Rinker Report: What's Hot, What's Not: Collectible Cookbooks

Reports and comments about antiques and collectibles categories that have been actively traded during the last several months.

Prices Noted:

$457: The Farmer’s Every-Day Book; Or, Sketches of Social Life in the Country: with the Popular Elements of Practical and theoretical Agriculture, and Twelve Hundred Laconics and apothegms Relating to Ethics, Religion and General Literature; Also, Fire Hundred Receipts on Hygeian, Domestic and Rural Economy. By the Rev. John L. Blake, D.D. Published in 1851 by Derby, Miller and Company, Auburn, NY, embossed leather binding, illustrated with engravings, 654 pages, 9” x 6”, good condition, leather shows rubbing/wear at extremities with a 3/4” chip at top of spine, no torn, loose, or missing pages, moisture blemish through top margin of pages, heavier near front, Eastern US seller

$306: Breakfast Dinner and Supper, How What and When in Five Parts: Ethics of Eating; Etiquette of the Home; Hygeine of the Home; Hints to Housekeepers; How to Cook. Edited by J.E. White, M.D. and Mrs. M.L. Wanless, published by J.E. White Subscription Book Publisher, Kansas City and Battle Creek, 1884 first edition, well illustrated with approximately 20 full-page engravings (one sepia, one pink) and many in-text illustrations, 405 pages plus 3 pages of advertising at back, 7 3/4” x 5 1/2”, very good condition with moderate to light edgewear and bumping, some spotting on a few pages, pink endpapers fading near spine, light to moderate age toning around edges of pages, MD seller

$301: Modern Domestic Cookery and Useful Receipt Book: Containing Approved Directions for Purchasing, Preserving and Cooking Meat, Fish, Poultry, Game, &c., The Art of Trussing and Carving, Preparing Soups, Gravies, Sauces, and Made Dishes, Potting, Pickling, &c., The Branches of Pastry and Confectionary; A Complete Family Physician, Instructions To Servants for the Best Method of Performing Their Various Duties, The Art of Making British Wines, Brewing, Baking, &c. By Elizabeth Hammond, published by A.K. Newman & Co., Leadenhall-Street, London, 1828 printing, no copyright shown, stated Sixth Edition – Improved, hardcover, 287 pages, 4” x 6 1/2”, good condition, front cover beginning to separate from text, heavy edgewear to corners of covers and top and bottom of spine, tear to material covering bottom of spine, small spot on rear cover, some foxing throughout, missing the corner of page 162 (does not affect recipes), minor bent corners, NY seller

$198: Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book: Designed as a Supplement to Her Treatise on Domestic Economy. By Miss Catherine E. Beecher, published by Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1862 edition of 1846 copyright, stated Third Edition, hardcover, black and white illustrations, 293 pages, 4 1/2” x 7 1/2”, fair to good condition, spine binding may have been professionally restored, heavy edgewear to corners of cover and top and bottom of spine, some pencil writing on first inside blank page, some foxing and a few cooking spots throughout, some ink spilled on page 27/28, tear to page 261/262, first 100 pages have a light water spot at top of page, NY seller

$86: Pfeiffer’s Lunch Recipes, Pfeiffer’s Brewing Co., color covers, 12 pages, 3 3/8” x 5 3/4”, good condition, wrinkled, rusty staples, something stuck to covers, MI seller

$75: Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, hardcover 5-ring binder cookbook with red “pie” cover, copyright 1969, 11th printing from 1972, excellent condition with a few small faded splash stains on spine and back cover, MN seller

$70: Gold medal Flour Cook Book, published by Washburn-Crosby Co., 1917, softcover, 8 1/2” x 11”, good condition, OR seller

$61: Housekeeping in Old Virginia, published by the Favorite Recipes Press, Inc., KY, 1965, originally published in 1879 by John P. Morton and Co. Cookbook Collectors Library, contains old Dixie recipes, remedies for the sick room, poison antidotes, household tips, rules for servants to follow, how to churn butter, cure bacon, and dress out animals, hardcover, red cover with gilt illustration of a black Mammy and her family working in a large kitchen, 528 pages, good condition, US seller

$46: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, first edition, first printing, Meredith Publishing, 1953, 411 pages, very good condition, TN seller

$43: The Hotel St. Francis Cook Book, by Victor Hirtzler, chef of the San Franciscan hotel, published by the Hotel Monthly Press, Chicago, 1919, 432 pages plus advertising, hunter green cloth covers with gilt title, minor wear, FL seller

$32: The I Hate To Cook Book, by Peg Bracken, drawings by Hilary Knight, 1960, “…for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry Martini instead of a wet flounder,” hardcover, off-the-shelf condition, jacket shows wear, US seller

$23: Good Things to Eat and How to Prepare Them, Larkin Company, 1912, 80 pages, fairly good condition, stained and worn leatherette cover, some pages with ragged edges, FL seller

$22: 50 Ways of Serving Cream of Wheat, 1924 copyright by Cream of Wheat, Chef Rastus on cover, color illustrations, 32 pages, some smudges on front cover, 2 center pages loose, MN seller

$20: Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook, by Cynthia Lawrence, illustrated by Clyde Smith, Random House, 1964, first printing, illustrated, hardcover, 114 pages, 6 3/4” x 9 1/2”, nice condition with some shelf wear and rounding of corners, PA seller

$18: Prize Winning Maine Recipes, Boone’s Custom House Wharf, Portland, ME, 67 perforated pages meant to be detached an added to a recipe box, 3” x 6”, perfect condition, NH seller

$17: Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes by Miss Parloa and Home Made Candy Recipes by Mrs. Janet McKenzie hill, advertising promotion “Compliments of Walter Baker & Co., LTD,” 1910 copyright, softcover, embossed color covers, color illustrations and centerfold, 64 pages, 6 1/2” x 4”, cover has a bit of missing paper at top and bottom edges and some creases and light soiling, back cover has a 4/8” split along spine edge and has pulled away from staples, minor edge wear to pages, WA seller

$15: Gourmette, spiral bound cookbook compiled by the Faculty Wives club, University of Colorado School of Medicine, circa 1960, 149 pages, very good condition, NC seller

$14: Kauai Cookbook, spiral bound cookbook compiled by the Kekaha Parent-Teachers’ Association in Kekaha, Kauai County, Hawaii, illustrations by Betty Kernaghan, 1959, 104 pages, fairly good condition with some staining and creasing of back cover, plastic comb binding broken at bottom, and page edges slightly tanned, TX seller

$11: Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book, published by Culinary Arts Press, 1936, contains “fine recipes made famous by the early Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania,” detailed line drawings, and period Pennsylvania Dutch poetry, 48 pages, 6” x 9”, excellent condition, OH seller

$11: Reliable Recipes, Calumet Baking Powder co., Chicago, color covers and 4 color pages with a centerfold of the company’s plant, 72 pages, 4 3/4” x 6 1/2”, fair condition with 1 torn page, some discoloration, something stuck to back cover, and wrinkling, MI seller

$10: Royal Baker and Pastry Cook, by The Chefs of the New York Cooking School, Royal Baking Powder Co., NY, 1902, lithographed cover is chipped all around edges and nearly detached from book, 40 pages plus advertising, 8 1/4” x 5 1/4”, OR seller

$9: Pet Milk Cook Book, by Emily T. Chamberlin, Pet Milk Company, Originators of Evaporated Milk, 1924, 36 pages, softcover, very good condition with 2 small tears on cover and first page, PA seller

$7: Betty Crocker’s Good and Easy Cook Book, published by Simon & Schuster, NY, 1954, first edition, seventh printing, hardcover, spiral binding, illustrated with color photos and line drawings, very good condition with little shelf wear, OH seller

$6: Recipes for Everyday, by Janet McKenzie Hill, published by the Proctor & Gamble Company, softcover, color illustrations, features recipes made with Crisco, 1921 copyright, 101 pages, faded and soiled cover, last section of pages beginning to separate from spine, light pencil scribbles on some pages, IL seller

$6: Mary Dunbar’s Cook Book, Jewel Tea Company, 1927, 63 pages, 8 3/8” x 5 3/8”, very good condition except for a small tear on cover and a little staining, NY seller

$6: Pyrex Prize Recipes, Greystone Press, 1953, hardcover, yellowed color cover with small water stain on front and back, otherwise excellent used condition, NY seller

$5: A Book of Favorite Recipes, St. Luke’s Guild Auxiliary, Des Moines, IA, 1933, 48 pages, 6” x 9”, excellent condition, NH seller

$5: Betty Crocker’s Good and Easy Cook Book, Golden Press, NY, 1954 copyright by General Mills, first edition, tenth printing, hardcover, color photos, spiral bound, 256 pages, 5 3/4” x 7 3/4”, excellent condition, LA seller

$5: Food for Thought, God Loves You and Me, Ware’s Grove Lutheran Church, Butler, IL, 1980 copyright, 176 pages, IN seller

$5: McCall’s Cook Book, published by Random House, NY, 1963 copyright, first printing, fair condition with smudges and spots on color covers, ink transferring on some pages, VA seller

NS: Any One Can Bake, compiled by the Educational Department of the Royal Baking Powder Co., New York, 1929 copyright, hardcover, color and black and white photo illustrations, 100 pages, 6 3/4” x 9”, AK seller ($5 opening bid, no bids received)


We live in an age when cookbooks are highly detailed, containing exact measurements, specific instructions for the blending of ingredients, cooking temperatures, etc. Gone are the days of a pinch of this, a dab of that, or add an ingredient until the feel is right.

The pages of favorite cookbooks often are dog-eared, stained, and/or loose. Yet, cooks treasure and preserve them. Replacing a well-worn copy with a new edition or better condition period example is unthinkable. A cookbook is an extension of the cook who uses it.

There is no “first” cookbook. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans had cookbooks. These early examples were written for the male cooks in wealthy upper-class households. The Forme of Cury (The Art of Cooking), written in 1390, claims the credit of being the first cookbook in English. Although the earliest printed cookbooks date from the late Renaissance, the manuscript cookbook reigned supreme until the eighteenth century.

The first cookbook written for a woman appeared at the very end of the sixteenth century. By the early eighteenth century, women began authoring cookbooks, e.g., Mary Kettilby’s A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery for the use of All Good Wives, Tender Mothers and Careful Nurses (1714) and Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife (1727). In 1742 William Parks, a Williamsburg, VA, printer published an American edition of Smith’s book. Hannah Glasse authored The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy in 1747. It became a classic and dominated the market for close to fifty years.

Cookbooks remained in short supply in the American colonies. Amelia Simmons of Hartford, Connecticut, is created with publishing the first American authored cookbook, American Cookery: or the art of dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the best modes of making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves and all kinds of Cake from the imperial Plumb to the plain Cake. Adapted to this country, and all grades of life, in 1796. This and other early cookbooks need to be carefully interpreted. They first must be read to get a sense of what the author intends and then missing information from measurements to cooking temperature filled-in.

Nineteenth century cookbooks were more than just a list of recipes. They also guided a woman as to how to perform her wifely familial duties. By 1876, American publishers had printed over 1,000 cookbooks and cooking pamphlets.

Mary Randolph’s The Virginia House-Wife (1824) was the first regional American cookbook. Eliza Leslie’s Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats (By A Lady of Philadelphia) followed four years later.

Boston Cooking School instructors and graduates, e.g., Fannie Merritt Farmer and even Mary Lincoln, revolutionized the cookbook. Cooking became a domestic science. The exact measurement of ingredients was stressed. Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, published in 1896, became the classic model of early twentieth century cookbooks. Leading male chefs, e.g. Alessandro Filippini and Charles Ranhofer, in New York City also authored cookbooks.

As America entered the twentieth century, cookbooks faced a new challenge – responding to changing kitchen ingredients and technology. Baking powder manufacturers, e.g., Calumet and Royal, issued numerous recipe pamphlets. Electric and gas ranges replaced the coal/wood burning stove. Refrigerators changed food storage. Americans canned and froze.

General Mills created Betty Crocker in 1921, gave her a voice (“The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air) in 1924, a face in 1936 thanks to Neysa McMein, and her own hardcover cookbook, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, in 1950. Betty survived until 2006.

Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking first appeared in 1931. The book stressed affordability and healthy cooking, with an occasional indulgence allowed. The writing style was light and humorous. My Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, one of the many magazine cookbooks, appeared in the mid-1930s. The American woman evolved into an accomplished hostess as well as a cook.

Cookbooks, as well as the rest of America, went to war in the early 1940s. American cooks prepared meals from the ingredients of Victory Gardens and rationed meat. Regional and outdoor cookbooks achieved a golden age in the two decades immediately following the war.

The next cookbook evolution took cooking from nutrition to cuisine focused. Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) and James Beard’s American Cookery (1972) led the way. Today, thanks in large part to cable television’s The Food Channel, a return to down-home, regional cooking and quick and simple meals is challenging gourmet cuisine for “king of the hill” cookbook status.

References: Bob Allen, A Guide to Collecting Cookbooks: A History of People, Companies and Cooking (Collector Books, 1988); Bob Allen, A Guide to Collecting Cookbooks and Advertising Cookbooks (Collector Books, 1990, 1998 value update); Mary Barile, Cookbooks Worth Collecting (Wallace-Homestead, 1994); Frank Daniels, Collector’s Guide to Cookbooks: Identification & Values (Collector Books, 2005); Linda J. Dickinson, Price Guide to Cookbooks and Recipe Leaflets (Collector Books, 1990, 1997 value update); Sandra J. Norman and Karrie K. Andes, Vintage Cookbooks and Advertising Leaflets (Schiffer Publishing, 1998).

Collectors’ Club: Cook Book Collectors Club, 4756 Terrace Drive, San Diego, CA 92116; Cook Book Collectors Club of America, PO Box 56, St. James, MO 65559.

Market Analysis:

Cookbook collectors specialize. They have no choice if they want to assemble a comprehensive, meaningful collection. As a result, there is not one, but many secondary cookbook markets. Some are hot, many are stable, and a few are ice cold.

Those collecting cookbooks as investments focus primarily on cookbooks printed before 1865. In this realm, jingoism plays a minor role. In many other categories, e.g., art pottery and toys, American collectors focus primarily on American-made examples. This is not true for cookbooks. Collectors seek titles from around the globe.

Scarcity is a key value determinant. However, even in the rarified atmosphere of the top end of the cookbook secondary market, the Internet has redefined scarcity. The survival rate for many titles is far greater than previously suspected.

[Source: eBay sellers.]
EBay was used as the source for prices noted. Similar titles in the antiquarian book auction and show circuit are considerably higher. Asking prices also remain high on websites such as abebooks.com and bookfinder.com.

There is considerable graying of collectors at the traditional high end of the cookbook market. Most major collectors are in their sixties or above. Younger collectors appear far more interested in first edition of twentieth century classics than their historic counterparts.

Mid-twentieth century regional and charitable cookbooks are hot, a trend fueled by eBay. Cookbook dealers largely ignored these subcategories because of their large number and limited market. EBay made the connection between willing buyer and seller. Individuals whose careers have distanced them from the region and/or ethnicity of their childhood are buying them to recreate a touch of home.

Collecting first edition cookbooks also is gaining in popularity. However, serious collectors want first edition, first printings. Many cookbooks experience multiple printings. Collectors want the earliest example. Likewise, collectors show little interest in acquiring second and subsequent editions.

Age is not a value factor. Popular cookbooks, even those published in the nineteenth century, had large press runs. The survival rate is high. Many were printed on pulp paper and do not age well. Lesser titles are lesser titles, footnotes rather than highly desirable examples in cookbook historical lore.

The secondary market for promotional cookbooks is mixed. Examples with crossover potential (more than one potential collector buyer), such as a cookbook promotion by a brewing company, do well. Examples issued by ingredient manufacturers, e.g., baking product companies, no longer are as prized as they were in the 1970s and 1980s. Many promotional cookbooks are collected for their cover art, e.g., a Kate Smith example, or movie, radio, or television tie-in.

Promotional cookbooks issued with an appliance, e.g., a microwave cookbook, appear to have fallen on hard times. The market is minimal. Those who do buy usually are individuals who have purchased the appliance.

Condition is critical to value. Many collectors do utilize recipes from the books they purchase. However, they are far more likely to make a photocopy and use it rather than open the book to the required page and have it nearby while they cook.

Finally, the cookbook collecting category includes hardcover and soft cover books as well as booklets and pamphlets. Thanks to the large number of booklets and pamphlets, cookbooks are one of the few collecting category where a major collection still can be assembled for less than fifty dollars a unit.

The Rinker Report, the opinions, thoughts, and other mental wanderings of Harry L. Rinker, is published sporadically and entirely at the whim of its author. Page length varies from issue to issue. The opinions and views expressed in The Rinker Report are Rinker’s and Rinker’s alone and should not be construed to reflect those of any publication that prints excerpts from this report nor clients for whom Rinker works and consults. Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2007.

User login



About Ruby Lane

Vintage Begins Here: Explore the exciting world of Ruby Lane. Discover thousands of independent shops showcasing quality Antique & Art, Vintage, and Jewelry items from the world's largest curated marketplace.

Follow Me on Pinterest