Charlie Brown’s ‘Cyclopedia was an attempt to squeeze a lot of sales out of some already existing material. By taking the material from the existing Charlie Brown’s Super Book of Questions and Answers and rearranging it into smaller chunks, they got what was first a 12- book series, later expanded into 15. These would be sold primarily at grocery stores, with the first volume at a discount price (usually a mere 99 cents, sometimes even cheaper), and an additional, subsequent volume offered each week. This not only generated money from the sales of the books, it got shoppers to return to the same supermarket every week.
The promotion was so successful that, while it launched in 1980, there were still stores offering it in 1993. By that time, the original set of 8 year olds that the ‘cyclopedia had been meant for were now 21, and had probably moved on to a more serious encyclopedia — Doonesbury’s ‘Cyclopedia or somesuch.
Recently, I decided to dig through the newspaper ads for these books. When it launched, chain supermarkets would run full-page ads for it.
The fine folks at the St. Louis-area chain Schnucks actually took out a four-page ad in the Sunday TV listing supplement. (This is just the first page of what was likely a color ad; I just have black-and-white source.)
These folks were willing to sell you the whole set at once!
1987 brought a cheaper first volume from this Texas store… and the bookrack is free!
Oh, you think that’s cheap? How about 9 cents…. and the profits from those 9 cents go to charity!
1991. These folks were offering two new volumes a week… and really didn’t understand the title’s use of an apostrophe. Bu they were promoting the final volumes, which are a bit rarer; people would often launch into buying these things with good intention, and then drop it along the way. It is easier to find used copy of volume 4 than volume 14.