“Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of eighteen, was driving home along a country road in her new, dark blue convertible. She had just delivered some legal papers for her father.”
When I was 10 years old, 18 was so far into the future, I couldn’t begin to fathom what life would be like at that age. Yet, here was a girl, who at 18 years of age, already owned a convertible and was delivering LEGAL PAPERS, for gosh sakes, for her dad. Could it get any more exotic?! Of course it could because Nancy Drew didn’t just have a great car and a cool dad (he bought her a dark blue convertible, people), she had an entourage that consisted of a cute boyfriend (Ned) and two awesome friends (Bess & George), and sometimes, their boyfriends. Nancy got to travel all over the world (with a chaperone, of course) and was able to escape every dangerous situation (bombs and gunshots and kidnappings, oh my!) that was thrown at her and her stalwart friends. Nancy Drew was a bad-ass and I’m almost ashamed to admit I relayed all this information to you without having to look at any reference material. That’s right. Nancy and her crew are indelibly etched in my memory whether I want them there or not.
Girls didn’t have many role models to look up to in the late 60’s and early 70’s. They were on their way but I didn’t know it back then. I was more concerned with other things. I wanted a cool car. I wanted to solve mysteries. I wanted to be Nancy Drew! I probably could have done without Ned, but that’s another story.
Nancy Drew’s very first adventure, The Secret of the Old Clock, was written in 1929 not by Carolyn Keene, whose name graces all Nancy Drew books as the author, but by Mildred A. Wirt. Ms. Wirt went on to write 23 of the first 30 books. There were other writers I’m not familiar with but as ghost writers, they signed away their rights to the books and were paid set amounts for their works. In 1993, the first Nancy Drew Conference was held in Iowa and Ms. Wirt was finally acknowledged as the original Carolyn Keene and future printings will acknowledge her contributions to the Nancy Drew series. For more information with detailed history and everything you ever wanted to know about Nancy Drew but were afraid to ask, go to the Nancy Drew Sleuth website. There are tons of other Nancy Drew websites out there. Nancy is still sleuthing and enjoying her never aging life of mystery.
As for the books, here’s some information for anyone who is interested in revisiting their Nancy Drew love. The earliest versions of the Nancy Drew books were published between 1930 and 1961. Volumes 1-22 had white spines and removable dust jackets. In 1946, some volumes were published with a “wrap spine” dust jacket. This means the “wrap spine” volumes had dust jackets with a cover photo that actually “wrapped” around the spine. From 1962 to 1986, covers were matte and had yellow spines (these are the volumes I have in my collection). The final incarnation, excluding the paperback version, is the glossy “flashlight” yellow spine picture cover format. The flashlight refers to a kind of light “beam” on the spine of these books. They also have a yellow strip across the top of the front cover with the title of the book and the volume number.
I was lucky enough that my parents bought me the collection as a surprise gift when I was a kid. I own volumes 1 through 54. In the process of growing up and moving about, I lost about 3 volumes that I’ve managed to replace over the years. I own the series with the matte covers and yellow spines and I’ve always coveted the early volumes but in good condition, they sell for anywhere from $40-$75 per book so I limited myself to only one. The books in my series (matte with yellow spine) usually sell anywhere from $3 per volume all the way to $12 per volume, depending on certain characteristics of the book itself. If you were looking to own an entire collection, it’s best to inform yourself prior to making a purchase because the styles, copyrights, and types vary widely. I estimate that a collection like mine (which I don’t ever see myself sellling) would probably sell for $150 and upwards. If you were lucky enough to find the entire white spine series, you would be looking at paying around $1000, give or take a hundred dollars or so.
So, to recap why Nancy Drew was the coolest chick in books:
- Nancy Drew owned a convertible.
- Nancy Drew’s mom was never in her business. (Her mother died when she was very young and her housekeeper, Hannah Gruen took care of her but it’s not the same.)
- Nancy Drew’s dad was a lawyer AND he bought her a car AND let Nancy do whatever she wanted.
- Nancy Drew was rich.
- Nancy Drew had an entourage.
- Nancy Drew was smart as hell and could figure ANYTHING out way before the police knew what hit them.
- Nancy Drew could escape from any trap anyone set for her.
- Nancy Drew often cheated death.
- Nancy Drew traveled all over the world with her friends.
- Nancy Drew never aged.
I’m sure there are more reasons Nancy was such an inspiration and such a cult-like figure to little girls all over the world but I can’t think of them all right now.
I’ll close this post with a solid, “Nancy Drew rocked!” and a shout out to all my fellow sleuths out there. If you want more information on Nancy Drew books drop me a line. If you would like to leave a comment about your memories of Nancy Drew and how the books impacted your life, please share, I’d love to read them!