In conversations with people about how I started this business, a common question is, “How did you know how to prices newspapers back then?” Well, the short answer is I didn’t.
This venture started as a hobby with no thought of it turning into a business. But when I started getting too many of a similar title or date, selling off the “unwanteds” became a more common occurrence. My simple thought was, if I had $3 for it, try to sell it for $5. If I did, the price stuck for future issues; if it didn’t, the price dropped to $4.
But this became trickier years later when I was buying for resale but didn’t have enough experience to know what to pay, nor what to price them at. Nor did anyone for that matter, as there were no price guides, nor sufficient auction records to offer a clue.
I was flying by the seat of my pants. If I thought an event was historic, say a major Civil War battle, I would pay the $5 price and increase it by 50% or so. If it sold, then the next time I inched it up a bit more. If it didn’t, I reduced the price a bit. Never knowing how high customers might go for an event, I might have “inched up” the price of an event 15 times over the coarse of 4 or 5 years until there was some resistance. I was careful to keep records of sales through the years–even in the pre-computer days–which was a tremendous assistance in assigning values to the myriad of historical events covering 300 years of history.
Did I sell some great material too cheaply in the early years? I sure did. Looking at some of my earlier catalogs I gladly pay five times the selling price of many items I sold. But it was part of the process. I remember nce having a volume of a Las Vegas, New Mexico newspaper from 1881. There must have been 30 or 40 issues with a small “Reward” ad for the capture of Billy the Kid. I think I sold those issues for less than $20 each. If I had 40 of them how rare could they be? Certainly I’ve learned through the years, and became smarter as well.
But we are still challenged today with some items. As we continue to find truly rare, almost unique issues it becomes difficult to assign values with no history or prior sales. But these are the fun challenges. As much as you may enjoy finding interesting items in our catalogs, I enjoy finding the unusual to offer.
Although this is a business, I have always gotten more joy from buying newspapers than selling them.