We are frequently asked to appraise final editions of newspaper titles which have gone defunct. Sadly, much like the specific publications themselves, collectors rarely find these final editions to be attractive. Some might suggest the lack of interest in current newspapers (in general) might have a negative impact on the hobby of collecting historic newspapers, but our experience has shown no such correlation. Alternately, the decline in readership of current titles and the corresponding abundance of newspaper publications going out of business seems to be directly proportional to the ease and speed for which information can be had at a minimal (if any) cost. In most instances, by the time a newspaper hits a subscriber’s doorstep, much of the news is already outdated. One journalist of such a “final edition” had their own thoughts on the matter, and interestingly enough, whether you agree or disagree with his bitter-pill-tainted analysis, some of the social issues mentioned seem as appropriate for today as they did when the article was written in 1978. The article may be read in full at: Chicago Daily News, March 4, 1978 (see images 4-10).
From time-to-time we (Rare & Early Newspapers) talk about one of the joys of the hobby being the unearthing of unexpected “finds”. A few weeks ago this was played out in spades as
we learned that the same issue we had sold for under $50 sold at a well-known auction house for well over $5,000 – the price driven by content we did not know was present. While we do our best to discover such hidden gems before offering issues, the reality is, it is nearly impossible to find everything of historical interest and/or collectable value. Some wonder if hearing about such events bothers us. Quite the contrary. This is one of characteristics of collecting old newspapers which make the hobby so enjoyable. While not all “finds” bring financial reward, it is rare to read through a rare newspaper from cover to cover without finding something unexpected beyond the original reason for purchasing – an interesting ad, the mention of a noteworthy name, contemporary viewpoints which add depth to the key content, etc. What fun!
While we won’t mention the exact date or title (that would be too easy), we will say the issue was from the 1760’s and was not American. 🙂
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…
Some of the better & more fascinating items found in old newspapers are not the most historic or significant, but rather the casual appearance of seemingly innocuous reports which excite collecting interest beyond the historic headline or dramatic presentation which are the more usual draw.
Much of what intrigues collectors can be lost within the body of reports, yet they tell a story of their own, such as the patriotic fervor of some colonist during the Revolutionary War. I recall an issue of the Edinburgh Evening Courant of June 17, 1776 reporting on American soldiers: “…Their uniform is a dark grey coarse linen frock, which covers the whole body…with the words, ‘Death or Liberty’ marked in large red letters on the right sleeve; and many of them are so enthusiastic as to have them marked with their own blood…“. This report is almost lost on page 3 yet its message is very telling of the spirit which caused the Americans to win the war against a world power despite insurmountable odds.
Some reports are fascinating by their bias. A Richmond newspaper’s (Daily Examiner for July 13, 1863) reporting on the Battle of Gettysburg notes: “…The Confederates did not gain a victory, neither did the enemy. He succeeded in defending himself & we failed in some portions of an attack…We killed more of the enemy than we lost; we took very many more prisoners than lost. The Confederate army did not leave the enemy until it had tried every link of his armour…” Another newspaper notes: “ ..Information, certainly authentic, is in the hands of the Government, which leaves no doubt of the safety & triumph of the noble army. General Lee was victorious in all the combats which have taken place. He has been engaged with the whole force of the United States & has broken its backbone…”, Perhaps the most extraordinary example of optimism appeared in the Richmond Examiner of July 25: “…The result was not a defeat, it was not a loss; it was only not a victory…It was little else than a disappointment of extraordinary expectations…”. What a precious statement as an example of Confederate optimism.
Other little gems were very prophetic in their reporting, particularly when read with an historic perspective. A Scottish newspaper from 1775 (EDINBURGH EVENING COURANT, October 7, 1775) sensed a lasting war with America as it reflected on the Battle of Bunker: “…The mischiefs which have already arisen & the greater calamities which are threatened from the unnatural war excited in America…It is impossible we can see, without the utmost alarm, preparations making for the prosecution of an expensive & ruinous war with our own Colonies…”. Some can be very recent, like the New York Times comment on rookie Mickey Mantle in 1951 (NYT, April 5, 1951): “…Mantle, who gives every promise of developing into an outstanding baseball star, was ordered to report to his draft board next Wednesday…” An editorial comment in the Army & Navy Journal of November 28, 1863, just after the Gettysburg Address opined: “…a dedicatory speech by President Lincoln, which we give in full, as decidedly the best feature of the occasion, as well as one of the most felicitous utterances of its author.” How true.
Some were prophetic even when the reports were simply wrong, like the Illustrated American article of 1898 reporting on “A New Flying Machine That Flies”–five years before the Wright brothers–when it said: “…It is impossible to imagine without terror the day when these mechanical birds, these flying apparitions, will be able to rain upon armies, hostile towns and escalating parties most deadly and most destructive explosives…”. How true it would become.
There can be much to be found in newspapers beyond the headline. What a thrill it is to discover such hidden gems; reports that have escaped hundreds of years of history only to rediscovered with new-found relevance today. Such are just some of the joys of collecting early newspapers.