Pulp Paperbacks: collectible pop-culture icons
There’s a lot to like about pulp paperback books. Earning their name from the cheap wood-pulp paper they were printed on, these pocket-sized collectibles have super-sized appeal as the pop culture treasures they’re known as today. First appearing in the late 1930s, the popularity of the small softcovers exploded after publishers began offering the books to sellers with the promise to refund unsold copies. Soon the little 7 by 4 inch pocket books were available in drug stores, supermarkets, bus stations and practically everywhere you could buy a pack of gum.
While knowledge and effort can help you find good copies, paperbacks are the perfect collectible as they were produced in large enough numbers to still be findable today. For many, the provocative cover art alone makes them worth collecting but others seek books from certain authors or publishers. The wide variety of genres available provide many options for the discerning collector. Classic genres include horror, science fiction, romance, fantasy, mystery, and western with sleaze, juvenile delinquent and exploitation themes becoming more popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Find a genre that appeals to you- paperbacks are great for people with many interests. While desirable copies can make a reliable investment collection, as a rule you can’t go wrong if you simply collect what you enjoy.
Pulp paperbacks can still be found at flea markets and garage sales and many used book stores have a case or shelf devoted to older books: check these regularly to increase your chances of getting good material. They’re abundant enough to be sourced locally from second-hand stores so you don’t need to buy them online. It feels great to nab a good copy for cheap and there’s a special satisfaction in adding a prized specimen to a growing collection. Looking at prices on ebay can inform you about monetary value but the real value lies in the cultural content of the little page-turners.
Paperbacks are being taken much more seriously now- academic institutions are adding paperbacks to their rare book collections. What was once thought of as low-brow literature is being pursued as important cultural material and made available for researchers explore. Many famous authors wrote trash and sleaze paperbacks under a pseudonym to avoid having their name associated with the work- it’s interesting to know who did this and to read what they didn’t want their name attached to. Movie “tie-ins” were released when films came out and often show images from the movie on the covers. 1970s teevee and movie paperbacks are prized by collectors today.
In their heyday, pulp paperbacks had many fly-by-night publishers illegally printing material they didn’t actually own. Canada had a variety of these fleeting start-ups but is best known for the Harlequin Romance publishing empire. Starting in Winnipeg in 1949, the first 500 Harlequin paperbacks offered a variety of genres before focusing on the soft romance they became known for. These early printings are still fairly easy to find. No matter what type of paperback appeals to you, there’s a lifetime of allure waiting for anyone who seeks these highly rewarding collectibles.Bedroom Sport sleaze paperback, Here Lies the Body detective fiction, Lost House Harlequin #2, Mad Magazine paperback 1969, Men to Burn Canadian publisher Derby, Phantom of the Paradise film “tie-in” paperback, pop-culture, Pulp Paperbacks, Taxi Driver film “tie-in” paperback, The Collecting Detective