Genuine or reprint?

March 26, 2009 by · 20 Comments 

A great fear of any novice collector is knowing whether an item purchased is genuine or not. It’s a valid concern, as the other collectibles have been infested by reproduction,s reprints, or deceivingly fake material from furniture to coins to baseball collectibles.

The world of rare newspapers is not immune but it is not a serious problem either. With a few helpful hints almost every collector can avoid the pitfalls of having non-genuine newspapers end up in their collection.

Fake material of any collectible seems to become an problem when popularity and values grow. Since rare newspaper collecting remains a relatively unknown hobby with relatively low prices there is little incentive to create fake editions. And the requirements to recreate a 200 year old newspaper to have it look like a genuine edition can be complex and expensive.

With but one exception, I am not aware of any reprinted newspapers which were created to deceive. Virtually all facsimile issues on the market were created as souvenirs of historic events (Honolulu issues on Pearl Harbor can still be purchased at the memorial), on anniversaries of the first issue printed (many volume one, number one issues are reprints), as curious give-aways or “premiums” (major events such as the Boston Massacre, Declaration of Independence, etc. were reprinted), or as teaching tools in an educational environment (Harper’s Weekly issues from the Civil War were reprinted on their 100th anniversary: look for “a reissue of” above the “H” in “Harper’s Weekly” on page 1).

The lone exception is a collection of the “Pennsylvania Gazette” from the 1730’s – 1787 with issues turning up in small auction halls throughout the East some 20 years ago. The issues were aged to look 200 years old and the paper was very close to genuine newsprint from the era. Beware of this title if it contains a “Tontine Coffee House” inked stamp on the front page & if it looks a bit washed out.

The number of reprint newspapers on the market is exceedingly small so collectors have little to worry about. But keep these points in mind:

1) The most common reprint newspapers are on the Library of Congress check-list. Go here to keep the list handy. It also includes helpful tips on how to tell if genuine or a reprint.

2) Be aware of what 200 year old and 100 year old newsprint should look like. Almost all reprints were done on paper which is not reflective of the era.

3) Be suspicious of exceedingly historic newspaper turning up in illogical places. The likelihood of a genuine Declaration of Independence report being in flea market or amongst of group of papers from a non-collecting family is very remote. In other words if the find seems too good to be true, it likely is.

4) Be careful with volume one, number one newspapers. Such first editions were commonly reprinted by the publisher on the 50th or 100th anniversary.

5) Above all, buy from reputable dealers whose expertise, experience and reputation stand behind all they sell.

The “Honolulu Star-Bulletin” of Dec. 7, 1941 mentioned above is not on the Library of Congress check-list, however it’s easy to spot a reprint. The genuine issue has an ink smear between the “A” and “R” in the huge word “WAR!” on the front page (see photo). They cleaned it up on the reprint so it won’t be present.

And a news flash–I just learned that the “Dallas Morning News” issue of Nov. 23, 1963 reporting Kennedy’s assassination has been reprinted. Look for the word “Reprint” in the dateline just after the four stars. Do note those we have on our website & have sold for over 20 years are all genuine!

Common sense can be the best guide. The requirements to reprint an 8 page Civil War newspaper with a minor battle report could cost hundreds of dollars while the genuine issue might sell for $20, so chances are good such finds are genuine. For this reason our hobby is a fascinating one not prone to the pitfalls of other collectibles.

Our community of collectors is quite small which has worked in our favor. All of us are in an enviable position of being able to assemble great collections of historic material before the world at large “discovers” our hobby and changes the environment in years to come.

Enjoy!