EBay reportedly plans to delist 6 Dr. Seuss books

Online marketplace eBay is planning to delist the six Dr. Seuss titles that are being canceled because of racial insensitivity, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The titles were seeing a huge markup in prices and demand on several internet bidding sites, with some of the banned titles selling for more than $500.

“EBay is currently sweeping our marketplace to remove these items,” a spokeswoman for the company told The Wall Street Journal in an email.

Hundreds of listings for the six books were still on eBay as of Thursday morning, The Wall Street Journal reported, but the number appeared to be lower than it was Wednesday night.

On Tuesday — what would have been Theodor Seuss Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss) 117th birthday, which has also been christened as Read Across America Day — Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would stop publishing six of the beloved children’s author’s books due to insensitive, racist imagery. The canceled titles are “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press.

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.

Just moments after the announcement, however, the books began flourishing on eBay. According to the Kansas City Star, “If I Ran the Zoo” was selling for between $5 and $10 last week. Now first-edition copies are exceeding $500, and more traditional copies are running between $300 and $400.

“On Beyond Zebra!” was being sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay on Tuesday. A first-edition copy sold for $500, and others went for as much as $400. “If I Ran the Zoo,” which was listed for 99 cents on Feb. 23, was recently bid on 43 times (all on Tuesday) to reach a $395 value as of 10:35 a.m. ET.

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Newsweek did a search on ThriftBooks.com that showed all six titles as “temporarily unavailable.” A copy of “Mulberry Street” was listed for $2.99 on Feb. 26 on eBay and reached a $216 bid by 10:10 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

A copy of “The Cat’s Quizzer,” according to Newsweek, which the seller implies is from 1976, went from a $9.99 starting price listed Monday to a $510 bid as of 9:59 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Rebecca Romney, CEO at Type Punch Matrix, a rare book firm based in the Washington, D.C. area, told Newsweek that a surge in Dr. Seuss books is just a demonstration of supply and demand.

ExploreDr. Seuss Enterprises ceasing 6 books due to racist images

“I expect we will see more copies of these books appear on the resale market as owners begin to notice there is new demand for them,” she told the news outlet. “The prices of the secondhand market are based in the basic equation of supply and demand. As demand increases, people who have copies of these books will act to meet that demand.

“Normally the secondhand market doesn’t play out quite this cleanly, since sellers can’t manufacture their product from scratch to meet new demand,” Romney said. “But in this case it does work out in a fairly straightforward way because there are thousands of existing copies out there, ready to meet that demand simply by being made available.”

The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company told the AP.

“Dr. Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalog of titles,” it said.

Dr. Seuss books have been translated into dozens of languages as well as in braille and are sold in more than 100 countries. He died in 1991.

He remains popular, earning an estimated $33 million before taxes in 2020, up from $9.5 million five years ago, the company said. Forbes listed him No. 2 on its highest-paid dead celebrities of 2020, behind only the late pop star Michael Jackson.

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As adored as Dr. Seuss is by millions around the world for the positive values in many of his works, including environmentalism and tolerance, there has been increasing criticism in recent years over the way Blacks, Asians and others are drawn in some of his most beloved children’s books, as well as in his earlier advertising and propaganda illustrations.

The National Education Association, which founded Read Across America Day in 1998 and deliberately aligned it with Geisel’s birthday, has for several years deemphasized Seuss and encouraged a more diverse reading list for children.

School districts across the country have also moved away from Dr. Seuss, prompting Loudoun County, Virginia, schools just outside Washington, D.C., to douse rumors last month that they were banning the books entirely.

“Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” the school district said in a statement.

In 2017, a school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, criticized a gift of 10 Seuss books from first lady Melania Trump, saying many of his works were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”

In 2018, a Dr. Seuss museum in his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, removed a mural that included an Asian stereotype.

“The Cat in the Hat,” one of Seuss’ most popular books, has received criticism, too, but will continue to be published for now.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, however, said it is “committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio.”

Rich Barak of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.