The News Chronicle I-Spy 6d Series

FOR CHECKLIST • Following the early I-Spy Spotterbooks, the series was reworked into the more familiar pocket book series which ran through the fifties and sixties, extending to some thirty-nine titles. The series was expanded with a number of I-Spy colour books, I-Spy annuals, Membership kits, Tea Cards and even a subseries in America (The I-Spy Ranger books).

I Spy On a Train Journey CThe I-Spy 6d Series followed the same basic format as the early spotter books, as well as keeping the concept of a Big Chief I-Spy, but were issued in a more standard ‘portrait’ format 4” by 5” (13cm by 10cm). Pocket sized, with thinner covers, each I-Spy title had fifty pages or so of pen drawings and descriptive text. The Daily Mail dropped their involvement after the previous spotterbook series, and the new look books were launched in conjunction with The News Chronicle newspaper around 1951. By 1952 the first six of the new titles were in print, with four more planned. The series was in print until 1966, with older titles refreshed every so often and updated.

The News Chronicle was taken over by The Daily Mail in 1960 and closed, but the I-Spy books were by now so popular that The Daily Mail decided to reassociate themselves with the publication once more. The covers were redesigned to remove the News Chronicle name but The Daily Mail logo was only seen inside the books. Around 1963 even this was removed and the titles were simply published by The Dickens Press (who printed The Mail). With all these changes, up to five distinct editions of some titles exist.

As well as the I-Spy Colour Series a larger format I-Spy Super Series was also launched around 1965 but was very short lived. The 6d price which had remained for over a decade also had to increase to 9d around the same time by adding a sticker to the cover. In 1967 many of the last editions of the original titles were still in print but in 1968 they range was withdrawn and totally revised with new covers and photographic content.

Aimed at children around eight years and upwards, the I-Spy owner ticked off the various sights in each book as they were “spotted”, writing down the date and place in the space provided. Each sight was worth a number of points and when a set target was reached, the book could be verified by an adult or teacher and sent in to ‘Big Chief I-Spy’ for an “Order Of Merit” which would be returned along with the book. Big Chief I-Spy lived at Wigwam By The Water in London (though he later upped sticks to Wigwam By The Green somewhere on the Edgeware Road!).

I-Spy On The Road bookThe appeal was enormous; trying to find that elusive farm implement or road sign which was worth double points, noting down every day objects to build the score up and finally sending the book off to receive your certificate. The News Chronicle published an I-Spy column every Friday. Competitions, meetings and events were held and during the holidays, Big Chief I-Spy drove around in a specially marked Jowett Javelin car which children could keep a look out for.

Various ‘secret” codes and signs were devised enabling I-Spy Redskins to recognise and communicate with one another. For 1/- a special membership pack containing the necessary code book, a badge and other goodies was available at newsagents. You could send away for packets of I-Spy notepaper, headbands (to put your tribal feathers in) and there was also a special scrapbook style album in which to cut out and collect the News Chronicle columns. I-Spy ties (priced 5/’) and bicycle pennons were also sold.

There were 39 titles in all in the 6d series. Today the books have both a nostalgic appeal to people who bought them as a child, as well as reminding us of a world which has largely vanished. The idea of encouraging children to roam around towns and countryside would alarm many parents today, never mind the invitation to show your I-Spy badge to strangers to make friends…

Wanted – If anyone has any of the newspaper columns I could photocopy or scan please get in touch!


7 thoughts on “I-Spy News Chronicle Series

  1. Hello,
    You say you are looking for newspaper columns to copy or scan. Does this relate to the News Chronicle columns that children were to cut out and paste in the I-Spy album ?
    I do have a copy of the album with some newspaper columns pasted in if this is of interest ?

  2. Hi, I’m sorry I am not looking for anything I-Spy related. I have I-Spy books and newspaper cuttings concerning the founder of I-Spy which I can offer to any interested party.

  3. You forgot to mention that when you sent your book in you got a feather for your Red Indian head-dress – different colour for each book!!

    • I have just been lucky enough to add one of the felt I-Spy head-bands to my collection, although it would need altering considerably to fit me! But there were no feathers with it sadly.

  4. As a seventy year old Grandfather of three grandchidren I have recently been reminded of the huge enjoyment I gained from the I-spy books of the 50’s and 60’s. My grandchildren recently visited my wife and I from South Africa and stayed with us for three weeks in our retirement bungalow in Chepstow. It was a squeeze but very much worth the press. I sent off for some of the new Collins/Michelin I-spy books and provided a lot of entertainment on the journeys we undertook. I-spy on a Road Journey, I-spy on the Motorway and I-spy at the Airport were the best and the children soon reached their 1000 points and I emailed off for their certificates. I note that it is easier to reach the 1000 target than it was in the 50’s and 60’s. The total points available in each book is around 3000. In my childhood you needed to nearly fill the whole book in.

    • Thanks Jonathan, it is amazing to see the books still doing service 70 years on, what would Big Chief make of that? “I told you so” probably!

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