The AVON Stamp





Okay, this is a theory on my part ... and so far, it hasn't been disproved.

The question was: Why did Avon stamp its name on some of their books? I believe that it was due to an on-going lawsuit. Let me quote a paragraph from Piet Schreuders' 1981 book Paperbacks, U.S.A. :

"Shortly after their first releases hit the stands, Avon found itself embroiled in what turned out to be a lengthy lawsuit with Pocket Books. Avon was accused of having stolen Pocket Books' format and page-edge coloring ("stain"), as well as the term "Pocket-size book." On January 19, 1942, a judge ruled in Avon's favor, stating that it was improbable that any consumer would be confused by the appearance of an Avon Book and would buy it thinking that it was a Pocket Book. Pocket Books appealed this decision and, on November 2, 1942, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York ruled AGAINST Avon, finding them guilty of unfair competition because of their deliberate imitation of Pocket Books' style and format. The court decided that only Pocket Books would be allowed to sell paperbacks with a red stain and the word "pocket" on the cover, and issued an injunction to that effect. Avon immediately bought a different color ink for its page edges, made sure that the word "Avon" appeared clearly on every cover, and kept right on publishing. And in January of 1944 the Court of Appeals reversed the decision again: from that point on, it has been officially acceptable for any company to publish paperbacks using the Pocket Books format."

And so, assuming that my theory about the stamp is correct, it was only used during the 14 months between November 1942 and January 1944. Due to wartime paper shortages, that would be a relatively small number of books. But Avon didn't annotate printing dates, and so that's pretty hard to prove. If I'm right, the stamp would ONLY appear on the first 23 Avon books (they would all be no-number books). AND, it would only appear on books that referred to themselves as "Pocket Size" books, OR it would lack any publisher's name at all.

Vintage paperback enthusiasts, please let me know if you observe the stamp on any Avon book that is outside of these parameters.

At the left, the scans of the books by Sinclair Lewis and John Rhode were contributed by Curt Phillips.

The scan of the book edges shows three different copies of Avon (nn) #1, Elmer Gantry, from my collection. The red edge is assumed to be a first printing, with globe end papers. The green edged book lists 16 Avon titles on the back cover. The yellow edged book lists 28 titles on the inside front cover. None of those three bears the "AVON" stamp. Later, in the late 40's and into the 50's, Avon changed edge colors often.