I’m New Here…Week Eight

April 5, 2019 by · 2 Comments 

Perhaps the most significant thing I have learned in my weeks here is that I don’t know much.  And, as that sinks in I feel an urgency to get to work, because there is so much lost ground to cover!  Even if Time stopped right now, it’s too late to catch up on the designations within mechanics, medicine, entertainment, science, culture, and everything else.  Yet, I am optimistic of gaining a bit of yardage as I spend my days surrounded by thin slices of information, accumulated at such quantities that facts could be (by someone math-minded) measured in cubic feet.

“What kinds of things are collectors searching?”  That was my early question, and I see now how gracious everyone was with their oft-repeated, non-committal replies.

People are looking for issues concerning as varied a range of topics or content as there are human beings. Early motorcycle polo matches had me perched fifteen feet skyward, balancing five volumes — each of which is half my height and wider than I can put my arms around.  The issue I was seeking had some key content of wide appeal:  Capone and his gang.

Mobsters are popular.  So are serial killers and crime sprees.  I skipped right over the portions of The Devil in the White City that dealt with the monster Henry Howard Holmes, and was instead caught up in the achievements of the human mind as exhibited in the Chicago World Fair.  Here in our annals we have issues of Scientific American that feature Thomas Edison’s inventions, as well as multiple innovations of the 19th century — some of which were presented at that 1893 event!  My mental censorship was so complete that I forgot  the gruesome killings described in Erik Larson’s book altogether.  But many people, for a myriad of reasons, are fascinated by details of historical mayhem.  Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Jesse James‘ headlines still hold mass appeal.

But in this case, the Detroit Free Press of 1928 contained something more valuable to some than the headline “Capone Pal Slain”.  The back page photograph of a group from Yonkers was the treasure I unearthed for a research request.  Scheduled to ship today, that paper will replace a photocopy in a transportation museum — which seems a very appropriate destination for a Michigan publication.

Motorcycles, motion pictures, mobsters, and murder…those are a few things that interest collectors, and after this week things of which I now know a very little bit more.

Post Script:  And, as I was reminded by email, there is a world to observe beyond the “m” words — including last week’s glance at suffrage -SRW

Rick Brown’s Primer on Collecting Old & Historic Newspapers…

July 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Several year’s ago, a newspaper enthusiast by the name of Rick Brown had a passion to spread the love of collecting “history in your hands… from the day it was first reported”.  One of his efforts was to print a newsletter for the hobby.  An early entry was a primer on collecting newspapers.  While many of the prices are out-of-date, we invite you to enjoy this original contribution to the hobby:  Primer on Collecting Old & Historic Newspapers

We will continue to post additional contributions to the collectible experience in future posts.

Atmosphere versus Events – which newspaper-collecting path to tread?

May 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The following is a guest post by blogger Chee Seng:

Newspaper-collecting is something of an oddity in the collectibles and antiques scene. That’s because it’s not the printing house – or the paper/ink – which makes a newspaper valuable to the collector. It is something more ephemeral. It’s the very words that are printed on those yellowing sheets (or not so yellowing for pre-1875 issues), and how they connect to the unfolding story of the times. In other words, it is content, not the vessel, that can elevate one newspaper above all others, in the eye of the collector.

It’s also true to say that, because that collection of news-stories, articles, pictures and adverts are a snapshot of the very essence of an historical epoch – its life-and-times, its mores and outlook – that collectors can be looking at the same newspaper with very different eyes. Some want plenty of local interest, some are fixated on a great news story, some collect certain types of coverage religiously – and some are even looking for specific writers or illustrators.

But while no two-collectors are alike, you can split approaches to newspaper-collecting into two great camps. Those who are chasing after ‘events’, and those who want to steep themselves in the ‘atmosphere’. If you want to understand the sorts of newspapers you should be collecting,
you’d do well to try and understand the different viewpoints of these two camps. It’s not just a philosophical point – chasing ‘atmosphere’ versus ‘event’ can help decide whether a paper is worth one dollar, or a hundred.

It’s fair to say that ‘event’ collectors are hanging their collecting coats, first-and-foremost, from those real big hooks in the historical calendar. Those unforgettable and universal events that are remembered long after they have happened – and often very far from their point of origin. Good examples of these mega-events include the assassination of John F Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln,
the landing on the Moon, or the sinking of the Lusitania.

The reason these big events are so important is that, for many people, who would otherwise not come close to buying a historic newspaper, they resonate a strong chord with them. Having such a bold historical headline, framed and on the wall, is a way of displaying this strong emotional connection. And because so many people are seeking out these original ‘event’ newspapers, the pent-up demand drives up the value.

And of course, much of the interest in collecting newspapers, then, inevitably follows this money. Indeed, many people are drawn into the hobby purely to see if if they can reap big rewards from the ‘events’ held in that stack of newspapers, found stored in the attic. There is nothing wrong with taking such a monetary-influenced path – after all, it sustains many collectible hobbies. But it would
be sad if your newspaper-collecting was restricted to only these mammoth events – which can be counted on fingers and toes for most countries.

This is where the second path of newspaper collecting may be found to be ‘enriching’, on a different level: collecting for ‘atmosphere’. The starting point for the atmosphere collector is usually a personal interest in a particular era. Some people are drawn to the life-or-death drama of the World Wars – where even local news-stories are set against a backdrop of that wider struggle. Others are
find the moral contrasts of Prohibition-era America, for example, with its gangsters and raids and flighty fashions, irresistible.

Following this atmospheric path gives you a lot more scope to learn a little from history’s lessons. However, this is not the history taught in the dry words of the history text books – but in the often vivid and colorful language of the local news-hack. You may also find nuggets of historical interest that other collectors may also find fascinating – and so another route to a higher-than-normal
valuation can open up.

For example, there was a particular buzz, recently, over ‘frontier rags’ – newspapers that rolled out across the frontier, as the West was opened up. Some of these papers had short printing runs, and even shorter lives, as towns boomed and bust. That makes them pretty rare and exotic, and so a lively market grew up around these.

Of course its impossible to predict trends in atmospheric collecting such as these. Far better is to follow your instincts, and build a collection around what interests you. That way a labor of love will provide its own rewards, and any financial boon will come as a pleasant surprise. And that motto makes sense whichever path – event or atmosphere – your choice to take.

One collector’s passion…

January 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Old newspapers are not only great “stand alone” collectibles, but many collect them to be used as companion pieces to a separate primary interest.  A fellow collector recently obtained what would normally have been considered a rather nondescript issue of Harper’s Weekly.  However, after reading his note, I was reminded of the breadth of our favorite pass-time… rare & early newspapers.  Please enjoy his story:

Hello, Guy…

I received the above order this past Saturday [a Harper’s Weekly, November 12, 1904, from New York, with “A Bird’s-Eye View of New York’s Rapid Transit Plans for the Future” by H. M. Pettit].  Ordinarily, I would not go to this length to confirm receipt of your fine products, but this is about a unique affair…something very different for me, and one – quite honestly – I never imagined would “come true”.

As you know, I’ve been studying the history of New York’s original Pennsylvania Station for many years now, and these studies have taken me on some incredible “journeys” through the land of (original) archival documents that have, some how, survived the “test of time”.  I purchased one of your portfolios because what I recently acquired is so exceptional, it deserves a special place to reside in my archive.

Earlier this month, I inadvertently came upon an issued/cancelled stock certificate that is directly related to the construction of Pennsylvania Station…undeniably the most distinctive “find” I’ve made since I first pursued this subject years ago.  What I actually found was a PDF link to the pages of a Spink Smythe auction catalog (pictured below, as Lot #516), the event having taken place in February 2010…Spink, with offices worldwide, specializes in rare stocks, bonds, and paper currency.

The significance of this document is that the Pennsylvania, New York & Long Island Rail Road was one of two “pioneering” ventures (the other being the Pennsylvania, New Jersey & New York Railroad) created in 1902 by the Pennsylvania Railroad to basically enact the provisions of its franchise agreement with the City of New York to build Penn Station and its sub-river tunnels, uniting Manhattan (by rail) with mainland America.  These two small railroads – with a combined length of less than 20 miles – were consolidated in 1907 to form one operating authority, the Pennsylvania Tunnel & Terminal Railroad.  Given the short “lifespan” and relatively low profile of these two railroads during the years of Penn Station’s construction, any documents pertaining to their existence (that have survived to this day) are very scarce.

I’ve had previous – though limited – experience with the Spink auction house, so I immediately “launched” an investigation into this document, and learned it did not sell at this February 2010 auction!  Within a week or so, I made contact with a Spink official (in London, their corporate location) who not only confirmed the status of this item at that auction, but referred me to its consignee, to whom Spink returned the unsold certificate.

Not knowing what I was “in for” from this point onward, I telephoned the consignee, only to discover he is a reputable vendor of stock certificates and bank notes in New Hampshire…extremely knowledgeable, and an absolute pleasure to do business with.  I’m sure – privately – he couldn’t believe somebody was calling him (from California, no less!) about a certificate that didn’t sell at auction so long ago, but we, nonetheless, had a wonderful conversation.  Lo and behold, after briefly searching his inventory (of Spink returns), he called me back to say he found the certificate I was interested in.  He offered it to me at a good price, and I now have this most incredible document (previously, a “distant”, digitized image from a nearly two-year-old catalog) in my possession.

While the “railroad-related” signatures and seals on the certificate are “chock-full” of history (and worth everything to me), an unexpected “bonus” surfaced when the vendor made note of the individual to whom this stock was issued…Clement A. Griscom.  He suggested this person might be worth researching, so – while I awaited the certificate’s arrival – I did just that!  Born 1841 in Philadelphia (died in 1912), Clement Griscom – pictured in his

1899 portrait above – was not your “everyday” stockholder, but, rather, a prominent shipping magnate…President of the International Navigation (steamship) Company.  In 1902, he engaged Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan to finance the merger of International Navigation with five additional steamship lines, including a portion of Holland America, and the White Star Line (of Titanic fame).  The Pennsylvania Railroad also retained Mr. Griscom as a director in their Northeast region for many years.

To set this monumental document before you is nothing short of dazzling…printed on watermarked (almost parchment-like) paper, the graphics are precise and impeccably executed.  Handwritten inscriptions, such as Clement Griscom’s name and a date (July 1, 1902) – presumably entered by a secretary – and two signatures along the bottom, are all in black (fountain pen) ink, and very legible.  The legendary Vice President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Samuel Rea, signed the certificate to the right, and a very curious Treasurer’s signature – that of eminent 50-year PRR veteran “T {Taber} Ashton – pictured below, graces the left hand corner.

Adjacent to Mr. Ashton’s signature is the “wonder of it all”…a perfectly-embossed seal of the Pennsylvania, New York & Long Island Rail Road, whose name encircles the words, “New York 1902”.  On the reverse side of this certificate [IMG 0095] is another set (“trio”) of beautiful graphics that were intended to be “showcased” when the document was folded in “thirds”.  Fortunately, it was never folded, which certainly enhances its value and charm.  The certificate looks wonderful in the portfolio…a perfect place to keep it for future reference, and to ensure its posterity.

As always…many thanks…


Collecting Ideas: Charles Dickens…

April 4, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

An area of collecting interest which continues to draw interest is collecting newspapers with Charles Dickens related content.  Whether one’s passion is Harper’s Weekly Illustrated issues containing serialized versions of his writings, issues published by him directly (All the Year Round & Household Words) , or newspapers with news concerning his travels and/or his thoughts on various topics, there certainly are a host of ways to enjoy this particular area of newspaper collectability.

Although not directly related to the hobby, we recently came across a post we thought our Dickens-collecting friends might enjoy:  15 Things You Never Knew About Dickens, by Emma Taylor.  Feel free to share your Dickens knowledge with the collecting world via responses to this post.

Rare Newspapers… What to collect?

March 31, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

There are an infinite number of ways to approach collecting rare newspapers.  The History’s Newsstand Blog is pregnant with suggestions.  Over the course of the next several months we will begin to explore the topic in earnest.  For those who are new to the hobby, and are anxious to explore what has been written to-date, the following links are to help bring you up to speed:

Feel free to share your thoughts on ideas for collecting rare and early newspapers: themes, eras, topics, etc.