In 1971 Scholastic Book Services issued two Three Investigators titles in a large-size (about 8" X 5 1/4") paperback format.  Over the course of the next 13 years they would continue to issue various titles from the series in a small-size (about 7" X 4") paperback format.  In all they issued 20 different titles.  SBS uses a numberline system similar to that of Random House to designate a book's printing history.  Some First Printings will actually state "First Printing" and then give the month and year but this isn't the case with all titles.

Thanks to some detective work by fellow collector Kenneth Hopping, we can now determine the year in which each title was printed by Scholastic.  In all small-size SBS books printed after 1975, there appear several number sequences near the bottom of the copyright page.  For example, here are the numberlines found in a SBS First Printing of #18 Shrinking House:

12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1      2      2 3 4 5 6 7/8       01

The first set of numbers indicates the Printing.  In this example we have a First Printing since the string ends with a "1".  The second set of numbers reveals the month in which the book was printed.   In this example, "2" indicates the month of February.  Curiously, it seems that this second number-set appears only in First Printings - later printings omit the month.  The third set of numbers reveals the year of the printing as encoded by the following formula:  19XY where Yn . . . n/X.  In this example X = 8 and Y = 2.  Kenneth surmises that the "two additional digits at the end (always 01 or 06) might indicate the academic semester in which the books were marketed."  This is a good possibility and it works for many of the books as it does in the above example, but there are a few titles for which it doesn't.   

Here then is the order in which the SBS books originally appeared:

     TITLE                                 COVER ARTIST           FIRST PRINTED     TX, TK or ISBN#

#4 Green Ghost (large)             Harry Kane                     Sept. 1971             1916

#1 Terror Castle (large)            Ed Vebell                        Nov. 1971              1917

#11 Talking Skull                    Harry Kane                     Sept. 1974             2922

#21 Haunted Mirror                  Jack Hearne                   Sept. 1975              3245

#19 Phantom Lake                  Ed Vebell                       Jan. 1976               3393

#20 Monster Mountain              Jack Hearne                   Jan. 1978               3943

#25 Dancing Devil                    Jack Hearne                   April 1978              3942

#10 Moaning Cave                   Harry Kane                     Oct. 1978               4464

#3 Whispering Mummy            Harry Kane                     Jan. 1979                4510

#12 Laughing Shadow              Charles Liese                 Sept. 1979              30053-9

#9 Screaming Clock                Charles Liese                 Nov. 1979               30330-9              

#7 Fiery Eye                           Charles Liese                  March 1980            30328-7

#15 Flaming Footprints            Charles Liese                  Sept. 1980             30329-5

#8 Silver Spider                       Charles Liese                  Feb. 1981              30326-0

#4 Green Ghost (small)            Charles Liese                  Oct. 1981              32320-2

#30 Shark Reef                       Charles Liese                  Dec. 1981             31567-6

#18 Shrinking House               Charles Liese                  Feb. 1982              30327-9

#6 Skeleton Island                  Charles Liese                  Sept.  1982            30325-2

#32 Blazing Cliffs                    Charles Liese                  Jan. 1983              32503-5

#14 Coughing Dragon              Robert Adragna               Nov. 1983               32833-6

#13 Crooked Cat                     Robert Adragna              Jan. 1984                32504-3

Unfortunately, I cannot account for the apparent discrepancies between the order of the ISBN #'s and the dates encoded in the books.  For example, according the the ISBN #s the books would have been issued in a slightly different order than what the encoded dates say but I tend to believe that the printing codes are the most reliable information to use.    Quite possibly the ISBN#'s were assigned before the books went to print.

The two large-size books are fairly common as they were both available throughout the 1970's and both contain the original internal illustrations by Harry Kane.  Sometime in the mid-1970's these were slightly reduced in height from 8" to 7 1/2"  with the widths remaining the same.  So technically, there are two varieties of the large-sized books for you completists to look out for.  None of the small-size books contain internal illustrations.  It is interesting to note that Charles Liese came on board to design new Scholastic cover art for the years 1979 - 1983.  It appears, from the "titles available" lists found in the front of the books, that once a Three Investigators title was published by Scholastic, it stayed in their line-up - with one exception: #10 Moaning Cave.  This title first appeared in 1978 but was no longer available through SBS after 1981.  It is interesting also that Harry Kane provided artwork for this title that is very similar to that found on the original Random House hardbound trade edition - years after he stopped creating covers for Random House.

While many of the SBS books are quite common and, as a whole, do not seem to be highly sought after by collectors, it is no easy task to collect the entire set.  Especially difficult are the titles first printed in the 1980's.  You can view scans of all of the Scholastic books by going to the Original Series page on this site.

There are two Three Investigators titles which saw publication in a hardbound format by Weekly Reader Books in their "Just For Boys" series: The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy, and The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow.   The books measure 8" X 5 1/2" and are well-made but from low-quality materials.  The books feature the cover art of Robert Adragna previously used on the Random House Keyhole paperback trade edition.  The texts are the revised "Hector" versions from 1985 and do not have internal illustrations.  I am uncertain as to exactly when these books were available to the public since there is no indication on the copyright page.  Most likely they were available sometime around 1990 or 1991 like the two Crimebusters stories which appear in this same format.  There are some subtle differences in the two books which suggests that they were not available at the same time:  Whispering Mummy has plain endpapers, the Random House logo on the spine and no mention of The Three Investigators in the title on the cover.  Laughing Shadow has decorated endpapers, has "Weekly Reader Books" on the spine and "The Three Investigators" is printed in the cover.

Collectors seem to have little interest in the Weekly Reader books.  They appear fairly regularly on the secondary market and can easily be purchased for less than $5.00 each

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