Invariably there is the quizzical stare I get from anyone who asks “what do you do?” and I answer by saying, “I sell old newspapers.” The typical response is, “…what??” Any follow-up to the inquiry usually leads to, “How did you get started?”
We all have our own stories of what lead us to early newspapers, and mine may not but much different from yours.
I have always collecting something. I guess I was always intrigued by what was old, and coin collecting captured my interest when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, a hobby which still gets my attention but on a dramatically smaller scale. Collecting coins lead to old books, which lead to old bottles, which lead to old radios; and perhaps a few other items which struck my interest through the years.
I eventually found coin collecting a bit frustrating, as the rarities I needed to fill some holes in my collection were way beyond my budget. Coin collecting has always been a well exploited hobby so rare items were almost impossible to find at reasonable prices as the “heavy hitters” kept the prices quite high. I always dreamed of finding a collectible which few people knew about, where truly rare & historic items could be found at reasonable prices.
One day while browsing a local flea market I cam across an 1846 Philadelphia newspaper for $3. I was intrigued. I knew an 1846 coin in nice condition would be ten times that amount. I bought it, took it home and read all four pages and was fascinated by the content. I had found my new collectible and was hoping my dream had come true.
I expended much effort over the next several years looking for more newspapers and found several sources for 18th & 19th century issues at what I thought were amazingly low prices given my coin collecting experience.
Then one day I asked a source from whom I had been buying issues for $3 each if I could get a better price if I bought more than one. His response was fateful and set the course for the rest of my life: he said, “If you take 100 issues you can have them for $1 each”.
Although $100 was likely half of my net worth at the time, I sent the check, received my 100 issues, and starting advertising the issues for sale at $3 each (plus 25 cents for postage; which actually covered the cost).
As I sold the issues I bought more, and found more sources for different titles and different time periods. I eventually found several auction halls which regularly listed newspapers, and established contacts in England for early British material. In time I would travel not only throughout the Middle Atlantic & New England states but went to London each year to to search the back roads for antique & book shops which had material I could use.
Those were very exciting days, as material was plentiful and I bought voraciously. Buying today is more of a challenge so I take great comfort in knowing my appetite some 30 years ago was justified as much of our inventory of over 2 million newspapers was purchased long ago.
Good material still comes our way. Having our name in the marketplace for over 30 years and maintaining considerable Internet presence has allowed much great material to end up at our doorstep, a trend which–hopefully–will continue as we allow my dream to be realized by our customers: rare, historic material at reasonable prices.
In the coming months we will be posting the stories of other collectors as well. Details are forthcoming.