original series 1948
1 – Spotting Famous Cars
2 – Spotting Car Numbers
3 – Spotting Football Stars
4 – Spotting By The Sea
5 – Spotting In The Country
The first series of I-Spy books were the Spotterbooks. No publishing date is given, but some of the prizes on offer give us a date of 1948 for the first batch of four. For example there are autographed photos of ‘the late’ Tommy Handey as one prize. He died in January 1949 which means they must have been signed in 1948. Other photos to be given away are from the film Dick Barton, made in 1948. Only twenty five of each prize were available, and details were given in the bulletin not in the books.
The Spotterbooks were not cheap, priced at 1/- and at least two titles advertised ‘competitions and prizes’ on the cover. There are five titles documented, each sized 3.5″ by 4.75″.
Spotting Car Numbers above is shown inside the cover of book 1, and scanned from there, so the actual cover may differ slightly. Thanks to Stephen Knight for these.
The Spotterbook approach was to cover a number of different things you might see in or on a given location or theme, with three pages at the end to fill in when and where. There was no points system, but you could send off for a free newsletter and badge by clipping a token from the book.
These first books set a design style which was to remain throughout the various different editions until the end of the sixties. Small pen and ink sketches featured alongside brief descriptive text, facts and figures, over some 42 pages. The ‘eye’ on the cover with a spreading beam filled with the cover drawing/s was also there from the start. The printing was mostly in black with a second colour added to some of the pages and the cover.
The I Spy address at this time was 129 Whitby Road, Ruislip, Middlesex, a bungalow in the West London suburbs, but there was no Big Chief or Redskin concept yet.
Spotting By The Sea was later issued as a News Chronicle title. In The Country was reissued in the 1949 Daily Mail series. Car Numbers as a concept reappeared with new content in the 1970s.
We would appreciate a scan of the Footballer title. My thanks to Stephen Knight for some of the scans on this page.