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Collecting Historic and Rare Newspapers Basics – Part One

The following guide is posted on History’s Newsstand’s eBay Store [1].  It is the first part of a primer on collecting Rare & Early Newspapers [2]:

[3]The purpose of this guide concerning historic, original, collectible and/or rare newspapers is to answer the three most common questions related to the hobby:  How you can determine if an issue is authentic,  the meaning of commonly used terms related to the hobby, and why the original issues do not just fall apart.

How Can You Determine If An Issue Is Authentic?

It was not unusual for newspapers to celebrate the anniversary of an historic event or their inaugural issue by reprinting that issue for their subscribers or the general public. Never meant to deceive, through the years such issues were tucked away in attics and dresser drawers as interesting souvenirs only to be uncovered by distant relatives convinced they found the genuine item.

Although only an expert examination can definitively qualify a newspaper as genuine or a reprint and such experts with sufficient knowledge & experience are few & far between, there are a few clues which can guide a novice in making a determination:

* Does the newsprint match that used at that time? Genuine pre-1880 newsprint usually has a high rag content and is very pliable, sturdy & reasonably white. Most reprints in the post-1880 era are more browned, fragile and lacking in physical substance.

* Does the issue contain an historic or significant report? Many reprints contain very historic reports rather than mundane news of the day, and such genuine issues are rarely found randomly outside of a larger collection.

* Is the issue a volume one, number one issue? They were commonly reprinted on anniversary dates.

* Does the format, content or any extraneous printing on the issue appear out of the ordinary? Many reprints were used for promotional purposes and altered to serve another purpose beyond just reprinting a genuine newspaper.

Reprint, fake, or facsimile newspapers are a rarity in this hobby with the vast majority of such issues limited to less than 20 titles. The Library of Congress maintains a check-list of points to look for on most of these issues and can be accessed through their website.

What Are The Most Frequently Used Terms & What Do They Mean?

* Octavo (8vo): Approximately 8 1/2 by 5 inches. Popular size for 18th Century magazines.

* Quarto (4to): Approximately 12 by 9 inches. Common size for many early newspapers.

* Folio: Full size. Eighteenth century issues are approximately 17 by 11 inches, while 19th century issues come closer to present day newspapers.

* Foxing: Dark spots due to age, chemical content of the paper, or storage environment.

* dblpgctrfld:  Doublepage centerfold. A print, typical in Harper’s Weekly, which stretches across two pages.

Why Do The Issues Simply Not Fall Apart?

To the surprise of many, newspapers published before 1880 remain in very nice condition as the paper had high cotton and linen content. Most issues from the 1600’s and 1700’s are in much better condition than issues from World War I, hence little care is needed for issues over 120 years old.

(Note)  Invitation: In order to provide an ongoing resource for newcomers to the hobby, feel free to add additional insight which you feel might be beneficial to those entering the hobby on the ground floor.  Our hope will be to include many of these comments within a future post.  Thanks in advance for your contributions.

14 Comments (Open | Close)

14 Comments To "Collecting Historic and Rare Newspapers Basics – Part One"

#1 Comment By Maria Rosario Ortiz On 07/24/2013 @ 8:37 am

I have a bound Harper’s Weekly dated 1874. I need to sell it along with a couple of hundred picture antique postcards. Would you be interested? I have no idea of where to go. I saw you on the internet and thought you might be interested. If so, please contact me to my email address.
Thanks for your consideration
Maria Rosario

#2 Comment By GuyHeilenman On 07/24/2013 @ 8:43 am

We would not be interested in the postcards, but feel free to contact Tim Hughes at [4] with additional details.

#3 Comment By Nicola Vowles On 06/20/2016 @ 4:34 am

(In the UK) I have discovered in a box a well preserved Daily Mirror newspaper No. 9,808 Dated Tuesday, May 7, 1935. One Penny
On the front cover is a photograph of the king kneeling with the queen at St. Paul’s Cathedral …at the Silver Jubilee Thanksgiving Service.
Many Royals pictures inside.
Are you interested in purchasing it?
If not I will send it to the Queen instead.

#4 Comment By GuyHeilenman On 07/05/2016 @ 1:02 pm

We do not have interest – but thank you for the offer.

#5 Comment By Carole Poll On 07/06/2016 @ 4:33 am

I have issue no 1 of The Planet on Sunday ….. June 16th 1996. The only issue ever printed is this of value. Excellent condition.

#6 Comment By GuyHeilenman On 07/06/2016 @ 11:29 am

Hello Carole – Please go to [5]

#7 Comment By Katrina Rahier On 12/31/2016 @ 9:49 am

I have the complete series of 24 weekly piano lessons printed in the Seattle Post Intelligencer in1941. The PI was owned at this time by William Randolph Hearst It is only the piano lessons which were cut out from the original weekly editions, not the complete editions of the paper. I have not located any similar items anywhere, could you please direct me to someone who could assist with appraisal?

#8 Comment By GuyHeilenman On 01/06/2017 @ 1:16 pm

Hello Katrina: If they are not within complete newspapers, we have no idea. If they are, send details and a few photos to Tim Hughes at [4]. Thanks. Guy

#9 Comment By SharonWilliams On 01/16/2017 @ 7:42 pm

I have a small stack of more recent historic newspapers (2000 and later) and didn’t know if they were worth keeping. Thank you for your helpful explanation about what gives historic newspapers value. I can now recycle those papers in good conscience and create space for more valuable items.

#10 Comment By GuyHeilenman On 01/26/2017 @ 7:16 am

Hello Sharon: Unfortunately it will be decades before we know. Current newspapers (1-25 years old rarely have value). However, this is not to say they won’t have some value over time. I’d hang on to them.

#11 Comment By Michael Grandusky On 03/07/2017 @ 9:35 am

We have a last print of the Courier Express in Buffalo NY on Sept. 19, 1982, Final Edition GOODBYE. I there any value in this paper? if so, who would want it? It is yellowed and a bit tattered on the edges, but never been opened! getting ready to move and found it. Was going to use it to wrap stuff in, but figured we should check this out first. Thanks. Mike

#12 Comment By GuyHeilenman On 03/13/2017 @ 1:23 pm

Hello Michael: Sorry to be a pain, but we do not monitor requests concerning the value of newspapers through this venue – but we would be glad to assist. If you have a newspaper or a collection for which you are seeking an appraisal, please contact us directly at [6]. Please include as many details as possible – exact date, photos, etc.. Thanks.

#13 Comment By carolyn toland On 05/19/2021 @ 6:20 pm


#14 Comment By GuyHeilenman On 05/20/2021 @ 10:17 am

Please send details (newspaper titles, exact dates, and a few photos) to me at [7]