Due to the popularity of collecting things, collecting street directories has very popular and the prices they go for is sometimes astronomical.
In Melbourne, one might think Melway’s would be the collectable directory, but they are not probably due to their large circulation.
It is the Collins’ Street Directory of Melbourne that are the really collectible editions. At the time of writing, I don’t know exactly when they were first published, or when then they finished, but I do know they had a 1944, why, because I have one along with several others.
1944, 1945, 1946, 1949, 1952, 1956, 1957 and 1959. I do have a 1967 Collins Street Directory but I am not sure its the same publisher.
These beautiful street directories each featured its own fold out map, official postal district (whatever that means). Pages were filled with wonderful advertisements for companies like The State Bank of Victoria and Dumbrells Jewellers. Almost every map featured an advertiser like WH Kingsford Estate Agents of Victoria Park on Map 2, which happens to be Abbotsford along with space for advertising in the next edition by calling M2338 or M2339.
I started collecting street directories a few years ago along with many other items.. Melbourne and now boast a book collection of over a thousands books which includes some 31+ street directories. Publishers include Collins’, Collins, Gregory’s, Morgan’s and one or two Melway’s.
Personally, I find them facsinating. I have a map of the area where I now live, where the street does not exist but neither does is connecting road. It looks as though, planners cleverly planned for the future as the road is now a major thoroughfare.
The 1944 Collins is not my oldest either, I have a 1939 Morgan’s Street Directory and a 1942 Morgan’s Street Directory both titles Morgan’s “Official” Street Directory as opposed to the “un-official’ Morgan’s Directory.
See below for thumbnails and view larger covers >
The two brands of directory are similar with the Morgan’s being slightly taller with a map on one page and adverts on the facing page, whereas the adverts are intergrated with the maps in the Collins, making the maps more important.
If you compare the two Abbotsford maps (scans below) its evident the later Collins maps were more about the maps than the advertising and a little easier on the eye as well.
Street Directory Collectors
Collectors of street directories are perhaps closer in spirit to the collectors of timetables. Most of them take an academic approach to their hobby. Demographer Bernard Salt, for example, says these humble documents are one of his most important sources of information.
Each state had its own directories, with Melway producing the best-known guide to Melbourne and suburbs. Melways is now part of Melbourne vernacular, like Four’n Twenty pies.
First editions of any of the above would now be worth something substantial, probably above the $100 mark, according to Boehme. A nationwide collection of first editions would be verging on the priceless. Anything from the pre-war period is already considered rare and valuable.
Even those from the 1950s and 1960s are proving harder to find, an indication there is an invisible army out there searching. They have no great value yet and you can still pick these up for between $5 and $10, depending on condition. The only one in Carter’s Price Guide is a 1954 Collins’ Street Directory of Melbourne, listed in the 2007 edition with an estimate of $15-$25. Some say prices have increased since then.
Dating a directory is not always easy. Usually the edition number is listed on the cover, so this is a clue. Gregory’s had produced their 10th edition by 1941 and 25th by 1960.