As you may know, there have indeed been book adaptations of A Charlie Brown Christmas, starting with the Dale Hale drawn hardcover that was published by the World Press in 1965, when the special first aired. The first printing of that bears the phrase First Printing 1965 on the copyright page…
…and so does every other printing of this adaptation. Printings that clearly came later, that varied in height, that were part of a boxed set of books which wasn’t issued until the 1970s, all bore this printing date and none other. For whatever reason, the publisher did not follow the practice of including the current print number and date every time they went back to press on the book. If you watch on eBay, you’ll see almost every listing for this hardcover will proudly proclaim its first printingness. And that would be a nice thing to have, because remember, this special turned out to be a far bigger hit than anyone had anticipated; the first printing may well be relatively rare.
Well, the real first printing had a dust jacket. I cannot say for sure that it’s the only printing that had a dust jacket, but I know with comfortable certainty that some of the later ones did not. But as any serious collector of hardcover can tell you, dust jackets get lost. They get damaged, they disappear (in fact, a rare dust jacket without the book will generally be worth more than the rare book without the dust jacket). So the absence of a dust jacket certainly doesn’t tell you that a copy isn’t the first printing.
So is there a way to tell if the copy you have is a true first printing? Well, I’ve got a dust jacketed copy, and despite the fact that there are other printings out there that don’t have any variation in the printing plates, there’s still one very major difference between this copy and every other printing I’ve seen, something easy to check if you have a copy in your hands. Open the front cover and look on the inside. If the inside is red, congrats, it looks like you have a first printing – that dust jacketed copy has red pastedowns and endpapers (for those who like publishing terminology). Every other printing I’ve seen, the inside cover is white.