling hills of Iowa farmland, a historic family home in Ladora filled with sentiments and memories of Millie from decades ago. Friendships with her family who continue to honor her and her legacy and memory. The Iowa Women's Archive where Kären Mason, curator, and her staff have kindly helped me research into Millie's archive of donated papers there on numerous visits. Former University of Iowa Journalism Professor Carolyn Stewart Dyer (Rediscovering Nancy Drew) has so willingly helped me and encouraged me on visits discussing Millie and the 1993 Nancy Drew Conference that brought Millie back to be honored and recognized. I've been to Toledo and welcomed into The Blade into the library to view their boxes of papers and articles on Benson. I've been to two of the airports where Millie flew and have spoken to those who flew with her when she was flying. I've been to her grave, which bears the original silhouette of Nancy Drew, a memorial her daughter Peggy had added to the stone, from a card that my Nancy Drew Sleuths members sent her years ago. I've researched at the Toledo Public Library downtown branch, in the Rare Book Room looking at flight logs from Millie's flying days and spent time going through microfilm looking up many of Millie's Blade and Toledo Times columns. My extensive collection of a few thousand Nancy Drew books, collectibles and related ephemera was recently donated to the library there. Everyone around Toledo seems to have a Millie story and I've spoken to so many people about her. Online research has led to many articles over the years, articles about her early writing and much more to fill in blanks. There was even an underground cave in Kansas that houses an archive of court materials where I poured over depositions, transcripts and court documents from the infamous 1980 trial between Grosset & Dunlap and the Stratemeyer Syndicate and Simon & Schuster. There's even a tale to be told about a map drawn by someone on the location of her missing autobiography, hidden away in her historic Old Orchard home in Toledo.  Not to mention my sleuthing around Millie's attic just like Nancy Drew in The Secret in the Old Attic looking for further clues...

The Stratemeyer Syndicate records in New York at the 5th avenue branch have been an amazing collection to research from - over 300 boxes. I'm still going through research I've amassed there since trips to the library back as far as 2003 and there's records in Yale's Beinecke Library as well. Collectors who knew her have been wonderful and those who have purchased original letters of Millie's over the years have been willing to share what they have with me, some letters I currently look for remain elusive. Another piece of the puzzle I hope to find one day. Her daughter's passing in 2013 led to a lot of research material being uncovered by her family in the Toledo home and I have been given access in the last several years to that material - none of this has been seen before by other researchers or writers. Millie's personal letters with her husbands, numerous letters to her daughter Peggy, and lots of other personal items -- all of which show that she was even more clever of a woman - very Nancy Drew like - that we even realized. Over the years, various fans and researchers contacted Millie. Fans hounded her at The Blade wanting autographs. It was often overwhelming. Letters to her daughter reveal interesting insight she had toward certain people who may have tried to take advantage of her and the Nancy Drew notoriety. She was no slouch, she had people's number, for sure. Her birthright to Nancy Drew, was achieved later in life, another intriguing aspect people don't know much about. Her friendship with collector and writer Geoffrey S. Lapin is one that I intend to focus on in the biography. Geoff Lapin discovered her in the late 1960s and spent decades helping her get recognition for her work on the Nancy Drew series. He was instrumental in her becoming well known as the first Carolyn Keene and that's a legacy he can be proud of today.

Like any good Nancy Drew mystery, there's the plot. There's some sort of mystery to be solved. There's the infamous sleuthing that goes hand in hand. Searching for clues, uncovering puzzle pieces, putting it all together. There's the usual suspects - villains who try to threaten you to stay off the case or else, who put up roadblocks and detours to throw you off track, use subterfuge to distract you, and outright lie and cover up their misdeeds. There's the overcoming of those obstacles and threats and rounding up the crooks and resolving the case and saving the day. In Nancy Drew's world, it's mostly always all tied up in a nice little bow at the end and order is restored. Mystery solved. Writing this biography has run the gamut of all of those things. I feel a little like Nancy Drew trying to piece it all together. And it's all finally coming together. My adventure - and misadventures - in writing this biography will be in the bio as well in small part. The main focus of course is Millie's fascinating life.

I spoke to Millie on the phone a month or two before she passed away back in 2002. I'd met her the year before she died when our Nancy Drew Sleuths group members came to meet her in Toledo. We'd interviewed each other for articles we were writing about each other. She'd signed my books. I'd told her I was so inspired to meet her. That it was an honor and that Nancy Drew had inspired so many women - and men - to do more in their lives. That was a legacy she was proud of, even if sometimes she didn't get what all the fuss was about. She asked for ideas for columns - she'd written so many for decades she was running out of ideas. She knew I'd recently earned a  law degree, but she encouraged me to write. She said maybe you'll become a writer instead. Little did she know...

As I sit here looking at images taken from a small notebook, with thankfully some of the most legible handwriting I've seen from Millie (that's another story!) - I feel relieved and more assured. This notebook, which I held in my hand several years ago, was full of notes from a trip to Guatemala in the early 1960s. It was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to tell a rich tale indeed, detailing Millie's infamous experience there in the 1960s. One that led to many follow up trips back to try and uncover what had happened to her and why she had been kidnapped. It's a story right out of Nancy Drew and she used her Nancy Drew-like wits to get herself out of the situation. It's something out of a Hollywood movie, really. I can't wait to tell you all about it and so much more. Stay tuned and Happy Sleuthing!

Saturday, May 02, 2020

The Hunt for the Phantom Nancy Drew T-Shirt or How I found TWO Scarce Nancy Drew T-Shirts!

The 1970s Nancy Drew T-Shirt - Mystery Solved?

Yes and No. It's a tale of TWO - yes TWO t-shirts!

I present to you the first shirt above - the Sears, Roebuck and Co 1970s Pamela Sue Martin T-Shirt. It's snazzy yellow and features an illustration of 1970s Nancy Drew TV show actress Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew sporting a hat next to a candle. I acquired this shirt last year on eBay. I've been on eBay since around 1997 and have never seen this shirt sold in 23 years other than last year's auction. It's incredibly scarce.

So scarce, I didn't even know it existed.

In fact I'd been on the hunt at the time I found this one for 22 years looking for ANOTHER Nancy Drew t-shirt that I've never seen. A real phantom! Or so I thought until this weekend. That mystery is now solved, though I don't have it in my hot little hands...yet! If anyone out there has the Pamela Sue Martin photo t-shirt where she's in the little tank top (see below for clues), please e-mail me at my website - nancydrewsleuth@aol.com

I'd been looking for the phantom-like Nancy Drew Fan Club t-shirt that isn't pictured in the ad above, but was for sale in the 1970s as part of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Fan Clubs. In all the ads I'd acquired, the shirt was never pictured, however I knew it existed for several reasons. The first, is that in the ads, you could send away for it as well as the Hardy Boys shirts pictured. Secondly, in the New York Public Library's Stratemeyer Syndicate archives, there exists correspondence from the Syndicate's owner, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, to the company selling the shirts stating her displeasure at the image of Nancy Drew which she didn't approve of. She felt it was more about Pamela than Nancy Drew and not appropriate. I could never imagine why she didn't like it, but she was very strict about Nancy Drew's image.

So, when I saw the above yellow t-shirt from Sears on eBay - I didn't realize it was a Sears shirt at the time - I just assumed it was a Eureka moment and I'd found the one I was looking for all those years. After I got it, I realized that it was not the shirt I had hoped for, but it was a Sears, Roebuck and Co shirt as noted on the tag. Sears also sold Hardy Boys and Shaun Cassidy clothing in the 1970s, so it makes sense they had some for Nancy Drew. I don't know if they had anything besides this shirt or not, but it will be interesting to see if anything else surfaces in the future!

However you won't find it in a Sears Catalog. I did some late night sleuthing online at several sites that have scanned Sears catalogs and searched all the 1977 and 1978 and even 1979 catalogs - the only clothing to appear in those was some Shaun Cassidy jeans and a satin jacket and some shirts with his face more related to him and not the Hardy Boys. No Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys shirts. However, a Google search found four Hardy Boys t-shirts that were part of the Sears line--I'll add them below at the end of this blog posting. Two feature both of the Hardy Boys, Parker Stevenson and Shaun and two feature just Shaun. They are all the same style and texture as the Nancy Drew shirt and one of the Hardy Boys shirts you'll see has a similar tag to the yellow Nancy Drew shirt. Could there be a second Nancy Drew t-shirt? My guess is no, because there was often far more Hardy Boys 1970s merchandise than Nancy Drew as it seems the teenage girls were more into the boys! But, I'd certainly love for another to surface! Since they were not sold in the catalogs, they must have been only sold in stores and it's possible only in certain stores which could explain their scarcity too in addition to being clothes which become disposable over time unless you're a collector.

Back to the really seriously phantom 1970s t-shirt. I collect a lot of 1970s Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys TV show collectibles as part of my Nancy Drew collection. In fact I have a Pinterest board dedicated to these collectibles you'll find of interest. There are over 100 items on the board and it's always growing. I started noticing something that I should have noticed ages ago! I could have solved this mystery sooner. From the same fan club company, I had purchased the above Pamela Sue Martin poster of Pamela dressed in a little off the shoulder tank top. It wasn't very Nancy Drew-ish, but it was used for a fan club image - and the poster features the Nancy Drew show name and copyright info. 

I also managed to collect the ad shown above which featured this same poster for sale as well as two Hardy Boys posters that one could order. I thought that was so cool as I like to collect the behind the scenes ephemera to the merchandise items as well. It all tells a story. However for some reason, I had never paid attention to the fact that the two posters of the Hardy Boys are the SAME images used on the Hardy Boys t-shirts from the SAME fan club - the address on both the t-shirt and poster ads to send off for these things is the same as well. So another Eureka moment was when I realized that the little tank top Pamela Sue image was likely the same image used on the t-shirt! And that image would have definitely upset Harriet. 

All the puzzle pieces fell into place. Still circumstantial, but logical. And this weekend the final puzzle piece was found. Two members of our Nancy Drew Sleuths group happened to own this Nancy Drew fan club t-shirt with tank top Pamela on it back in the 1970s when they joined the club! So I created the above image of what the shirt possibly looked like, but it's just a mock up. I just placed the Pamela image over one of the Hardy Boys. It's possible the image is smaller on the actual shirt, but the point is that the t-shirt would feature this image. So, be on the lookout for it at those garage sales, tag sales, thrift stores, antique malls, flea markets and your mom or grandma's closets and see if you can find one. And if you do, and are willing to part with it, I and the Toledo Public Library, which now houses my extensive Nancy Drew Collection on display, would really appreciate it! If you happen to have a photo of it or of yourself back in the day wearing it, a photo would be great to see as well.

I love sleuthing for clues much like Nancy Drew. The hunt might not take me down dark alleys to tangle with sinister suspects, more like late night computer research in my comfy PJs, but it's still a thrill to solve a mystery that has baffled fans for so long. What went from a long-time search for a phantom t-shirt led to two t-shirts and the discovery of what the still-searched-for phantom t-shirt has looked like all this time. I may never find the actual t-shirt, but for a researcher or historian of something like Nancy Drew, this is a very exciting moment in the great puzzle that is the world of Nancy Drew.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Secret of the Old Clock or the Mysterious Case of the Nancy Drew Holy Grail

The Secret of the Old Clock or the 
Mysterious Case of the Nancy Drew Holy Grail
The Ghostwriter's Copy of Old Clock 
or How Nancy Drew Goes to Court and Gets Butchered

What do most Nancy Drew Collectors consider the "Holy Grail" of Nancy Drew collecting? Many consider a 1930 first printing of The Secret of the Old Clock with its original dust jacket to be that "Holy Grail." My journey to have a copy of Old Clock in original dust jacket took 20 years from when I officially started collecting. Along the way before getting mine, I got to see in person the "granddaddy" of them all - the copy owned by its original ghostwriter, Mildred Wirt Benson. So, it's time that I share my story of how I came to get mine and also see Millie's copy. And no, I didn't end up in an antique mall and stumble upon Old Clock for less than a dollar, though I certainly hoped that could happen. 

When I first began to seriously collect Nancy Drew books to add to my childhood hodge podge of various styles and formats and spinoffs, it was 1997. I'd recently gotten a computer - an old ACER from Best Buy, for those of you who remember those in the 1990s, and got on the big AOL - America Online. On the sloooooooooooow dial up Internet. Man do we have it easy today! It opened up quite a world of Nancy Drew collecting to me! Back at that time, and it seems like centuries ago when you think of how far tech has come since then, but there wasn't a lot of Nancy Drew stuff on the Internet at the time. Many of us who have been at it from that time or before, sort of paved the way with various websites, discussion groups and then onto social media. At the time I got on, there was just several sites and some that just focused on various series, not just Nancy Drew. I  began my Nancy Drew website around 2000 using the old AOL web pages at the time and then it soon morphed into what it is now. Before the Internet, collectors shared stories and traded and sold books in series book publications like Yellowback Library and through those would form groups who would get together for series book conventions.

There was one collector who I met first, who has remained a friend to this day and helped me get into collecting and so generously shared the ropes with me - and that was Gayle. I soon met her friend Vicki and then started making friends with others in the collecting community. Gayle told me all about eBay and boy was I hooked! Gayle and I started the Nancy Drew Sleuths discussion group which then soon morphed into the current Nancy Drew Sleuths fan group.

The brief history of how I got into this aside, I was on a quest to get a lot of vintage Nancy Drews because I only had stuff from the 1970s and beyond for the most part. One thing I kept hearing about was the first printing of Old Clock. How rare and scarce it was and there were only so many known copies. Collector Jennifer White has been keeping track at her series book blog and here's a link where you can check those out if you want to see how many have sold since the late 1990s. Mine is the 9th one to surface that she blogged about.

At the time I started collecting and up until around the early to mid-2000s, Old Clock was always known to sell for around $10,000 or more at auction. Then the values started coming down - economic issues were to blame, but also more were surfacing too. Many that have sold have had condition issues but after all, these are very vintage and that's the norm for a vintage book. Some sold were bought by resellers and then resold at eBay. Some sold were more pristine and minty.

I have always tried to not spend a lot on my Nancy Drew collection - with a few exceptions. In part because early on, I just couldn't afford to and also because it's fun to hunt for bargains too. But in more recent years I've been willing to spend a little more to get something I've looked for ages for. It's a matter of making it worth my time. The hunt is so much fun, but after 20 years, sometimes it's time! I recently purchased the Nancy Drew datebook and homework planner and I've only seen one sell in 20 years, it's very scarce and it will add to and enhance the Nancy Drew collection I donated to the Toledo Public Library and make it more complete, so I was willing to make that happen. The most I've ever spent on a collectible was my Rudy Nappi Hidden Staircase cover art painting and that's not a common thing for me to do. For me, getting a copy of Old Clock in dust jacket was always considered out of my reach due to how much it has always sold for. And how many times can one get it for the Super Sleuth-tacular Buy it now price of $100 like one of our Nancy Drew discussion group members did back in the early 2000s on eBay. I think many of us were crushed that day who didn't see it listed first, but she was able to sell it - for over $10,000 we think - to help fund some of her college, so that was a good ending to it. I have never heard who purchased that copy, by the way...

First printing Old Clocks with original dust jackets have been mired in secrecy sometimes. Yes, not all collectors have admitted to what they have and I can understand that. It took me awhile to post about mine. Not because I didn't want anyone to know, but more that life has just gotten in the way since then for me in a lot of ways.

But let's jump back just a little further into history before I tell you about my journey to get mine in 2017. All the way back to 1930. Picture it. Cleveland, OH, 1930. You're the first Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson. The first book in a series you were hired by Edward Stratemeyer to write has just been published along with the second and third volumes. Soon after, you have in your hand a copy of it and you can see for the first time how Nancy Drew has come to life - thanks to the beautiful and sophisticated artwork by Russell H. Tandy. From Stratemeyer's brainchild to Millie's writing from the outline to the beautiful Nancy Drew, illustrated so aptly on the cover. You're 24 years old. You have no idea what this is going to mean 10 years from now, 50 years from now, 90 years from now. It's a book you take pride in, but you park it on your shelves in your writing room that you begin to fill with many more volumes in the series, books from other similar Syndicate series you're contracted to write and lots of other books you write under your own name and various pseudonyms, and the pile of books grows around you as you plug away on your trusty Underwood typewriter. No one had a clue what this would become, especially not Edward Stratemeyer, and certainly not Millie at the time. By 1980, it was more than clear what it had become. Mildred would be involved in a lawsuit between the two Nancy Drew publishers - Grosset & Dunlap and Simon and Schuster with the Stratemeyer Syndicate. She would get to testify for G&D and the lawyers for the trial would cut up her dust jacket for her first printing Old Clock which she had quite a time getting back from them after the trial. I do declare I feel all y'all's pain, at hearing that story of the cutting up of the dust jacket. It's possibly more titillating than a spine-tingling Nancy Drew cliffhanger! Read more about the biography I'm writing about Millie at this link to my website.


I'd heard stories about this dust jacket. I'd seen letters from Millie and references post-1980 trial, but I'd never seen it in person. Not until after her daughter Peggy passed away and all of Millie's authors copies were donated to the University of Iowa and are now housed in the Iowa Women's Archive there. If you want to read about how we came to help get a neat book case built to house the books - check out this blog posting I made about it.

I visited there soon after while planning our three mini conventions based on the 85th anniversary - one of which took place in Iowa City in 2015. I'm including pictures of Millie's copy above with the photos - you can see where she wrote inside it, "This was the first book ever written in the Nancy Drew series for Edward Stratemeyer by me." And signed it, "Mildred Augustine Wirt (Benson)." I also include pictures of the post-text ads to show this is a first - the first printing lists 8 Hardy Boys books on the first page of advertising after the text ends in the back of the book. You can also see where the spine is cut away, but the majority of the jacket is present. It was incredible to see this copy that was owned by Millie and that it's still preserved today for historians and for the fans.

Back to 2017. I was contacted in the fall by a man whose relative had passed away. He sent me some random photos of tubs filled with all sorts of Nancy Drew books. I didn't know who had passed away nor what was in those tubs to a great extent. The man was in the San Diego area and so I referred him to another area collector for help. As it turned out, there were tons of books and the biggest stack of blank endpaper format 1 Nancy Drew books I've ever seen in one place. This format was the original format of the books without the familiar orange silhouette in print from 1930 to 1932 and only the first seven books came in this format. Not all were first printings, but there were stacks of them! Many without dust jackets, some with reproduction dust jackets. Some are still being sold to this day on eBay.


There were some neat books that this collector had acquired. The story of my little misfit Old Clock, which has been through quite a journey, makes it kind of like those toys on the Island of Misfit Toys from the old Rudolph Christmas story. The book was in pretty darn good shape when it surfaced at eBay originally. But the seller's child - who I hope is still grounded to this day - tore the dust jacket. Then, once the collector purchased it from the reseller who originally bought it, he had a fire in his home. And some of his books had fire damage, including this book. It must have been heart breaking for him. I've shared an image that shows the spine of the book where you can see the darkening due to the fire. I've also included two pictures from the auction that were saved and posted in Jennifer White's series book blog of how it looked pre-fire. The collector had recreated the spine and had laid over the original dust jacket the recreated piece for it to look more pristine - he thankfully had not glued this piece on the original or I wouldn't have purchased it. It displays nicely and it's now got a home.

I went to the relative's house to check out other books that were for sale - some book club editions I was missing, library editions, two Harold Hill UK editions in dust jacket and some other UK editions, coloring books and the activity book and also some other dust jacketed editions. The collector had stacks of books with dust jackets - some dozens of the same. I didn't purchase a ton of books - around 40 books. I acquired some neat formats I was looking for. And then there was the Old Clock book. I really had no intention of purchasing that book when I headed to San Diego, but it was on my mind. But really, I kept telling myself, there's just no way...

Then I had the book in my hands, and well, the rest was history, I just couldn't leave it there. How many times do you come across your Holy Grail? Not very many. It wasn't in the pristine shape I'd prefer, however it can always be upgraded. So, after some going back and forth in my mind, it was decided. It's well protected in a beautiful slip case that a collector friend so generously sent me and it looks so pretty in its special box on the shelves.


Some of you may be wondering what I did with this book when I donated my entire collection to the Toledo Public Library last year. I kept it for now. I couldn't let it go - well I let part of it go. To explain, for nearly 20 years I had a version of this Holy Grail in my collection. I had the book itself without the dust jacket. I acquired it on eBay and was able to take it with me to Toledo in 2001 for our first unofficial convention where we met Millie. And I visited her at the Toledo Blade offices the day before the group's visit to meet her. I got to sit with her at her desk and she interviewed me for an article she was writing and I interviewed her for one I was writing. She signed several of my books including my Old Clock book. Gayle, who has a first printing of Old Clock, made me a wonderful repro dust jacket which remained on my book until 2017. Because they are a match, once I purchased my 2017 Old Clock, I took the book that was with that dust jacket and put the laser dust jacket on it and that book went to Toledo with the rest of my collection. I matched my signed Old Clock with the vintage dust jacket and that's what I have today in my much more meager collection of Nancy Drews. If you missed hearing about how that donation came to be and what's happening with the collection here's a link to my blog posting on it. 


So that wraps up how I came to find what I consider to be my Holy Grail of Nancy Drew collecting after 20 years of serious collecting. I didn't stumble across it in an antique mall or used book store, didn't find it for a song on eBay, though I dreamed of that happening. It came about sadly, due to the passing of a very mysterious and eccentric collector in the community and after a series of mishaps (wayward kids, fires) along the way. I'd love to know who owned it originally and how it lived it's life up until that time, but there aren't any real clues to determine that, except for an inscription in the book that is now in Toledo - "Bernice Jr, From Mother, Xmas 1930." If anyone has a few clues to the mysterious identity of Bernice, I'd love to hear from you. Mysterious history aside, I have given it a nice home and one that hopefully will preserve it for many years to come with me and then eventually Toledo with the rest of my collection.