Book Collecting

The Hardy Boys Book Series Collecting Guide

The Hardy Boys books celebrated their Diamond Jubilee in the year 2002. The Hardy Boys Mystery Stories by Franklin W. Dixon is the first boys’ series in which the leading characters began as detectives, rather than drifting into it, as did earlier Edward Stratemeyer heroes such as the Rover Boys. Young people must have liked the concept, as the Hardys have lasted longer than any other set of juvenile series books, with the exception of the Bobbsey Twins books, which were meant for younger readers.

Leslie McFarlane - Hardy Boys
Leslie McFarlane – Hardy Boys Author

The books have changed vastly since their inception in 1927. Leslie McFarlane, the “ghostwriter” of the early Hardy Boys® books, spoke for all who remembered them when he Wrote this in his 1976 autobi­ography, Ghost of the Hardy Boys:

The House on the Cliff… wasn’t merely a streamlined version of the other [story]. It was a different book from beginning to end. …They’ve been gutted… Those old books were well written. They had words you could roll around in your mouth and taste. They had funny scenes. They had scenes you could wallow in. …They had flavor. And now the flavor is all gone. (Page 209)”
Leslie McFarland

A great part of my own aversion to the changes in the Older Hardy Boys books and my scorn of the newer, shorter mysteries is that I like things to be the way I remembered them in my youth, a common reaction. However, some of the changes are for the better, such as removing archaic slang and stereotyped descriptions of people of various ethnic groups, and even though the Hardy Boys® books are shorter and less detailed than they were many years ago, the revised mystery tales are still exciting to young readers. Contemporary read­ers also want to relax with heroes with whom they can identify.

I like the look and feel of the books with wrap-around dust jackets of the Hardy Boys I first read (the format of the 1950s) much better than the glossy picture cover books of today, or worse yet — the paperback ones. However, then the generation that came before me probably preferred their “thick” red and brown books with the white or yellow spines to the ones of my time. For all of us though, it is reassuring dial the adventures of Frank and Joe have lasted for such a long time. Not much else has. Leslie McFarlane (1902-1977), a writer from northern Ontario, did the first books in the series from Edward Stratemeyer’s and later his daugh­ters’ outlines.

The McFarlane Hardy Boys books are Volumes 1 (1927) to 16 and 22 to 24 (1945). Many other ghostwriters finished the remaining “classic,” or Grosset & Dunlap, titles through Volume 58 in 1979, but the real authors were Syndicate outliners and editors. McFarlane was paid $ 125 for each early Hardy Boys book, as well as for his silence as a “ghost.” Leslie McFarlane also did the first four Dana Girls books for the Syndicate and worked on the Dave Fearless series, earlier books than the Hardy Boys’. No doubt it was McFarlane who set the “lone” and “style” of the Hardy Boys books, which other writers followed in all the years since the original edition of The Tower Treasure.

Much has been written about how unfair it was for the Stratemeyer Syndicate to pay low fees for its books and give no credit to the actual author. In the 1920s $125 was about two months wages for a newspaper reporter who had to work even harder and write more words than would be found in a Hardy Boys book. Stratemeyer ghostwriters were furnished with detailed outlines for each book (more detailed than they wanted to admit), so they did not have to invent the complex plots. Many ghostwriters stayed with the Syndicate for twenty years or more, so the rules must not have been intolerable to them at the time. Producing juvenile series books was a business for the Stratemeyer Syndicate and the names of the “authors” on their books were the “house names” of that “brand” of book. The designers of toothpaste tubes or jumbo jets do not have their names engraved on the products they are paid to develop either.

The Classic Grosset & Dunlap Hardy Boys Books

The Hardy Boys books that are most sought by collectors are the hardback ones that were produced by Grosset & Dunlap from 1927 to 1979. In 1979 the Stratemeyer Syndicate took its books to Simon & Schuster (who later bought the Syndicate also). After a nasty court case, Grosset & Dunlap was left with the rights to print the first fifty-eight titles of the Hardy Boys® books, as well as the Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins books Grosset & Dunlap had issued before 1979.

Most Simon & Schuster Hardy Boys books are short, paperback ones, printed at the rate of about six a year since 1979. This study addresses the fifty-eight “classic” Hardy Boys’* books, although there are some collectors who are interested in the post-1979 books. Since even the Classic Hardy Boys” books were printed over a long period of time the entire history of them is too detailed for this book. The author strongly recommends a book that no collector of the Hardy Boys should be without: Hardy and Hardy Investigations by Tony Carpentieri and Paul Mular from Sinsine Press, now in its fourth edition. This book even tells how many words were in each Hardy Boys volume and how many times a character was mentioned in each one! The Hardy Boys cover pictures were done by the important children’s books illustrators of their time. Among them are Walter S. Rogers, who did covers for Honey Bunch, the X Bar X Boys and many other series books. A.O. Scott, J. Clemens Gretta and Paul Laune did several books each, as well as covers for other series books. Russell H. Tandy and Bill Gillies, who painted Nancy Drew dust jackets, did covers in the 1940s and 1950s. Rudi Nappi, another important Nancy Drew artist, did sixty-three picture cover designs, which is more than half of all Hardy Boys book covers.

The earliest Hardy Boys books have thick red bindings. Eventually these were brown bindings, which later became thin gray-tan composition bindings, and then picture cover books in various forms. There are 119 different dust jackets or picture covers for the Hardy Boys Classic set of fifty-eight volumes.

There are four charts that help explain the Hardy Boys books:

  1. Hardy Boys Books. This tells what year each book with a different cover design was first released.
  2. Hardy Boys Covers. This shows how the book was available in dust jacket/picture cover combinations.
  3. Hardy Boys Artists. Each book title is listed with the names of the artists who executed the one to four covers for it.
  4. Year-Volume-Pages for each Hardv Boys title with revisions noted.

The Hardy Boys Book Formats (First Edition Identification Guide)

Note: The classic Hardy Boys books involve a complex formatting system. The following is simplified. For more thorough and detailed formatting see Hardy and Hardy Investigations by Carpentieri and Mular.

Grosset & Dunlap

I. 1927-1932

  • Volumes #1 – #11, including first printings, #1 – #11
    • Red cloth binding
    • Glossy frontis; plain eps
    • Color Dust Jackets, different for each book; white spine with red shield symbol

II. 1932

  • Volumes #1 – #11
    • Tan cloth binding
    • Glossy frontis; brown and white eps by J. Clemens Gretta
    • Color Dust jackets, as in Format I with spine symbol

III. 1932-1943

  • Volumes #1 – #22, including first printings, #12 – #22
    • Tan cloth binding
    • Glossy frontis, #1 – #5 and #17; plain frontis #16 and #18-#22
    • Orange and white eps by Gretta
    • Color Dust Jackets; #12 same as in Format I, after #13 yellow spine with heads of Hardy Boys logo; reprints have yellow spine and logo
    • After late 1942 the paper is poor “War Paper”

IV. 1944-1951

  • Volumes #1 – #30, including first printings, #23 – #30 Tan composition binding; thinner books begin Earlier printings have glossy frontis; later #13, #14, #17 have no frontis; other later ones have frontis on plain paper
    • Orange and white Gretta eps
    • Yellow spine Dust jackets through #24; wrap-around Dust jackets beginning with #25
    • Poor “War Paper” until mid-1948

Note: The 1945 printing of #24 (The Short Wave Mystery) has a maroon cover and eps. This is very rare.

V. 1952- 1956

  • Volumes #1 – #36, including first printings, #31 – #36 Tan-gray tweed composition binding
    • Frontis on plain paper; beginning with #34 also five internals
    • Orange and white Gretta eps
    • Wrap Dust jackets

VI. 1957- 1961

  • Volumes #1 – #40, including first printings, #37 -#40 Tan-gray tweed composition binding frontis and internals as in Format V
  • Brown multi-scene eps
  • Wrap Dust jackets, including many reprintings

VII. 1962- 1987

  • Volumes #1 – #58, including first printings, #41 – #58
    • Blue spine picture cover
    • Illustrations as in Format V
    • Brown multi-scene eps, #1 – #50, 1962 – 1972
    • Black and white multi-scene eps, #1 – #58, 1972- 1979
    • Crude, double-oval eps, #1 – #58, 1980 – 1987

Note: Since 1987 the picture covers are smooth, shiny stock; the endpapers are blank.

Easton Press

VIII. 1978

  • #1 – #12, reprints
    • Leather-bound in slipcases
    • Reproductions of first art, #1 – #9; second art, #10 – #12
    • Gretta orange and white eps

Applewood Books

IX. 1991+

  • Volumes #1-#11 (1991-2001)
    • These are “facsimile” editions of Format I with modernized binding techniques.
    • Glossy frontis
    • Reproduction of original Dust jackets with gold bands at tops and bottoms; large Applewood gold seal on front of DJ on Volumes #1 – #8

The Hardy Boys Book Series List

  • DJ: Just Jacket
  • PC: Pictorial Cover
Volume/TitleYear1. Cover22. Cover33. Cover44. Cover
1. The Tower Treasure1927DJ1944DJ1959DJ/PC
2. The House on the Cliff1927DJ1945DJ1959DJ/PC
3. The Secret of the Old Mill1927DJ1944DJ1960DJ/PC
4. The Missing Chums1928DJ1944DJ1959DJ/PC
5. Hunting for Hidden Gold1928DJ1944DJ1960DJ/PC
6. The Shore Road Mystery1928DJ1944DJ1960DJ/PC1964PC
7. The Secret of the Caves1929DJ1944DJ1960DJ/PC
8. The Mystery of Cabin Island1929DJ1944DJ1960DJ/PC
9. The Great Airport Mystery1930DJ1944DJ1960DJ/PC
10. What Happened at Midnight1931DJ1946DJ/PC1967PC
11. While the Clock Ticked1932DJ1950DJ1962PC
12. Footprints Under the Window1933DJ1950DJ/PC1965PC
13. The Mark on the Door1934DJ1950DJ/PC1967PC
14. The Hidden Harbor Mystery1945DJ1950DJ1962PC
15. The Sinister Sign Post1936DJ1950PC1968PC
16. A Figure in Hiding1937DJ1962PC
17. The Secret Warning1937DJ1962PC1966
18. The Twisted Claw1939DJ1962PC1969
19. The Disappearing Floor1940DJ1962PC
20. The Mystery of the Flying Express1941DJ1962PC1970
21. The Clue of the Broken Blade1942DJ1962PC19671970PC
22. The Flickering Torch Mystery1943DJ1962PC1971
23. The Melted Coins1944DJ1962PC1970
24. The Short-Wave Mystery1945DJ1962PC
25. The Secret Panel1946DJ/PC1969PC
26. The Phantom Freighter1947DJ/PC1970PC
27. The Secret of Skull Mountain1948DJ/PC1966PC
28. The Sign of the Crooked Arrow1949DJ/PC1970PC
29. The Secret of the Lost Tunnel1950DJ/PC1968PC
30. The Wailing Siren Mystery1951DJ/PC1968PC
31. The Secret of Wildcat Swamp1952DJ/PC1969PC
32. The Crisscross Shadow1953DJ/PC1969PC
33. The Yellow Feather Mystery1954DJ/PC1971PC
34. The Hooded Hawk Mystery1954DJ/PC1971PC
35. The Clue in the Embers1956DJ/PC1972PC
36. The Secret of Pirates' Hill1956DJ/PC1972PC
37. The Ghost at Skeleton Rock1957DJ/PC1966PC
38. The Mystery at Devil’s Paw1959DJ/PC1973PC
39. The Mystery off the ChineseJunk1960DJ/PC
40. The Mystery off the Desert Giant1961DJ/PC
41. The Clueoff the Screeching Owl1962PC
42. The Viking Symbol Mystery1963PC
43. The Mystery off the Aztec Warrior1964PC
44. The Haunted Fort1965PC
45. The Mystery off the Spiral Bridge1966PC
46. The Secret Agenton Flight 1011967PC
47. Mystery off the Whale Tattoo1968PC
48. The Arctic Patrol Mystery1969PC
49. The Bombay Boomerang1970PC
50. Danger on Vampire Trail1971PC
51. The Masked Monkey1972PC
52. The Shattered Helmet1973PC
53. The Clue off theHissingSerpent1974PC
54. The Mysterious Caravan1975PC
55. The Witchmaster's Key1976PC
56. The Jungle Pyramid1977PC
57. The Firebird Rocket1978PC
58. The Sting off theScorpion1979PC


– All About Collecting Boys’ Series Books. John Axe, 2002.

BOOKSTORE: Rare, Antiquarian, First editions, Illustrated Children's Books

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