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.
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
*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 email@example.com.
I commented previously on the most desirable issue or issues to have on the November presidential election. My thought being a newspaper from the victor’s hometown and/or a newspaper from Washington, D.C. being among the best. Plus, how desirable are presidential election newspapers in the scope of the historical newspaper hobby?
To most collectors, election reports are desired. But this election was different. More than just another presidential election, history was made. The first African-American will be heading to the White House in January and it’s interesting to speculate on how this makes a 2008 election newspaper more desirable than any previous election report.
It has been interesting following the eBay sales over the past six days. Not surprisingly thousands of newspapers have been listed and many have been sold, including at least one lot of over 600 issues of the Chicago Tribune (sold for $1799). The highest sold prices I’ve noticed have been the New York Times, and being one of the more famous & prestigious newspapers in the world I’m not surprised it would command some attention among bidders. I saw bona fide sale prices for individual issues of $400, $300, $265, $255 and another dozen sales above the $100 mark. Curiously, the highest Chicago newspaper sale price I noted (Tribune) was for $115. Most of these prices were achieved the day after the election as savvy sellers took advantage of the expected post-election euphoria to achieve what seem to have been the highest prices of the week.
Although I have no statistics upon which to base this thought, I don’t believe past election newspaper sales resulting in so many $100+ final sales. I suspect the added historical appeal this election provided had much to do with both the demand and the prices achieved. We are selling election issues from 2004 for $28 (interesting pair from Florida: see listing) and $50 for the Washington Post.
But how will prices be affected going forward? As is the case with all collectibles, buyer demand will set the mark. The degree to which collectors recognize or appreciate this election as being different from most, and the shear quantity of issues hoarded last week–and which come on to the market over the next ten years–will determine whether prices will languish in the $10 to $25 range or whether $75 might be a typical sale price. Time will tell.
What’s your thought?
The vast majority of Chicago issues and the New York Times sold the past 4 or 5 days seem to be in the $10 to $25 per issue range although there are exceptions at both ends of this range. Looking forward ten years… will they be considered bargain purchases? Again, time will tell. It’s part of the fun of collecting!
All this being said, please note: When the potential investment value of a newspaper becomes the primary motivation for purchasing historic newspapers rather than the intangible value of holding history in your hands, the joy of the hobby may well be sacrificed. Keeping true to the hobby, we urge “collecting” and not “investing”.