In 1899 L. Frank Baum collaborated with W. W. Denslow on their best-seller FATHER GOOSE, HIS BOOK. Its success encouraged Baum to write another book based on a bedtime story he had been telling his four sons.
Wishing to make the book as enjoyable to look at as to read, no expense was spared. In 1901 THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was issued with 24 full page color plates, two-color text illustrations, and a color-stamped cloth binding in a decorative dust jacket. This was the beginning of what can only be considered a publishing phenomena.
Selling 38,000 copies in the first 15 months, Baum started to work on sequels. By the time WWI rolled around publishing costs forced a more conservative design and sales began to slump. In 1918, towards the end of the war, Baum’s health was failing. He had finished the manuscripts for two more Oz books. Unfortunately, Baum died one month before the 1919 publication of THE MAGIC OF OZ and never knew that sales had turned the corner and were booming.
Ruth Plumly Thompson, a family friend, published THE ROYAL BOOK OF OZ in 1921, the first of 18 sequels she would write. It didn’t seem to matter who wrote them, the country was Oz crazy.
Baum wrote 14 titles, Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote 18, John R. Neill, Baum’s long-time illustrator wrote 4, Jack Snow, Baum scholar and collector, wrote 3, Rachel Cosgrove Payes 2 and Eloise Jarvis McGraw, 3 with THE RUNDELSTONE OF OZ debuting in 2001 exactly 100 years after THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OZ.
Baum wrote non-Oz books under 8 pseudonyms but nothing even approached the adventures of Dorothy, Toto and friends. In 2002 Christies, New York estimated a first edition with a 4 line authorial inscription would bring between 60 – 80 thousand dollars. Final price? $150,000.000, a world record for an Oz book.