Used Cars Blue Book
Kelley Blue Book: Guide to Values - Prices
In 1926, the original used car guide was published. The Kelley used cars Blue Book is still seen now as the font of knowledge of choice for information about used cars. It was started by Les Kelley, who had opened a used car lot in 1918 which grew to the largest dealership in the world and due to this spawned a need for a way of placing values on used cars – which then came to be called “Blue Book values”.
Kelley used to distribute a list of cars to other dealers and banks that he wished to buy, and included the prices he would pay for them. Through this, the car community learned to trust his judgement as a good reflection of current values, and so started to ask for the list so that they could used it. Someone would come to a dealer and ask how much a car was, and the dealer would look at Kelley's list to tell them.
So in 1926 he published the Blue Book of Motor Car Values showing the factory list price and the cash value of thousands of cars. It was called the blue book after the Social Register which had valuable information as well. This became so famous that people now arrive to look at dealerships and ask what the blue book value of the car is.
There are some very interesting stories about the experiences of the Kelley dealership in the early years. They sold the first pink cars instead of the black cars that Model Ts were available in. They ended up buying up the entire stock of used car dealerships that closed down during the great depression of the 1930s. As well as selling the cars they found they had to spend the weekends teaching buyers to drive as this was likely to be their first car. Kelleys also provided an insurance company and an auto club as a package with the car. The government even started to use the Blue Book as the ceiling for car prices during World War two when there was a shortage.
By the time the 60s came around Les Kelley had sold his dealerships and the Kelleys devoted their full time to the Blue Book which was a trade publication at the time, so only dealers, insurance companies and financial institutions could buy it. The book started to show the effect of mileage on the car's value.
They started to add other guides such as the new car price manual, and recreational vehicle price guides, motorcycle guides and manufactured housing guides, older car guides and early model guides that stretched back to 1950.
Recently they produced a consumer version of the guide and also give you information on kbb.com.