I remember the first time I held an authentic Civil War era newspaper and was struck by the concept of holding history in my hands. As I read through the detailed battle reports, raw emotion welled up within me as I pondered the possibility of a loved one’s tears falling upon the very newspaper I was holding – as he/she discovered the name of a close relative… even a spouse listed among those killed in battle. As I continued to peruse the paper, the prevalence of ads, birth and wedding announcements, local news reports, etc. communicated a truth that hit me like a ton of bricks: Despite the carnage of war, and the tears of many who had just learned of the loss of someone they loved, life continued to move forward. Anyone who has lost a dear friend or family member knows the emotion: “Hey world – What are you doing? STOP! Don’t you know what’s just happened?” But the train of time rushes forward – ignoring our desperate cry for just a few more minutes…
At this point I took a breath – carefully closed the newspaper, and returned to the present – convinced I had discovered the greatest hobby of them all; one that enables anyone who would dare, to go where Orson Wells, Jack Finney, and others could only dream of going: back in time.
A collector recently sent a related note stating:
Like many people I’m sure, I have over the years fantasized many times about being able to go back in time. I realize now that this hobby has enabled me to get just a glimmer of that feeling inside, as I hold such old papers, reading the words and seeing the engravings and old photos. Touching the history in such a physical, tangible way evokes a feeling as close to time travel as we can probably ever come…and is a unique experience utterly lacking in the high school history textbooks I originally studied, or merely looking at images on a computer monitor these days. -Actapublicurist
Yet another, upon discovering the Bobby Kennedy Assassination Report issue shown in the image wrote (in part):
I will never sell this newspaper… I will be 60 in November and lived in Brooklyn when Senator Kennedy was killed. I still shed tears when I think about it all these years later. He left nine children (and a tenth on the way) and a wonderful wife, and we will never know what a difference this magnificent man with a huge heart would have made in the White House. I grieve for him as if he was close friend. I will treasure this newspaper and others in my ample collection of the RFK assassination.
What an incredible hobby!
Many collectors are quite familiar with Harry Rinker’s nationally syndicated radio talk show, “Watcha Got?”. Harry recently interviewed Tim regarding the Rare Newspapers collectible. Please enjoy the interview at (click on the audio mp3 button): Watcha Got?
Note: The interview lasts about 15 minutes and begins at the 28:50 time marker (just slide the bar to this point). Better yet, enjoy Harry’s entire broadcast. 🙂
A recent piece on the web concerning the gift of a “stack of old newspapers” (see the hyperlink) to a grandson is a common story in our collecting world. A woman from Racine, Wisconsin, gave her grandson a box of historic newspapers, mostly World War II headline reports but including other events of the post-war era, collected by her husband. The photos show some nice banner headlines, several of the issues being the “Chicago Tribune” but including other titles from the Midwest.
Such finds, or gifts, are typically the catalyst for a new-found hobby. And newspapers from the last 60 or 70 years can be found for even the most modest of collecting budgets. Our website features major events of World War II, the Holocaust, the space race, baseball, Korean War, Vietnam War, Watergate–you name the event and it’s likely among the 2600+ issues from this era found on our website. Many prices range from $20 to $40 while some more significant events or dramatic headlines achieve higher values, and would be among the best newspapers for any collection.
For the beginning collector, the 20th century is an excellent entree to the much bigger world of our hobby which can includes newspapers back to the 16th century. Large headlines or events remembered by elder relatives bring to life the events which were formative to the American experience of the last 70 years. See: Stack of Old Newspapers
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.
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.
In the past the History’s Newsstand Blog has featured posts on the upper end of the collectible: “Prices Realized” and “Most Collectible Issues“. We are now taking a look at the other end of the spectrum – (low cost) entry points into the hobby. A few weeks ago we explored low cost issues from the 20th century. This post moves back in time to the 19th century.
The following selection provides a glimpse of the wide variety of 19th century issues available valued at $15* and under. Areas of interest include the War of 1812, religious-themed, youth-themed, snap-shots of 19th century city life, and more. Many more exist on the Rare Newspapers’ website, but others can be found throughout the collectible community as well. The item numbers for each are linked to corresponding images.
209016 An original issue from the 1800’s to help jump start your collection. This issue is guaranteed to be original, complete, and to be dated in the 1800’s. We do not offer reproductions of any kind! There is a limit of 10 issues per customer at this price. See the images for examples of the condition and look of the issue you will receive. The image shows several issues to give you a sense of the various titles/conditions you may receive, but please know this listing is for a single issue – at a great price. $3.00*
The War of 1812…
207496 COLUMBIAN CENTINEL, Boston, dated during the War of 1812. The issue you will receive is similar to the issues shown in the image – slight wear, minor staining and foxing, etc.. The issue will be dated from during the War of 1812, and will have war related news and news of the day. A great issue to own at an incredible price. $7.00*
153338 GALIGNANI’S MESSENGER, Paris, 1837. An interesting newspaper from France but printed in English, and featuring a black-inked tax stamp on an inside page. Various news of advertisements. Four pages, nice condition. Note: The policy/purpose of this title was to promote good feeling between England and France, and was highly regarded. $13.00*
19th century publication for youth…
152963 THE YOUTH’S LEDGER, New York, NY, 1887. “An interesting monthly for the Young” as is printed in the masthead. See the photo for an example of the “look” of this title from our archives. This is a nice issue to have from this location and period in history. Six pages approximately 16″x11″. $11.00*
Pittsburgh, PA… just before steel production…
153013 THE PITTSBURGH LEADER, Pittsburgh, PA, 1873. State, local and national news from this era. Interesting to have news of the day from just before steel production hit in full force. See the photo for an example of this title from our archives. Note that the photo is “generic” and the issue you get will not have these specific photos or be of this specific date but will have the format as shown. 21″x17″. Four pages and in nice condition. $15.00*
Exploring the influence of war on domestic Life…
153036 ADVOCATE OF PEACE, (Hartford, Connecticut), 1834. An interesting magazine which has war as its theme, and the value of peace as opposed to war. Note that the photo is “generic” and the issue you get will not have this specific date but will have the format as shown. Forty-six pages, measuring 9″x6″, disbound without outer wrappers. $11.00*
Additional issues priced at $15* and under may be viewed at: Entry Level Newspapers
* All prices shown were valid as of the release date of this post.
In the past the History’s Newsstand Blog has featured posts on the upper end of the collectible: “Prices Realized” and “Most Collectible Issues“. To kick off the new year we thought it might be nice to look at the other end of the spectrum: “Entry Points to the Rare Newspapers Collectible”. Throughout this month we will target examples of the least expensive collectible newspapers available for each century.
The following selection provides a glimpse of the wide variety of issues available valued at $15* and under. Areas of interest include shipping, finance, theater, historic events, and more. Many more exist on the Rare Newspapers website, but others can be found throughout the collectible community as well. The item numbers for each are linked to corresponding images.
A World War II newspaper from the Navy Yard…
575571 BEACON, Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1944 A military paper produced at the Navy Yard with a great wealth of war-related content and a war-related masthead as well.
Eight pages, 10 1/2 by 16 pages, printed on high quality paper, nice condition. $9.00*
From the Panama Canal Zone…
579280 THE PANAMA CANAL RECORD, Balboa Heights, Canal Zone, 1928. A little magazine subtitled: “Official Publication of the Panama Canal” with a wealth of data concerning the canal and its use. Approximately twenty-six pages measuring 9″x6″. $12.00*
World War 1…
161488 OFFICIAL BULLETIN, Washington, DC, 1918. An unusual newspaper published daily by the “Committee on Public Information”, meant to keep the public informed of both political & military matters, particularly during the WWI period. Note that the photo is “generic” and the issue you get will be of a slightly different date but will have the format as shown. Sixteen pages measuring 12″x9″. Lightly browned with some minor edge tears. $10.00*
For the little child in all of us…
161498 THE YOUTH’S COMPANION, Boston, Massachusetts, 1900. A charming newspaper with several short stories for children, featuring several wonderful illustrations, an ornate masthead, and plenty of advertisements. $10.00*
In-house real estate periodical…
161495 STROUT’S BUGGY-SEAT CONFIDENCES, Boston, Massachusetts, 1911. A curious little publication by and for those working for the Strout real estate company, the “World’s Largest Farm Agency”. Printed on coated stock. $10.00*
Movie News! Burt Lancaster & Ava Gardner…
564394 MOTION PICTURE DAILY, from New York, dated September 28, 1956. Interesting little publication for and about the movie industry, giving the latest information on the various background events of the motion picture world. Television news as well. Too much to mention. 6 pages measuring 12″x9″, printed on coated stock paper. Nice shape. $10.00*
Additional issues priced at $15* and under may be viewed at: Entry Level Newspapers
* All prices shown were valid as of the release date of this post.
I have been collecting newspapers longer than most fellow enthusiasts, beginning when I was at school in England in 1943. My father went into a small second-hand shop and noticed that the owner, who sold candlesticks, old dinner plates and suchlike, was wrapping up the items in copies of the London evening “Star” for 1818, that he was tearing out of a bound volume. There were about 150 papers left and my father, who was well aware of my budding historical interest, bought the whole volume for threepence (10c).
From there I continued myself, often picking up items from shopkeepers who had no idea what they were. Nearly 70 years later, with several thousand items in store, (particularly London national papers, but also items from many other countries) some of my prize items, going back to the earlier sixteenth century, are still those that I found in the English back streets during my time as a schoolboy and later as a university student!
A four page promotional piece announcing the completion of a 30 year project titled: “History and Bibliography of American Newspapers 1690 – 1820”, now commonly referred to simply as “Brigham”, its creator, includes some statistical information which might be of interest.
Brigham notes that from 1690 to 1820, there were 2120 different newspapers published. Of this totals the six New England states had 447; the six middle Atlantic states from New York to Maryland had 1023; the ten Southern states from Virginia to Louisiana had 425; and the seven Western states had 225. The city which from the beginning to 1820 had the most newspaper was New York with 138, followed by Philadelphia with 107, and Boston with 73.
Also, the six largest collections of newspapers before 1820 are:
1)American Antiquarian Society with 1492 titles
2) Library of Congress with 936 titles
3) Harvard with 732 titles
4) New York Historical Society with 634 titles
5) New York Public Library with 480 titles
6) Wisconsin Historical Society with 415 titles
By far the most common of early titles were “Gazette” and then “Advertiser“. Between 1704 and 1820 “Gazette” was used either by itself or as part of a newspaper title 488 times. This was closely followed by “Advertiser” with 440 times, showing the deference which publishers paid to their advertisers who made up the greater part of a newspaper’s profit.
These two titles were followed by “Herald” with 115 times, “Journal” 114, “Intelligencer” 104, “Register” 86, “Republican” 77, “Chronicle” 75, “Patriot” 57, “Centinel” or “Sentinel” 56, and “Courier” 45.
Titles frequently used, but in lesser number, were “Eagle“, “Mercury“, “Messenger“, “Monitor“, “Museum“, “Observer“, “Post“, “Recorder“, “Repository“, “Star” and “Times“.
It is curious that “Times” was rarely used before 1820, and there is no mention whatever of “Tribune” or “Transcript“, all somewhat common within newspaper titles today.
(The above is excerpted from the book “Journals and Journeymen” by Clarence Brigham)