Mattel gave Barbie a Dream House, but Charlie Brown a whole World

Classic finds

I coulda swore I blogged about this recently, but if so, my search powers are failing me, so here goes.

You may have, over the course of your Peanuts collecting careers, found some odd hardcover Peanuts strip collections that actually had two books in each one — you read halfway through the book, then flipped it over and started from the front again. If you were cursed, you found one of these books. If you were lucky, you found the whole set of 9 (or 18, if you want to count them that way), and even the box they came in, which was marked The World of Charlie Brown. You may have found these books at a flea market, or a yard sale, or even a used book store. But one place you didn’t find them was a new book store.

These books didn’t go through the normal book process, which is not surprising because the publisher, Mattel, is not generally thought of as as book publisher. They are, at heart, a toy company, offering the world Barbie and Hot Wheels and a lot of other things that they wish would sell as well as Barbie and Hot Wheels. But for a brief while in the early 1970s, they were trying their hand at publishing books and selling them through ads in newspaper magazine sections.

This was actually a reasonable way to get a whole bunch of Peanuts material — the individual books at the time cost $1.25 apiece, so the 18 books would’ve cost you $22.50, or more than the $16.95-plus-shipping that these were going for. But that savings disappears pretty quickly if you were already a Peanuts fan and thus had some of the books, and if you just want to try Peanuts, well, this is a rather full-on way of going about it! After all, $16.95 in early 1971 dollars is about $116.95 today. (No wonder they wanted you to pay in installments.) No, this made more sense as a gift item, grandma and grandpa going all in on something for the wee ones. It makes sense that it was advertised in the same form as collectible plates and cherub figurines.

Ad headlined "Now! Enjoy the HARDCOVER Charlie Brown Library FREE for 10 days."

These sold well enough that it’s not that rare to find them for sale; I certainly paid less than the inflation-adjusted price for my set. And they found it worth advertising them in at least two different years. But I can only find one other such offer from the Mattel Home Program, a monthly book club for kids featuring some (but not solely) Curious George titles, so I reckon it wasn’t such a big success that they felt the need to try a lot of further projects.

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