#21 – Pricing newspapers over 30 years ago… (*revisited)

March 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

pricing_issues_iiIn conversations with people about how I started this business, a common question is, “How did you know how to prices newspapers back then?” Well, the short answer is I didn’t.

This venture started as a hobby with no thought of it turning into a business. But when I started getting too many of a similar title or date, selling off the “unwanteds” became a more common occurrence. My simple thought was, if I had $3 for it, try to sell it for $5. If I did, the price stuck for future issues; if it didn’t, the price dropped to $4.

But this became trickier years later when I was buying for resale but didn’t have enough experience to know what to pay, nor what to price them at. Nor did anyone for that matter, as there were no price guides, nor sufficient auction records to offer a clue.

I was flying by the seat of my pants. If I thought an event was historic, say a major Civil War battle, I would pay the $5 price and increase it by 50% or so. If it sold, then the next time I inched it up a bit more. If it didn’t, I reduced the price a bit. Never knowing how high customers might go for an event, I might have “inched up” the price of an event 15 times over the coarse of 4 or 5 years until there was some resistance. I was careful to keep records of sales through the years–even in the pre-computer days–which was a tremendous assistance in assigning values to the myriad of historical events covering 300 years of history.

pricing_issues_iDid I sell some great material too cheaply in the early years? I sure did. Looking at some of my earlier catalogs I gladly pay five times the selling price of many items I sold. But it was part of the process. I remember nce having a volume of a Las Vegas, New Mexico newspaper from 1881. There must have been 30 or 40 issues with a small “Reward” ad for the capture of Billy the Kid. I think I sold those issues for less than $20 each. If I had 40 of them how rare could they be? Certainly I’ve learned through the years, and became smarter as well.

But we are still challenged today with some items. As we continue to find truly rare, almost unique issues it becomes difficult to assign values with no history or prior sales. But these are the fun challenges. As much as you may enjoy finding interesting items in our catalogs, I enjoy finding the unusual to offer.

Although this is a business, I have always gotten more joy from buying newspapers than selling them.

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*The Fall of 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of the History’s Newsstand Blog by Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers. We are grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the newspaper collecting community, and appreciate those who have participated through guest posts, comments, and readership. This year (2014) we are revisiting the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being re-posted during the first week of 2015. Please enjoy. If you would like to contribute a post for consideration of inclusion on the blog, please contact Guy Heilenman at guy@rarenewspapers.com.

#23 – Thoughts on the collecting of Obama inauguration newspapers… (*revisited)

February 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

It seems that with every election or inauguration I get asked about the collectability of such newspapers, so I thought I might share my thoughts with you, and encourage you to do the same.

USA Today - Obama Election & Inuguration

USA Today – Obama Election & Inuguration

As for pure collectability, sure, election and inauguration issues are collectible because they document a very important part of American history and the democratic process. The smooth transfer of power from one person or administration to another does not come easily to many countries today. And to be able to add such historic issues to a collection for 50 cents or a buck is a great opportunity.

But I suspect the real interest of many who inquire about the collectability (of Barrack Obama election and inauguration issues) is the potential for such issues to increase in value. My opinion is, in general, no. They will not increase much in value in years to come. Now I’m speaking of “recent” history, say the last 30 years or so. I feel the public has become very collector-focused the last several decades, and many, many “historic” newspapers have been set aside in attics and drawers only to be found by their children many years later.

For a newspaper to appreciate dramatically in value I believe it requires several things: 1) Historic content. Yes, elections and inaugurations are historic; 2) Rarity. No, elections and inaugurations of the past 30 years are not rare because they were hoarded in large quantities and will always be relatively common; and 3) Something unique or dramatic. A “screaming” headline in tall, bold letters, or a cleverly worded headline, or something else which makes the issue unusual.

Supposedly the New York Times printed an extra one million issues of its January 21 inauguration issue, and I suspect most of them will be hoarded in quantity. The Washington Post printed a much larger quantity than normal, but they didn’t comment on the exact quantity. I’m sure it was sizable, and many of those issues will be hoarded. All this means that 20 years from now issues will be showing up on eBay (or its equivalent at that time) and anywhere else people might try to sell collectibles. With millions of such newspapers in the marketplace will the values get higher and higher? I doubt it.

Issues which tend to increase in value are those which were NOT saved. Most major headlines pre-World War II have appreciated nicely in value because they were not hoarded in quantities. I just don’t think the American public was collector-conscience then, so consequently they are genuinely rare in additional to being historic. And add a huge headline or terrific graphic and you have the potential for a very desirable newspaper; one which has appreciated nicely in value.

As an interesting side note, I understand that the New York Post printed a special afternoon inauguration edition on January 20. Given that most major newspapers are morning publications, coverage of the inaugural proceedings would be in their September 21 issue. But the Post had coverage in their January 20 issue, the same day as the election. A friend, stopping by a newsstand in New York city bought several issues of the Times of January 21 and noted a stack of other issues in the back. Inquiring what they were he was told it was the Post of the 20th, “…but they came in too late to be sold on the newsstand, so they will be returned. We can’t sell a day old newspaper…” the friend promptly purchased them all. I’d be curious to hear how many of the January 20 afternoon edition were actually sold on the streets and not returned for destruction. Perhaps that edition will have a real rarity component.

But don’t let this deter you from collecting historic events of the last 30 years and events yet to come. One of the great aspects of this hobby is the ability to assemble a great collection of truly historic newspapers at a nominal cost–at the newsstand price if you are lucky.

What are your thoughts?

Note: The Times News (out of Lehighton, PA) interviewed Tim concerning this topic. The article may be accessed at: http://www.tnonline.com/about

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*The Fall of 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of the History’s Newsstand Blog by Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers. We are grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the newspaper collecting community, and appreciate those who have participated through guest posts, comments, and readership. In 2014 we will revisit the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being revisited during the first week of 2015. Please enjoy. If you would like to contribute a post for consideration of inclusion on the blog, please contact Guy Heilenman at guy@rarenewspapers.com.

#24 – Lincoln’s assassination in a Washington, D.C., newspaper… (*revisted)

January 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Daily-Morning-Chronicle-LinOne of the (positive) frustrations we have always dealt with as a rare newspaper dealer is not being able to share some of the best material which comes our way. Not surprisingly very rare and very historic items have a waiting list of customers waiting for it to come into inventory and such newspapers are typically sold before they have the opportunity to be listed in a catalog. But here is where our blog is of value, allowing us an opportunity to share some nice material even though no longer available for purchase.

Holding true to the belief that newspapers from cities where historic events took place are the best to have, our recent sale of the “Daily Morning Chronicle” of April 15, 1865 from Washington, D.C. fits this description very well. Although purchased by a member with a *“want list” for such material, the issue is too fascinating not to share with others, hence this link to the listing and photos.

Enjoy one of the best newspapers to have on Lincoln’s assassination.

Note: Although we manage a want list for key material, with thousands of such wants, the system is not perfect (i.e., we occasionally miss an item on someone’s want list and it ends up being purchased through a member or public offering). We simply promise to do the best we can. If you have key content of interest, feel free to be in touch.

*The Fall of 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of the History’s Newsstand Blog by Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers. We are grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the newspaper collecting community, and appreciate those who have participated through guest posts, comments, and readership. In 2014 we will revisit the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being revisited during the first week of 2015. Please enjoy. If you would like to contribute a post for consideration of inclusion on the blog, please contact Guy Heilenman at guy@rarenewspapers.com.

Do Old and Antique Newspapers Have Any Collectible Value?

October 25, 2013 by · 794 Comments 

It is not often I travel to Yahoo for answers to some of the more meaningful questions of life: Where did we come from? What is the purpose of Life? Do old newspapers have value? However, I recently came upon a post on Yahoo Voices which did a decent job of handling this last question.  It begins:

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… (read more)

 (Unfortunately, the Yahoo article has since expired. If anyone has discovered great articles regarding the value of newspapers, please let us know and we’ll consider adding it. In the meantime, feel free to use the www.RareNewspapers.com website for comparables.)

Discovering the eloquence of Washington…

October 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the benefits of collecting notable newspapers is not only the joy of finding an historically significant report–like Washington’s proclamation announcing the formal end of hostilities with England–but appreciating the eloquence of our leaders of years past.  With all our modern intelligence & computer-enabled resources at our fingertips, it seems like the simple skill of writing has been lost with our generation.

The referenced event was recently discovered in the “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 newspapers in Vermont…

October 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Vermont was the first state to join the union outside of the original thirteen colonies, although in a sense they were always a part of the federal union. The territory of present-day Vermont was previously divided among the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New  York.

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.

Gift of newspapers can spark a life-long hobby…

April 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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

The 1600’s and 1700’s on a budget…

March 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A genuine collectible, over 300 years old, for $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.

Mormon history in newspapers…

March 15, 2013 by · 3 Comments 

As is true with any historical event or founding of an institution, collectors of historical newspapers strive for the earliest reports possible. The 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.

Headlines drive interest in World War II…

March 11, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

For likely a multitude of reasons, interest in 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.

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