books Golden Guides

The hunt for the elusive Golden Travel Guide to Italy comes to an end

I admit my years-long hunt for the rare Golden Travel Guide to Italy was at once tedious, disappointing, suspenseful and thrilling. I started searching for this scarce book in 2012 when I was in the process of adding to my collection of Golden Guides. Over the years I have occasionally input the same Google keywords “The Golden Travel Guide to Italy Friedlander 1955” and I have been rewarded twice for my dogged queries: once on Ebay.com with a price of $199 and another time on Amazon.com for $200. The exorbitant price tags guaranteed that I would never succumb to the sellers’ demands.

Even when I completed my collection (sans one!) of Golden Guides, my spasmodic search continued. Eventually, I found no copies for sale online, and the breaks between inquiries increased substantially.

I don’t know what prompted me to search for the book last month. Perhaps I saw or read something online about travel or Golden Guides while I was searching for holiday gifts. Maybe I glanced at my collection, high on a top shelf in my library. Whatever the reason, on December 17th I typed in the familiar search keywords.  And this time I was rewarded.

Nadirkitap.com is a Turkish bookselling site with over nine million books to choose from. And one of them was my travel guide.

The price was more than reasonable: 28.87. And that lovely currency symbol after the numbers, TL, or Turkish Lira, meant that the book would cost 3.90 USD. The exchange rate varies throughout the day, and the amount quoted to me was 30.00 TL (4.08), yet I paid 28.87 TL. In fact, at one point yesterday the exchange rate was 28.87 TL, and today it is 28.69 TL.

I still needed to know the shipping, and after a couple of emails I found out that I had to first pay for the book before the shipping would be calculated, and I did so. I happily paid after I discovered the price of a package that weighed less than one pound shipped to me from Istanbul, Turkey, would be about $40.00.  A bargain to be sure.

I was soon quoted a shipping price of 40.00 TL, but when the alert came through from my bank, a text questioning whether I had just made a purchase in Turkey, the value of the TL had obviously dropped and my shipping price was to be 38.93 TL. The USD amount charged to my account was $5.26. I was gobsmacked!

All correspondence from the seller was in Turkish. An email was sent to me each time a message appeared in my account page, and I would quickly copy and paste the text and insert it into Google’s Turkish to English translation page.

I was provided with a tracking number, and the seller wrote me that the shipping time would take longer because of the pandemic, which made sense. The book left Turkey on December 22, and it reached the United States on January 14. It passed customs on the 15th, and was “Added to Bag,” with a tag that read: “Send item to domestic location.” I deduced that the book was ready to begin its journey from somewhere on the east coast to Michigan.

No tracking updates followed, and I was unable to follow the book’s route. But on January 20 the seller wrote me that there had been movement in my cargo and that it should arrive soon.

The book arrived yesterday, after several weeks of travel. I wrote immediately to thank the seller and her reply, “I’m happy for you,” made me smile.

My copy of The Golden Travel Guide to Italy is in fabulous condition, and for $9.16, I couldn’t be happier.

Feature image by Walkerssk from Pixabay.
Google image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

24 comments on “The hunt for the elusive Golden Travel Guide to Italy comes to an end

  1. Michael Stein

    Dear Kathleen,
    Like you, I am a collector of the Golden Travel Guides and pretty much have all of them, with the exception of the Golden Travel Guide to Italy. After reading your story last night I entered the same search data and what popped up but another copy of it available from the same seller in Turkey. It now goes for 60 Turkish Lira, but still a bargain. I quickly entered my payment data. My credit card was charged $6.97, including shipping, although from what you wrote, that maybe an error. Now it remains to be seen if I will receive it.
    BTW, do you have a list of all the various Golden Guides? They issued and reissued many of them; some were only published (?) in Europe.
    Sincerely,
    Mike

    • Hello Michael! I’m so glad you were able to purchase the Italy guide. With mine, she charged the price of the book, and then charged the shipping later. I guess it is possible that you might be charged a small amount later, but it is also possible the book plus shipping is $6.97. I could not then and still cannot believe the price as the few copies I found online years ago were $200. It’s a crazy amount, but that’s the conversion rate! It might take a month to receive it, and tracking it can be difficult. The seller does keep track, though. I searched for this book for years, and am so happy to have found it. I have never created my list, but I will have to check that out. Meanwhile, see this page: https://www.vintagepbks.com/gg-titles/foreign_gg.html And I don’t know if you’ve seen this page: https://www.vintagepbks.com/golden.html. It has some interesting tidbits about some of the guides. This page: https://www.vintagepbks.com/gg-list.html might give you the information on the reissues. Thanks so much for commenting!! Feel free to contact with questions. I really appreciate it!
      Kathleen

  2. Dear Kathleen,
    We shall see about when and if The Golden Guide to Italy gets here. I’ll let you know. I heard a story that the authors made a trip to Italy and to cover their expenses, put out this book. Have you heard that?

    Meanwhile, thanks for the list of GGs. Did you notice that it is missing “Birds of North America\”? (Serial number 13656) I just checked my library of the various Guides and I don’t have that one. It’s been a while since I went looking for the Guides and I think I had been using that list you provided. Fortunately, there are plenty of them for sale on Ebay and I’ll order one of them to bring my collection up to date.

    Where do you find most of your books? There was a time you could pick them up at garage sales or used book stores. Now it’s all online and some of the prices are crazy.
    Sincerely,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike,
      I had that same feeling about maybe never seeing the book. I know this sounds silly, but I had tears in my eyes when the delivery guy showed up a month after purchase. Oh, I had to sign for it, so I am not sure if you will have to, also. The delivery was not ups or fed ex. I do forget which one, but I think it was delivered in a van.
      I had not heard that about GG to Italy!
      Yes, Birds of North America is missing, as are others: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Field_Guide.
      I have it, but I just noticed the first page has been torn out.
      I had owned many of these when about 11 or 12, and I had forgotten about them when one day we were at a used bookstore in Bucktown, Davenport, IA. I just happened to see a stack of GGs. Maybe 12 or so. They were $2 a piece. I bought every single one (there were a couple of “mammals” but bought both anyway!). After that, maybe a month later, we decided to attend a miles-long garage sale around Galesburg, IL. I found several more, again just a couple of dollars. After that, I would search any antique shop or flea market or garage sale. I found the GG to antiques just resting on a table in an antique booth. I knew it would be very difficult to find many of the others, so I did resort to ebay, Amazon and other sites for the rest. One of my good finds was Hallucinogenic Plants for $20, and probably my most expensive purchase. I purchased the GG to flying directly from Barry Schiff. I still see them in used bookstores, but it certainly depends on the store as to price, and I do think they are more expensive in general. You can find them in large, open-air and indoor antique sales for much cheaper because some sellers do not know how to price them (yay!).
      Which GG was your first purchase? Which was your best score?
      It’s cool to talk with someone who appreciates GGs like I do!
      Kathleen

  3. Dear Kathleen,
    I first encountered The Golden Guide to Stars, probably around 1955 or ’56 when, as a kid, I visited the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Subsequently I recall buying the Guide to Trees, using it to identify trees in my neighborhood. Later I bought the Guide to Birds. Alas about all I could ever see in Chicago were sparrows, starlings and pigeons. I dreamed of spotting something exoctic, like a Baltimore Oriole, but that never happened.
    After grammar school my interest in the Guides faded, but my younger brother took up collecting them, mainly at garage sales. Back around 1995, stimulated by his finds, I got interested in collecting them and started looking for them at used book stores and the occasional garage sale. I also wrote “rare book” dealers who advertised in various magazines. Things weren’t very productive and then the internet appeared in the late 90’s. Now I could search, literally, all over the world. Titles I never heard of appeared when I searched. Of course I got “Hallucinogenic Plants” (and a copy for my brother),probably for around $20. I guess that was my best score. Somewhere along the line I learned of the elusive “Guide to Italy”, and searched intermittently, eventually giving up. Then I saw your website and now I may be able to fill in that missing book.
    I have a question about the “Birds of North America”. Is it the standard GG size or it ilarger? At some point I bought “A Guide to Field Identification, Trees of North America”(13658-1) copyright 1979 and “A Guide to Field Identification, Minerals of the World” (13661) copyright 1973. Both are larger than the Golden Nature Guides”. Maybe when they reissued them and went to the smaller size.
    Good to talk to a fellow collector of Golden Guides. They’ve remained in print for 60+ years, with some definitely strange titles. You have to wonder, “What were they thinking?”
    Sincerely,
    Mike

  4. Hi Mike!
    What a great story on how you started collecting GGs! Thank you for sharing!
    My Birds of North America field guide is 4-1/2 x 7-1/2″, as is my Trees of North America. I actually don’t have the other large ones, as I was concentrating on the small guides. But I will probably now have to find the rest.:)

    The trees book is 13658 (1968) and birds is 13656 (the copyright page is torn out, but I found the same book on Abe books and it’s 1966). In fact, if you go to Abe books they have a variety of versions of these books. If you type in Zim Golden Guides and then check “hardcover” on the left you will get a lot of the books that I have collected in paperback also in hardback. So that’s a whole other set of books to collect, and some are reasonable in price!

    The “identification” guides seem to be more comprehensive and detailed than the smaller guides. Perhaps for serious naturalists.

    I also picked up the GG to “Light and Color” in hardcover. I think it’s the only hardcover GG I have. It was a library book printed in 1971. It’s a pretty interesting guide.

    I know. Some of the titles are amusing. Powerboats? Casino Games? Hallucinogenic Plants? Really?

    Now that flea markets and antique fairs and the such will be opening up I will have more opportunities to search for the larger sized GGs. I know I can get them readily online, but sometimes it’s fun to look through the booths that have a large assortment of books. One of my great purchases was a 1865 physicians guide to ailments. It’s about 3 inches thick! I got it for $6.

    Thanks so much for writing again! My family’s eyes glaze over when I talk about my collection, so it’s so nice to discuss with you! Feel free to comment anytime! I’m also interested in your Italy book’s travel out of Turkey, into Europe and finally to the US!
    Kathleen

  5. Michael Stein

    Dear Kathleen,
    Yes, those of us who collect these books are a special group. In some ways, their collectability is related to the silliness of some of their titles. I wonder if they ever sold many of ones like “Antiques” “Guns” or “Light and Color”.

    As you say, it is the fun of the hunt, seeing if you can find one of the unusual editions. It’s neat to go into a used book store, ask if they have a section of “field guides”, and finding some unusual title for $2-3. Unfortunately, a lot of used bookstores have gone out of business, so that resource is drying up.

    I went to a really big flea market on Sunday, and while I didn’t get to cover all the booths, I did see a copy of “Reptiles and Amphibians” stuck in amongst a lot of other books. I think a lot of the flea market sellers go to garage sales, estate sales and so forth, buy up book collections and then try to sell them at a small profit. With the internet, they now look to assess what things are selling for and if they see one of the Guides is going for $100 or more, they usually (a) know what to ask or (b) post it on Ebay or some other site.

    I know that they issued many of the GGs in hardcover versions, but I’ve stayed with the softcover ones. Most of the hardcover ones were sold to libraries and when they come up for sale, are in pretty bad shape.

    The Birds of North America Field Guide that you have is like my Trees of North America and Minerals Guide: larger format. I think St. Martins Press has reissued them in the smaller format.

    Years ago when I was searching for the Guides online and didn’t know what they had issued I came across some other titles: there is ” A Golden Field Guide, National Parks of the World, Part 1 & 2″, which I have and a series, “A Golden Handbook of Collectibles”. I have Bottles, Stoneware and Kitchenware. All these are dimensionally larger than the GG we collect, and not of much interest to me.

    I know about the ABE books site, but haven’t checked it in years. I’m going to look at it again.

    Sincerely,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike!
      I agree that a lot of ebay sellers attend the antique shows to put items online. You have probably noticed this also, but I have found good deals on ebay when I buy in lots. I believe I did this a few times. I had to get a duplicate or two, but the individual price was too good to pass up.

      Yes, the hardcovers would be library editions. I may or may not investigate, but one thing I did do was look up the Golden Field Guide to National Parks of the world. I did not even know these existed! I will try to find them. I of course don’t plan on ever selling, but I always try to look for an item that would at least hold its value.

      I also did not know about the Golden Handbook of collectibles books. They seem short in length, but I will check them out.

      I just checked on ebay, and a copy of hallucinogenic plants has a top price of $600!! I thought $20 was a crazy price 10 years ago! But we did good by buying it when we did!

      I checked in my library, and I really thought I had the 1990 version of the field guide to bird identification printed in 1990–you know the one with the blue cover? I used to have it, but I don’t know what happened to it. I used that one a lot.
      Thanks for all of your comments, Mike! I enjoy them so much!
      Kathleen

  6. Hi Kathleen,
    Nice to hear from you.

    I usually didn’t buy lots of GGs just to get one missing issue. I would wind up with multiple copies of Birds, Trees, etc.. and then have to figure out what to do with them. I prefer to buy the one missing copy if I can find it, even though I may have to pay a bit more. Of course, when copies of some, such as Hallucinogenic plants are going on eBay for >$100, there is a point where I have to say “pass”.

    BTW, who are the people who are paying these high prices? Collectors of the GG series? Investors who think they will go up in value and then resell them? I think it’s more of the latter, and I think that most of GG collectors have, by now, already purchased their copy (and at a much lower price). So those investors may wind up holding on to their copies for a long, long time.

    The other various Guides that I mentioned are interesting. You can find them pretty easily, but they don’t have the charm of the “real” GGs. Actually Golden Press put out all sorts of various “guides.” I have “The Golden Guide to Lawns, Trees and Shrubs”, copyright 1961. Way back when, I bought it thinking it was one of the small GGs. Now with the online list of titles, i know what to look for.

    I haven’t heard anything from the seller in Turkey about my copy of Guide to Italy. Given your experience, I’m optimistic that it will eventually arrive.

    Sincerely,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike!
      I think mostly investors are holding on to their copies. There are those, of course, who don’t really realize the value of some of the titles. But when I did buy a couple of small lots, I usually got a “mammals” thrown in which means I paid a few dollars for them. You can buy the mammals guide (1955) for about $12/$13. But I’ve seen some sellers price the later version at $80. I do not know what their strategy is on that. So, yes, I have 2 extra “mammals” and a “seashore” and I think a “northwest” guide.

      I’m not sure what’s going on with hallucinogenic plants, but I think they have mass produced it again. Also Stefan Mager copied the cover cleverly (it’s different, but the colors are the same) and published a Hallucinogenic Plants guide in 2013. On ebay, the originals pricing is still all over the map. And, according to ebay, you can get your very own hallucinogenic plants t-shirt direct from Hong Kong for about $23.00. Yay. 🙁
      Is Lawn, trees and shrubs a larger volume, larger than the other guides?
      Did the seller send you an email with the tracking info? If not, you can probably email and ask for it. It’ll be in Turkish (like her emails) and I always had to send it through Google translate. She was always good about answering my questions, and I asked probably 3 times if she knew where the book was at the time. The tracking told me when it left Turkey, and I think at one point she told me it had reached the states. But that was probably 2 weeks later. She kept telling me to be patient. 🙂
      Good to hear from you!
      Kathleen

  7. Hi Kathleen,
    That’s interesting. It appears that the reissued “Hallucinogenic Plants” is a foldout, not the book. And I just checked; someone on Amazon is selling the hardcover version of “Hallucinogenic Plants” for over $1000! That’s crazy. I doubt it will ever sell, but who knows?

    The Golden Guide to Lawns ,Trees and Shrubs is 7 5/8 X 5 1/4. The “National Parks of the World” is 7 1/2 X 4 1/2. I also have “Water And Marsh Birds of the World” by Oliver Austin, Edited by Herbert Zim, copyright 1961,1967, published by Golden Press, New York which measures 8 X 5 1/2. There is also “A Golden Pocket Guide, Water Skiing and SurfBoarding”, copyright 1968, which is hardcover and measures 5 3/8 X 6 3/4. As I said, years ago when I was looking for GGs on eBay or ABE Books, I assumed if it was by Golden Press, it was the familiar GG size. Not so. They published all sorts of “guides” in a range of sizes.

    Then there is the question of Golden Press’ relationship to, initially, Simon & Schuster. Golden Press was in New York, NY, as best I can determine, but then Western Publishing Racine, Wisconsin enters the picture and most recently St. Martin’s Press. Perhaps you, as a published author, understand what is going on.

    I think Golden Press’ greatest success was in the “Little Golden Books”, which I fondly remember from my childhood. They are still in print and if you want to try collecting them, there are hundreds! I’m sure there is one that collectors consider the “Holy Grail” and pay $$$$.

    Going to try to contact the seller in Turkey to see what is going on.

    Mike

    • Hi Mike!
      I didn’t know that it was a foldout! Interesting. The prices on ebay are absolutely crazy! I can’t imagine anyone spending that much money on a copy when there are much cheaper ones on the same page!

      After a certain term of the contract ends, the author can submit his/her book to another publisher. In 2001 St Martins press took over and updated some of the photographs.

      My daughter collects some of the Little Golden Guides, especially Disney ones. I never got into that, though.

      Thank you for the information on the other guides. I’m going to check them out!
      Thanks, Mike
      Kathleen

  8. Dear Kathleen,
    I just checked on the Nadirkitap website and there is a message from Ozgur Harmon that the charge for a faster shipping is 190 Turkish Lira (shipping in 3-5 days, although that seems almost too fast). Otherwise it is 90 TL and it could take a month or longer. Obviously I went with the 190 TL. Now the question is how to pay her (I think you said it is a woman). They have a payment system on their website and I assume that’s the one I’ll use.
    Mike

    • Hi Mike!
      You have a different seller. Ozgur is definitely a man’s name. It was a little confusing at times, but I think I did pay on the site. 190 TL is $26.00 or so, but probably worth it to make sure you get it! I did not have that option, or I would have taken it!

      I guess this means they have not sent it out, but this also means you’ll have it within a week! That would be great!
      Kathleen

  9. Dear Kathleen,
    It’s been an interesting adventure, I had checked on the Nadir Kitap website yesterday; they said they had sent me a message how about how much I owed for shipping and how to pay it. I looked all over my gmail inbox and didn’t see anything. I thought, “This isn’t going well.” Then I did a search in my gmail account for Nadir Kitap and what do you know? Good old gmail had identified messages from the Turkish bookseller as SPAM! Isn’t technology great? Boy, was I relieved. I envisioned sending messages back and forth about how I couldn’t pay for the shipping, using some other method, etc.

    I fixed that and then sent payment using my credit card. This morning I went back to the Nadir Kitap website and had to dig around a bit but found that they had received my payment and then gave me a tracking number, using the Turkish Post (PTT). Hopefully it will now be on its way. $26.00 for shipping seems to be worth it, since I paid about $7.00 for the book.

    Stay tuned.

    Sincerely,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike,
      So glad it’s on its way! It took me a few days to realize with them that you had to pay for the book and only then would they tell you what the shipping would be. If I remember right, I messed around for a few days waiting for a full amount (book + shipping), only to be told to pay for the book first. I was thinking that the shipping from Turkey would be astronomical. I guess I’m used to plugging in a zip code and having the shipping amount show up.:)
      You should get some updates from PTT, although once it left Turkey and then Europe I didn’t know where it was exactly. It was a long month!
      $33 for that book is a wonderful deal, and you’ll have it so much sooner!
      Would love to hear updates!
      Kathleen

  10. Hi Kathleen,
    I’ll keep you informed as to the progress. When I checked today it said my package had arrived at the PTT workplace. Hopefully that means it will be processed for overseas delivery. I assume it will take some time to get out of Turkey, across the Atlantic and to my doorstep, maybe like a month. Given that I, like you, had been searching for this book for years, waiting a month is no big deal.

    Do you know of other collectors of GGs? There must be others. The problem is how to find them. Do you have any ideas? I don’t do Facebook, but maybe that’s where GG collectors can be found. I came across your site when searching for the GG to Italy; had you not written that I would still be looking. I never thought to check booksellers in other countries.

    So far as the other various “guides” published by Golden Press, they are interesting, but don’t have the charm of the original GG. You can probably find them on ABE books by digging around a bit; of course the Turkey connection might turn up all sorts of surprises.

    Sincerely,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike!
      Maybe it won’t take so long. Mine was shipped in December, and the seller always mentioned the pandemic and that is why it would take so long. She always included that each time I asked for an update, which was about every 10 days. 🙂 I think that was probably a large part of why it took so long, so I would think you would get it sooner.

      Until you, I had never connected with anyone who enjoyed collecting GGs like I do. I have a page on facebook, but never thought to look for a group. There are groups for almost everything there, so maybe GG collecting.

      When I get a chance I will look up the other guides and I appreciate you listing them for me. I was asked by a family member if I would ever part with my collection. I said no. It took a long time to amass. 🙂

      Waiting is hard, especially when I spent so little and it was so far away, so I guess I expected little. It will be a happy day when it arrives! So good to hear from you, Mike!
      Kathleen

  11. Dear Kathleen,
    There have to be collectors of GG out there. The person who has the “vintage paperback” web page, Bruce Brenner (I think, although it’s not absolutely clear) obviously collects and knows a great deal about them. He gives his email address as webmaster@vintagepbks.com and I could contact him and ask if he knows of other collectors. He’s into first editions published by Simon and Schuster with the “famous permaseal protective covering” and the larger hardcover editions, intended for libraries. While i like to collect the GGs, looking for rare ones could be an endless search. Just finding the Guide to Italy is enough for me.

    At some point I am going to catalog all the Guides I have. Perhaps we can compare our collections. I don’t have many of the ones published by St. Martins Press; they are widely available, and, I think, just reprints. Maybe they made some minor changes; probably not enough to warrant buying, them in my opinion. As a fellow collector, what do you think?

    Sincerely,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike!
      Contacting Bruce Brenner would probably be a good place to start.

      I know I have several from Western Publishing from the ’80s, but I don’t have any when GGs were printed with St. Martin Press in late 90s, early aughts. I don’t think I care about collecting those. I’m not really sure why I started collecting the guides from the ’80s, and I’m not sure I have all of them. I was so excited to find those that were printed up to American Antique Glass and Herbs and Spices in the late ’70s, that I thought I was done. But then I discovered the GGs from the ‘ 80s. And at that time I didn’t know about St. Martin Press versions. I guess I had to stop somewhere. 🙂

      So yes, I think for me I would end with Western publishing in the ’80s, and even if I found out I was missing some from that printing, I might hesitate to get more. It depends on their price. And because they are so readily available, for me they hold less sentimental value. St. Martin Press version I think has new photos and some info from the original but lack the charm (I think that is what you said, but maybe about a different version or different books altogether).
      I think we agree on St. Martin Press. Forgive me if you have told me, but do you have many of the Western Publishing from the ’80s?
      Thanks so much, Mike!
      Kathleen

  12. Michael Stein

    Dear Kathleen,

    I just got a text message from DHL express. The book is expected to arrive this Friday! I guess it’s being sent by air; not by ship, as I expected. I can’t wait. Of course, there is the possibility that it may still arrive later, but we shall see.
    Mike

  13. Michael Stein

    Dear Kathleen,

    It arrived! I can’t believe it. It was supposed to arrive on Friday but it’s already here!

    The book is in pretty good condition, considering that it’s 64 years old and might’ve been used by somebody as a travel guide. And thanks to you, I knew where to look.

    Who knows, there may be a few more somewhere in Turkey. Or maybe we have the only two that were in Turkey.

    I’ll try to send pictures of it to you. I just need your email address.

    Sincerely,
    Mike

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