Some months ago I reflected upon the value of newspapers we have sold years ago compared to more current values for the same title and event. Having published catalogs since 1977 it is interesting to pull out some of the early editions and see what we sold newspapers for many years ago.
Although we are careful to never recommend early or historic newspapers as investments, many have done well over the years. Not surprisingly, those which are most historic and less common have appreciated the best, while others—particularly titles which tend to come available from time to time—have appreciated but not at an exceptional pace. A few examples:
Within our catalogs created in 1980, twenty-nine years ago, are several entries which we still are able to keep in inventory such as “Harper’s Weekly” of July 22, 1876 with coverage of the Custer massacre. We sold it then for $32, and offer it today for $112. Using an inflation calculator the $32 would have inflated to $82.57 today. Also in “Harper’s Weekly” we sold Oct. 4, 1862 with a printing of the Emancipation Proclamation for $52 ($134.28 in today’s dollars), while today we sell it for $125. The same title for March 22, 1862 on the Monitor vs. the Merrimack sold then for $38 ($98.05 in today’s dollars) and for $113 today.
Although “Harper’s Weekly” remains a very desirable title and has most certainly become more scarce as the years have gone by, I would not consider it a rare title. Consequently some prices have exceeded inflation while some have not.
But somewhat less common titles, and more significant events, have had more interesting price changes. In 1980 we sold the “New York Tribune” of April 4, 1865 which reported the fall of Richmond and had a huge eagle engraving on the front page, for $48 ($123.85 in today’s dollars). Not long ago we sold the same issue for $477. And in 1980 we sold the “Gazette of the United States” of March 2, 1791 on the creation of the Bank of the United States, for $19 ($49.03 in today’s dollars) and a more recent sale was for $775.
Of courses naivete (or perhaps stupidity) was the reason for many low prices years ago. Back in the “early years” I simply didn’t have the experience of knowing how desirable some events would be for collectors. If I bought an item for $20 and sold it for $30 I was happy.
Pricing has become much more sophisticated the last ten years or so, but I’m sure we still offer some interesting gems of history at relatively low prices which will take on much greater desirability as the years progress. Part of the fun of the hobby is seeking them out.