Uncut newspapers: leave as they are?

March 20, 2010 by  
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Fellow collector Morris Brill poses an interesting question worth sharing with others, along with my thoughts on the issue.

I suspect we have all encountered “uncut” newspapers from the 19th century, issues which are eight pages in length but which are essentially one large sheet of paper printed on both sides, then folded twice to produce the eight pages. This is how they came off the printing presses . Morris inquires:

“For the sake of maintaining the monetary value of such a newspaper is it best to leave the paper in this one piece condition or is it best to cut the paper so it folds normally like a book and the pages can be turned individually?”

Uncut issues are, for the most part, those which have survived the years by not being bound, kept loose by previous owners and eventually finding their way into the hands of collectors. Given that the vast majority of early newspapers in the collector market came from bound volumes once stored by libraries or other institutions then “disbound” into individual issues, uncut newspapers are relatively few in number. Once bound all margins, save for the spine, are guillotined at the bindery to produce an even, book-like edge thus losing the attachment at the top.

Since uncut issues are newspapers in the original state, as they were sold on the streets, my preference would be to keep them as such. Most collectibles tend to be more desirable in their original state: never clean an old coin; never paint an antique wagon; don’t removed the aged patina from an antique desk, etc. Are such newspapers more clumsy to read? Yes, to some degree. But they can be folded back and all 8 pages read with little difficulty. It’s obviously how it was done years ago as I’ve purchased several boxes of uncut 19th century newspapers which were folded many different ways, left as such by the reader.

They only time I might suggest cutting the top of an uncut sheet is the rare occasion when an issue was bound, causing all four leaves to be attached at the spine, yet the tops have not been trimmed. In such situations the newspaper cannot be folded back because of the attachment at the spine. I would take an exacto knife and cut the very top along the fold. Not much else can be done if the interior pages are to be read.

Collectors may have noticed that we charge a small premium for uncut newspapers. A downside to an uncut issue is they tend to be more worn than those bound as they have not been protected through the years by the bindings, but if one can obtain an issue which is both uncut and in great condition–and contains the Gettysburg Address–there’s a great item for any collection!

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One Response to “Uncut newspapers: leave as they are?”

  1. Paul Sarna on March 20th, 2010 10:25 pm

    Yes, It is a bad idea to cut them. Though if you sell one to someone face-to-face it can make for a sloppy explanation complete with hand gestures, on how to properly open them.
    A collectible downside is that a certain percentage will have some damage to the top upper-right of the newspaper from people…maybe many years later, being impatient or unknowing or uncaring in trying to open the newspaper, tearing it.

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