They’re the sort of collection that gets started completely by accident. A group of Penguin classics coalesce during a reshelving and their owner realizes that there’s the core to something there, or the green-spined early Penguin ‘tec series builds up until their sheer numbers can no longer be ignored. At any rate, high production combined with low prices make Penguins ideal for anyone who likes the concentration and goalcentred nature of book collecting but can’t yet afford to venture into more esoteric territory.
The classic Penguin collecting idea centres on the way Penguins were numbered consecutively for the first 30 years or so of their production. Start with Penguin no. 1, in an original copy or one of the later celebratory reprints. Some of the early numbers are harder to find than the others, but that’s part of the point.
Or you might endeavour to corral a set of the more attractive Penguin sub-genres. The 1960s Penguin Poets, for instance, or the pre-black Classics. Or the more expensive King Penguins. Collecting the green detective volumes en masse eventually presents you with a useful reference set of the genre from a particularly fertile period in its development.
One of the more dramatic moments in Penguin’s history came early on, and can be tracked by collecting the pre-War and Wartime Penguin Specials, which attempted to link experts with the reading public on the momentous events of the day. Like all war production books, there are differences to wartime Penguins that set them apart and add interest.
One period in Penguin’s history that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten is the cultural revolution that followed their abandonment of the original colour schemes. Paperback covers became very adventurous and memorable for a time, and to collect Penguins published between 1960 and 1970, or perhaps between Penguin’s Lady Chatterley and the Yom Kippur War is to be sure to collect some interesting things.