You've Happened Upon a Stack of Old Newspapers...Some Have Historic Headlines! Are They Worth Anything?
Let face it, old newspapers don't get much respect. In today's world, they're generally seen as material for the recycler. And years ago, many libraries simply tossed them out after converting them to micro or digital files. But do old or antique newspapers have any collectible value? The answer is a definite...maybe!
Newspapers have been around almost as long as the Gutenberg Press. And in general they've been seen as expendable--meant to be read a time or two and then thrown away, or used for fish wrap or some other convenient purpose. But newspapers also have tremendous historic value...Pennsylvania Journal & Weekly Advertiser" newspaper of April 30, 1783. Page two contains this very historic report, but of equal fascination is the wording of the document. He congratulates the Army, noting that those who have performed the "...meanest office..." have participated in a great drama "...on the stage of human affairs...For these are the men who ought to be considered as the pride and boast of the American Army; And, who crowned with well earned laurels, may soon withdraw from the field of Glory, to the more tranquil walks of civil life...Nothing now remains but for the actors of this mighty Scene to preserve a perfect, unvarying, consistency of character through the very last act; to close the Drama with applause; and to retire from the Military Theatre with the same approbation of Angels and men which have crowned all their former virtuous actions." There is evidence of Washington's less formal and more pedestrian side as well as he ends the document with: "An extra ration of liquor to be issued to every man tomorrow, to drink Perpetual Peace, Independence and Happiness to the United States of America." See this hyperlink for the full text (or the text of the actual newspaper below). What a thrill to find such a document which has rested on our shelves for many years just waiting to be discovered. What a thrill to be involved in such a fascinating hobby. The first newspaper in Vermont was the "Vermont Gazette, and Green Mountain Post-Boy" done in Westminster, first published on February 12, 1781. Only one of this issue exists and is in the Vermont Historical Society. Its first newspaper began later than all of the other first newspapers of the original 13 states. The weekly newspaper only lasted until 1783, published by Judah Spooner and Timothy Green, the latter of the famous family of printers from New England. It is notable that Vermont's first newspaper was printed on the famous "Daye Press", brought from England by Stephen Daye in 1638 and set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The press came into the possession of Harvard College in 1656, and in 1714 it became the property of Timothy Greene, who took it to New London, Conn., later set up in Norwich, Conn. by Alden Spooner, and in 1781 it was moved to Westminster, Vermont. The second newspaper in Vermont was founded on August 7, 1783 titled the "Vermont Journal & the Universal Advertiser" printed in Windsor by the partnership of Alden Spooner and George Hough. The newspaper continued publishing into the 20th century. Other 18th century Vermont titles included "Herald of Vermont", Rutland, 1792; "Rutland Herald", 1794; "Fair Haven Gazette", 1795; "Farmer's Library", Fair Haven, 1795; "Burlington Mercury", 1796; and "Federal Galaxy", Brattleboro, 1797. A recent piece on the web concerning the gift of a "stack of old newspapers" (see the hyperlink) to a grandson is a common story in our collecting world. A woman from Racine, Wisconsin, gave her grandson a box of historic newspapers, mostly World War II headline reports but including other events of the post-war era, collected by her husband. The photos show some nice banner headlines, several of the issues being the "Chicago Tribune" but including other titles from the Midwest. Such finds, or gifts, are typically the catalyst for a new-found hobby. And newspapers from the last 60 or 70 years can be found for even the most modest of collecting budgets. Our website features major events of World War II, the Holocaust, the space race, baseball, Korean War, Vietnam War, Watergate--you name the event and it's likely among the 2600+ issues from this era found on our website. Many prices range from $20 to $40 while some more significant events or dramatic headlines achieve higher values, and would be among the best newspapers for any collection. For the beginning collector, the 20th century is an excellent entree to the much bigger world of our hobby which can includes newspapers back to the 16th century. Large headlines or events remembered by elder relatives bring to life the events which were formative to the American experience of the last 70 years. See: Stack of Old Newspapers $60 or less. Is there a field of collecting today which has items of such age-- in nice condition--for $60? The hobby of collecting rare & historic newspapers likely sits at the top of what must be a very short list. And such prices, along with tremendous availability of titles & content, are part of the intrigue of this fascinating hobby which remains unknown to almost everyone. And this, in large part, is the reason prices are outrageously low in comparison to the relative rarity of other collectibles. While issues do run the gamut price-wise from newsbooks (at the upper end) to coffeehouse newspapers (typically at the lower end), it is a fascinating field for the historical hobbyist on a budget ($20 and under). The 'London Gazette' is the world's oldest continually published newspaper, having begun in 1665 and is still publishing today. With such historical depth you would expect to find virtually every major event in world history within its pages, and you would be right. The Great Plague and Great London Fire, William Penn being granted land in the New World, the death of noted pirate Captain Kidd, the battles of the French & Indian War and Revolutionary War and so much more are found in not only this title but other newspapers of the era. First reports of such notable events can sell in the thousands of dollars, but an interesting facet of this hobby is that follow-up reports of a few days later can fall well within the comfort level of the average collector. Both age and graphic appeal come together in the London 'Post-Boy' newspaper, with issues from the 1718-1725 period featuring two ornate engravings in the masthead in addition to a very decorative first letter of the text. Add to this the relative small size of this single sheet newspaper and you have a terrific item for display for under $55. With American newspapers not beginning until the first decade of the 18th century (one title was published in 1690 but lasted just one day), and most American newspapers through the Revolutionary War being very rare, British titles are an excellent source for collecting all the notable events not only in American history, but in world history as well. And the reporting was often extensive, for remember that the colonies were part of Great Britain through 1776. The ‘London Chronicle’ was a popular British newspaper which documented amongst its pages virtually all American events since its founding during the French & Indian War. Yet another periodical, the 'Gentleman's Magazine', is an excellent source for period reports of American events since its beginning in 1731, and one of its features was the printing of maps of all corners of the globe, many of which show North America and specific colonies. From James Oglethorpe's settling the colony of Georgia, to Ben Franklin's famous kite experiment, installation of the Liberty Bell, the enactment & repeal of the hated Stamp Act, all events of the Revolutionary War, to the mutiny on the Bounty & so much more, the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ offers a terrific repository of American and world history at very affordable prices. Plus, there are reports of Colonel George Washington from 1754 when he was just 22 years old and relatively unknown, and for the music buffs there are works by the composers Hayden, Handel, and death reports of Mozart and Beethoven within its pages. The early battles of Napoleon & other European reports are logically found in this title as well. While American newspapers of the Revolutionary War and before are generally pricey, ranging in the $400 - $1000+ range, two notable exceptions exist being the ‘Boston Chronicle’ and the ‘Pennsylvania Chronicle’, both from the 1768-1769 years. Because their circulation was widespread they are among the more commonly held colonial titles by institutions, & consequently come on the market when libraries convert from hard copy to microfilm or digital. They detail the entire spectrum of American life from just before the Revolutionary War while providing an interesting perspective on American politics during those critical years. Complete, genuine issues are typically available for under $200. American newspapers from after the American Revolution become more available and at dramatically lower prices while still containing a wealth of notable content on the founding years of the federal government. The ‘Pennsylvania Packet’ of Philadelphia was one of the more successful titles, and was the very first to print the Constitution of the United States. While that issue, September 19, 1787, ranks well into six figures, dates surrounding it are typically found in the $45 - $80 range and offer a perspective of life in the city where and when the Constitution was being created. The ‘Columbian Centinel’ from Boston was perhaps the most successful title in 18th century America and its pages document the complete scope of America politics and life from 1785 thru Washington’s election and inauguration to his death just weeks before the end of the century. Other 18th century American titles which are within the budgets of even the most modest collectors are the ‘Connecticut Courant’, ‘Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser’, ‘Gazette of the United States’, the ‘Massachusetts Spy’, and ‘The Herald, A Gazette For The Country’ and others. Nice issues from the formative years of the federal government can be had for under $50 each. While first reports of the most historic events of the 17th and 18th centuries will always command top dollar among the most savvy of collectors, the hobby of collecting rare newspapers offers a tremendous wealth of issues at surprisingly low prices, while at the same time offering fascinating content on life only known to others through history books. And this hobby is one that offers the entire spectrum of political, economic, and social history to every collector. What other hobby can make that claim? But perhaps most importantly, this hobby let’s you hold—quite literally—history in your hands. Declaration of Independence first appeared in a newspaper on July 6, 1776, and that issue commands a six figure price much higher than printings of the document in other newspapers of later dates (such as the British Gentleman's Magazine from August, 1776). Battle reports from the Revolutionary War are most coveted when in newspapers dated as close to the battle as possible. With the widespread use of the telegraph just before the Civil War, timeliness became less of an issue, as events would typically be found in the next day's edition of newspapers regardless of how distance the printing press was from the event. With institutions, societies & organizations the collector strives for the earliest reports on their creation. Reports from the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, the creation of military academy at West Point, the first baseball game mention, are just a few examples of icons of present-day societies which collectors like to find in newspaper reports dated as early as possible. Such is true with development of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the Mormons. Formally organized in upstate New York in 1829 accounts from that year or 1830 would rank among the most desired. Our earliest account was found in the 'Christian Intelligencer" issue of February 4, 1831. As was typical with reporting of the day, bias, discrimination and prejudice were rampant within the newspaper pages, with the publisher's mind-set not encumbered by political correctness. This early report notes that: "...the career of some fanatical individuals, who pretend to work miracles and to preach a new gospel. They profess to have discovered somewhere in New York a new revelation, hidden under a stone, which enables them to work miracles...a delusion and phrenzy with which these individual have wrought up the public mind...something like 500 adherents who follow those ignorant and deluded men with the same submission that sheep are led to slaughter...". This intriguing report was likely the first its subscribers learned of this new religious movement,and with a current membership of over 14 million, this report dates to when just 500 were followers. A slightly later report in the popular 'Niles' Weekly Register' newspaper from Baltimore, July 16, 1831, shows a similar bias & prejudice: "...that certain knaves, pretending to have found some holy writings hidden under a stone...started a new religion! The leaders make bold pretensions and assert a gift to work miracles...now said to amount to 1,000 souls...some of whom...no doubt believe in all things that are told them..." and more. Newspaper accounts found in the 1831-1835 period were very few and remain among the most desired among collectors. By the time the leader Joseph Smith and the Mormons moved from Kirtland, Ohio, to Missouri and then Nauvoo, Illinois by 1839, reports in newspapers became more numerous, as their travels were often made dangerous by the suspicious locals who didn't want them in their vicinity. An interesting and desired collection of Mormon-related newspapers would include period reports of their movement westward, from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois and ultimately to their own state of "Deseret" in the present-day state of Utah. With their arrival in 1847, Utah was not only not a state, it was not even a territorial possession. It was part of Mexico, but with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican War in 1848, it became a territory of the United States, and the disputes between the Mormons and the federal government would be legendary, the Mountain Meadows Massacre being among the most publicized. In additional to federal battles, disputes within their organization were quick to make the newspapers, and the practice of plural marriage did not set well with the typical Judeo-Christian ethic of the day. Typical of religious movements of the 19th century, the Mormons published several of their own periodicals, among the earliest and occasionally available being 'Times & Seasons' done during their turbulent stay in Nauvoo, Illinois. Within its pages was the report of the killing of founder and leader Joseph Smith. Other titles which occasionally surface for collectors are 'The Latter-Day Saints' 'Millennial Star', the 'Gospel Reflector', and some three years after their arrival at Salt Lake City they set up the 'Deseret News' in 1850, which was the first first newspaper to be published in present-day Utah, some 46 years before it would become a state. The fascinating and troublesome history of the Mormons and their trek across the frontier of America is now part & parcel of American history. Finding reports in newspapers from when they happened makes for an interesting segment of any rare newspaper collection. World War II newspapers ranks far higher than in the Korean War, World War I, or the Spanish-American War. It may be a generational thing, as most collectors today are children of World War II veterans and likely heard stories of the war first-hand, or found newspapers in their parents attics which sparked an interest. One could debate a number of other possible reasons why other wars lack the intrigue found in that fought by the "greatest generation". Headline collecting has always been a focus for this hobby, and as any collector knows, bold, banner headlines did not become commonplace until late in the 19th century. With the increasing competitiveness of daily newspapers across the country--Hearst, Pulitzer & others rising to prominence--flashier front pages were needed to draw attention at the corner news stand. It's a shame there is not more interest in the Spanish-American War and World War I as both events resulted in some huge, dramatic, & very displayable headlines. Because there are a plethora of newspapers from the WWII era available, collectors have become very discriminating in what they collect. Only the "best of the best" will do, meaning just the major events and only those with huge and displayable headlines. If there is a "top 6" list of sought-after events, our experience is they would be: 1) attack on Pearl Harbor; 2) the D-Day invasion; 3) death of Hitler; 4) end of the war in Europe; 5) dropping of the atomic bomb; 6) end of the war in the Pacific. One could add any number of other battle reports such as Midway, battle of the Bulge, fall of Italy, Iwo Jima, battle for Berlin, and so much more. And we could step back before American involvement in the war and add Hitler's invasion of Poland and the battle of Britain. The bigger the headline the better. With some newspapers the entire front page was taken up with a headline and a related graphic. The U.S. flag was a common patriotic device. Tabloid-size newspapers commonly had the front page entirely taken up with a singular headline and tend to be better for display given their smaller size. And not just American newspapers draw interest. German newspapers hold a special intrigue, but the language barrier is a problem for many. But the British Channel Islands, located in the English Channel between England & France, were occupied by the Nazi during the war so their reports were very pro-Nazi while printed in the English language (ex., Guernsey Island). And the military newspaper "Stars and Stripes", while certainly being American, was published at various locations in Europe and the Pacific. Collectors have a special interest in finding World War II events in the official newspapers of the American military forces. Plus there were a multitude of "camp" newspapers, amateur-looking newspapers printed on a mimeograph machine for consumption limited to a military base, and typically printed is very small quantities. Their rarity is not truly appreciated by many. For obvious reasons, there is also a high degree of collectible interest from those wishing to make sure certain aspects of history are not forgotten. The Holocaust, and the Nazi propaganda used to provide a rationale for eliminating the Jewish people, is well documented in newspapers from the era. In addition to the Holocaust and its atrocities, issues providing context through reporting other pre-war events such as the Great Depression, fascism, and increased militarism, are also desirable. True to any collectable field, newspaper collectors are always on the lookout for an issue better than what they have, and collection upgrades are constant. Finding that special, rare, unusual or fascinating headline is what makes the hobby fun. Will interest in the Korean War and the Vietnam War gain more interest in future years? Perhaps so. With interest currently low and availability and prices very attractive, it might be a good time to explore. Few eras in the broad range of American history have the appeal as that of the "Wild West", a romanticized period following the end of the Civil War thru the end of the 19th century. It was a time when America was healing from the wounds of war and the adventurous were pushing the American boundary further West. It was the 1849 California Gold Rush which sparked interest. Now with the war over, new adventures were sought by many. Those of the Baby Boom generation grew up on western movies and cowboy & Indian television shows. Even Disney's hugely popular Mickey Mouse Club and the newly minted Disneyland had the Wild West as a popular theme. What we remember are battles with Native Americans, saloon brawls, gunfights, and a multitude of other events which seem to define the era. And to the delight of collectors, all are found in newspapers from the Old West. Geographically our "Old West" definition would be any from west of the Mississippi. Some 25 years ago we were fortunate enough to purchase a sizable collection of Old West newspapers which were deaccessioned from the Bancroft Library, including many titles which existed only there, then only in our inventory. With some regret many have long since sold out, but most remain available. Ways of collecting this era are many. Some might pursue one of as many different titles as are available. Content is a lesser concern; they just want one of everything. Some might collect one from every state from before the 20th century. Many states would be easily found but others can be challenging, particularly Arizona, New Mexico & perhaps Idaho. Others might be more specific and collect only titles from before statehood, typically known as "territorial newspapers" (note: Arizona & New Mexico joined the Union in 1912 so early 20th century issues are "territorial"). Again, many can be easily found while others are more of a challenge. California became a state in 1850 (interesting how quickly Congress can act when a pile of gold is found in the backyard) and the number of titles which existed in the Golden State before 1850 were very few. For the best of collections, finding an early issue of the first newspaper to publish in each state can be a special challenge. But of course this is the fun of collecting. Then there is a larger segment of collectors who pursue content, whether it be the iconic events of the Old West such as Custer's Massacre, Killing of Jesse James, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, capture of Sitting Bull, or just mundane reports of iconic events such as skirmishes with Indians, barroom brawls, bank & railroad robberies, and general reports of lawlessness. Yes, they are all found in Western newspapers of the day, and the search can be exciting. As a subset of an Old West collection is Mormon content, as the story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is part & parcel of the westward expansion. Many titles from Salt Lake City are available and contain a wealth of Mormon content from shortly after their settlement in Utah. Another subset might be popular Western towns. Yes, 19th century newspapers are available from Tombstone, Sacramento, Deadwood City, Tucson, Albuquerque, San Francisco, Laramie, Reno, Los Angeles, San Diego, Leavenworth, and on and on. Of special intrigue is finding newspapers from ghost towns. Bodie, California is a great example of a once booming mining town which is currently a California State Park and popular ghost town attraction. Many of our titles from Northern California are from towns which are today a fraction of their size in the 19th century. The world of Old West collecting is endless, and to the surprise of many prices for most newspapers of the era are unexpectedly low. Explore this interesting era of American history and discover a new facet of collecting! The history of West Virginia newspapers dates some 70 years before West Virginia became a state. Statehood came late to West Virginia, carved from Virginia in the midst of the Civil War, happening officially on June 20, 1863. But its first newspaper began in 1790 when Nathaniel Willis began his “Potowmac Guardian & Berkeley Advertiser” at Shepherd’s-Town, near Harper’s Ferry. Less than two years later Willis moved the newspaper to Martinsburg. The second newspaper was the “Shepherd’s Town, Charles-Town and County Advertiser” begun by Philip Rootes and Charles Blagrove on June 28, 1797. No copies beyond October 11, 1797 have been located. The third newspaper was the “Berkeley Intelligencer” done at Martinsburg on April 3, 1799 by John Alburtis. Many followed, including what is shown in the image, "The Observer, and Western Advertiser", Lewisburg, [West] Virgina, 1884. When it comes to collecting historic newspapers related to progress in the area of communication, collectors (rightfully so) typically focus on the telegraph, Morse code, the Pony Express, the typewriter, and the telephone. However, we recently came across a newspaper from New York which may rival some of the most collectible issues in the area of communication development - the report of the first successful use of a cell phone. At the time this historic event was only deemed worthy of a page 57 report, and most newspapers never reported it. As a result, this may end up being one of the most difficult reports to find... and collect. Once again we are reminded of one of the greatest joys of the hobby - uncovering hidden gems... instantly transforming what was once an average newspaper into a noteworthy collectible. Please enjoy the report on our website at New York Times, April 4, 1973 or on eBay at Historic Cell Phone Call - Motorola DynaTAC: