Star Dollar Books

aka/ Star Dollar Series, Star Books

Garden City Publishing Co. (Doubleday)
Series dates: 1925-1950
Size: 5.5″ x 8″

In 1910 Doubleday established its own printing plant at Garden City on Long Island. In 1923 the Garden City Publishing Co. imprint was established primarily for reprint series. Doubleday had issued the Lambskin Library around 1922 (under its Doubleday, Page and Co. imprint, but with Garden City included as the publisher location). The Lambskin Library consisted of a mix of modern and 19th century literary fiction. The Lambskin Library was phased out as the Sun Dial Library series began publication in 1929 (under the Garden City Publishing imprint).

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Star Dollar Books (later referred to as Star Books) were first published under the Garden City Publishing imprint in 1925. The focus with this series was non-fiction – “travel, drama, art, biography, humor” as the jacket advertises. These were previously published books reprinted, initially, with common jacket designs at the same size as the original books.

The initial, common jacket design was later replaced by unique, illustrated jackets. Robert De Graff, was, at the time (late 1920s) the VP at Garden City Publishing and manager of the Star Dollar Books. According to the Paperback Quarterly (vol. 4 no. 3, Fall 1981, p. 38): “De Graff says the books didn’t sell because the original jackets were of “semi-uniform design and not attractive enough.” But when he had the books rejacketed with appealing pictorial covers, 15 million were sold.” De Graff would later go on to co-found Pocket Books, first published in 1939, one of the most successful of the mid-century paperback series in the U.S.

It is also possible that the evolving marketing strategies for these cheap reprints affected sales. Marketing efforts focused on small town and rural markets as well as opening smaller bookstores near train and subway stations and placing a stock of the books in drugstores and at news stands. In addition, contemporary documents indicate that dealers were strongly encouraged to advertise the value of these books – often published at $5 or more, but now available in a similar format as the originals for $1.

This 1925 edition of Joseph Tumulty’s Woodrow Wilson as I Know Him is probably from the initial titles issued in the Star Dollar Books series. The initial jacket design for the Star Dollar Books was common for the series. Graphic columns with boxes for information about the specific title dominated the look of the jackets. The book price ($1) and series name is included, as Star Dollar Series, on the jacket spine, with a star symbol replacing the word “star.” It’s not clear if the use of “Series” instead of “Library” on the spine was a mistake, or if there were two names for the series. The front jacket flap includes the $1 price and a blurb about the book. Garden City Publishing Co. is indicated as the imprint on the jacket spine. The “More Fascinating Than Fiction” series catch-phrase is included on the jacket front, as well as the variety of non-fiction titles (travel, drama, art) available in the series.

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The rear of the jacket continues the book types (biography, humor) in the series as well as advertising of the series focusing on the low-cost, the way they “make the home,” and the famous titles in the series. A list of what is probably the first 21 titles in the series is on the rear jacket flap.

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Books have a basic blue binding with gold stamping:

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The half-title page:

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A photograph faces the title page. The title page has a 1925 date of publication.

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The copyright page includes the original 1921 date of publication of the book.

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By 1928 (advertisement on left) the jackets for the series were redesigned, with unique designs for each title. The series was heavily advertised and used a “Send No Money” option for ordering the books (middle advertisement, 1930 from The Rotarian, right advertisement 1933 from The Crisis).

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This somewhat tattered jacket belongs to a copy of Basil King’s The Conquest of Fear. The book is undated (with a copyright for the original book being 1921) but is probably around 1935 (due to jacket advertising for the De Luxe Editions series, which debuted around 1935). The book is an example of the shift to unique jackets from the common jackets used before 1928 for the series. This jacket and book design was used from about 1929 to 1950. Also evident is a shift in the series name, away from Star Dollar Books to, according to the jacket, Star Books (below left) and, according to the title page The Star Series (below right).

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Jackets are unique to each title. The Conquest of Fear has a simple geometric design in black and red, reused from the jacket from the original edition. The series name (Star Books) is on the jacket spine. A quote is included in the design of the jacket front. The front flap includes a typographically designed blurb for the book.

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The back of the jacket advertises another Garden City Publishing series, De Luxe Editions. This series includes books that “because of their size and importance do not fit into standard series” which are aimed at “connoisseurs of fine books.” Thirteen titles are listed. The prospectus for De Luxe Editions also mentions the Garden City Publishing series Worth While Fiction (of which I can find no evidence). A blurb promoting Bertrand Russell’s Marriage and Morals fills the rear jacket flap.

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The reverse of the jacket includes a rather startling, in-your-face, illustrated advertisement for the series and its varied titles. The selling point is that you get a book for a buck that originally cost $2 to $5. Also that the series contains the “cream of all the new books that have appeared in recent years.”

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Books are cloth bound with a geometric debossed pattern on the front and typography in gold.

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The half title page:

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The title page, which includes a logo for The Star Series.

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The copyright page includes the original date of publication of the book (1921).

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