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High School Yearbooks of the Rich and Famous

If you graduated from high school with someone who went on to become significant, then your high school yearbook could be valuable. Printed in small quantities, only a small fraction of student annuals reach the collectors market. Most people keep them for sentimental reasons and because they record family history.

Dolly Parton, now aged 72, in her high school yearbook

Yearbooks featuring famous people are popular with collectors because they offer a glimpse into the celebrity’s past when they were humble students.

Genealogists and history buffs are the next biggest collectors of yearbooks. Both are interested in the past but their collecting habits and reasons for collecting differ greatly. History buffs want to find yearbooks pertaining to a notable historical event such as the first African American to graduate from Harvard. Genealogists on the other hand are interested in the history of a specific person or family. The subject of their study may be an important figurehead or a simple tradesman but no matter who they are the yearbooks are collected to trace family lineage or migration. Sometimes family members wish to replace lost or damaged yearbooks that feature a loved one.

It’s possible to obtain the 1942 issue of the Chieftain from the University High School, West Los Angeles, which features a single small grainy picture of Marilyn Monroe. Norma Baker, as she was then, didn’t finish high school. If only they knew what was to come.

Previous sales of vintage yearbooks on AbeBooks include the 1913 Howitzer (Annual of the Corps of Cadets featuring Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley) by the United States Military Academy for $500, the 1964 issue of The Sevierian featuring singer Dolly Parton for $500, and the 1948 issue of the Fairmount High Black and Gold yearbook featuring actor James Dean ($450).

“He thinks, he acts, ’tis done.”

Neil Armstrong

The Retrospect, 1947, Blume High School in Wapakoneta, Ohio – $6,326. The first man to walk on the Moon participated in band and the student council.

Bob Dylan, with greased back hair, surrounded by school mates

Bob Dylan

The Hematite, 1957-1959, Hibbing High School, Hibbing, Minnesota – $6,000. Mentioned by his real name of Robert ‘Bob’ Zimmerman, Dylan is instantly recognizable from these photos.

Janis Joplin died in 1970

Janis Joplin

Yellow Jacket, 1960, Thomas Jefferson High School, Port Arthur, Texas – $3,500. Joplin appears in cap and gown looking cheery, with her credits listed as the art club, the Slide Rule Club, both the Future Teachers and the Future Nurses. This book includes former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson.

The Boss… at school.

Bruce Springsteen

The Log, 1967, Freehold Regional High School, Freehold, New Jersey – $3,000. Born to study, the Boss in a suit and a tie.

High schooler “Billy” Clinton meets John F Kennedy

Bill Clinton

Old Gold, 1964, Hot Springs High School, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas – $2,500. Includes a famous photo of Clinton shaking hands with John F Kennedy. Clinton also played saxophone in the All-State band, and appeared in various clubs and societies.

Kurt Vonnegut never lost that fine head of hair

Kurt Vonnegut

Shortridge Annual 1940, Shortridge High School, Indianapolis. The hair is the same. Slaugherhouse Five author Vonnegut was a member of the student council and an editor on the newspaper.

Football player, choir boy and eventually Meatloaf


The Document 1965, Thomas Jefferson High School, Dallas, Texas – $375. Meatloaf, using his real name, M.L. Aday, is pictured in a photo as a tackle on the football team. He also sang in the choir.

Nellie Lee is, of course, Harper Lee

Harper Lee

The Corolla, 1947-1948, University of Alabama – Two copies, $800-$1,000. The Corolla was Lee’s university yearbook. The 1947 edition includes a shot of Lee as the editor of the student humor magazine ‘Rammer Jammer’.

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