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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. On that fateful day, newspapers around the country – some of them still afternoon papers– blared the story in big bold headlines.
Millions of newspapers were printed and sold, and families scooped them up to read every morsel about a shooting that was unbelievable. Many saved those papers as a reminder of that day and time, likely not thinking that someday they may be worth more than the few coins they paid for them…
Read The Entire Interview At: The value of your JFK and Obama newspapers…
The recent election, reflecting the great strides made socially & politically by the African-American community, brought to mind another opportunity in newspaper collecting not thought of by most. In preparing issues for a future Supplement the “Detroit Free Press” of June 12, 1963 struck me as a interesting contrast to the election of just a few days prior. The headline proclaimed: “NEGROES ENROLL AT ‘BAMA”, noting the struggles African-Americans had just to enroll in universities across the country during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Zoom forward just 45 years and the headline of the “USA Today” read “America Makes History – OBAMA WINS” noting America’s first African-American president. (We have this pair listed on eBay. Click here to view.) I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that in 1963 the thought of an African-American president in any person’s lifetime was considered a serious possibility, yet it happened, and indeed America did make history.
Carrying forward with this “contrasting pairs” idea, a fascinating collection of newspapers could be built around this theme. How about a December, 1903 issue report on the Wright brothers’ first flight alongside an issue of July 21, 1969 announcing man landing on the moon? How about an 1844 newspaper on the first successful telegraph transmission alongside an issue announcing the launching of the Telstar satellite, noting the achievements in distance communication? How about a 1920 newspaper reporting the ratification of the Suffrage Amendment giving women the right to vote, along side an issue just 64 years later reporting Geraldine Ferraro as the first female Vice Presidential candidate representing a major American political party? Consider the contrast in perspectives of having both a Yankee and Confederate newspaper for the same Civil War date. The advantage that newspapers offer to this interesting theme is they offer physical evidence of achievements & accomplishments…one can display such headline issues side by side.
What other “contrasting pairs” do you believe would be intriguing additions to an historical newspaper collection, and why?