Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2009 Issue

Yes, It Is Still Legal to Sell Old Children's Books

Cpsc

The CPSC issues a clarification which appears to make it safe to sell old children's books.


By Michael Stillman

A collective sigh of relief was heard recently from sellers of old children's books. It is, after all, legal to continue selling these books without undertaking expensive testing for lead content.

Last summer, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued new rules, limiting the lead content of children's products to 600 parts per million as of February 10, 2009 (with further decreases later on). There is also an independent testing requirement to establish that products meet this limitation. However, this rule does not apply only to goods produced after February 10. It also applies to all goods produced for children in the past. In other words, that 1798 primer you wish to sell to the 70-year-old book collector might have required costly independent testing to establish lead content below the maximum allowable standard before you could make the sale.

Fortunately, it now appears that common sense has prevailed. On January 8, the CPSC issued a clarification of the new rule. It is still a violation to sell children's products with too high a lead content even if manufactured prior to the enforcement date. Merchants are also warned not to sell items likely to have a high lead content without testing or some other evidence that the content is not too high. However, the clarification specifies, "The new safety law does not require resellers to test children's products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold." In other words, to sort this one out, it is not necessary to do independent testing and certification of older items if there is no reason to believe it would have an unlawfully high lead content. That would seem to apply to books and printed matter, which are not known to have been made with lead parts or paint.

The announcement goes on to state that while all resellers are required to abide by provisions of the new law, there are certain categories to which special attention should be given. Among these are cribs, children's jewelry, and painted toys. Books are not on the list. So, unless your old children's books have pictures hand-colored with lead paint, or something else similarly unusual, it would appear that you are free to go on selling them without fear.

Technically, this may only relieve the burden on old books sellers currently have in stock, not ones purchased for inventory after February 10. However, a separate sentence looks like it should apply to later purchased old books: "Sellers of used children's products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits..." Certainly thrift shops and other resellers of old children's products could not stay in business for long without restocking inventory. This sentence would appear to imply that it is acceptable to continue buying old children's books for stock without having to test and certify them.

The CPSC's clarification can be found on the following page: click here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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