Obama election victory : a follow-up…

November 10, 2008 by  
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I commented previously on the most desirable issue or issues to have on the November presidential election. My thought being a newspaper from the victor’s hometown and/or a newspaper from Washington, D.C. being among the best. Plus, how desirable are presidential election newspapers in the scope of the historical newspaper hobby?

To most collectors, election reports are desired. But this election was different. More than just another presidential election, history was made. The first African-American will be heading to the White House in January and it’s interesting to speculate on how this makes a 2008 election newspaper more desirable than any previous election report.

It has been interesting following the eBay sales over the past six days. Not surprisingly thousands of newspapers have been listed and many have been sold, including at least one lot of over 600 issues of the Chicago Tribune (sold for $1799). The highest sold prices I’ve noticed have been the New York Times, and being one of the more famous & prestigious newspapers in the world I’m not surprised it would command some attention among bidders. I saw bona fide sale prices for individual issues of $400, $300, $265, $255 and another dozen sales above the $100 mark.  Curiously, the highest Chicago newspaper sale price I noted (Tribune) was for $115. Most of these prices were achieved the day after the election as savvy sellers took advantage of the expected post-election euphoria to achieve what seem to have been the highest prices of the week.

Although I have no statistics upon which to base this thought, I don’t believe past election newspaper sales resulting in so many $100+ final sales. I suspect the added historical appeal this election provided had much to do with both the demand and the prices achieved. We are selling election issues from 2004 for $28 (interesting pair from Florida: see listing) and $50 for the Washington Post.

But how will prices be affected going forward? As is the case with all collectibles, buyer demand will set the mark. The degree to which collectors recognize or appreciate this election as being different from most, and the shear quantity of issues hoarded last week–and which come on to the market over the next ten years–will determine whether prices will languish in the $10 to $25 range or whether $75 might be a typical sale price. Time will tell.

What’s your thought?

The vast majority of Chicago issues and the New York Times sold the past 4 or 5 days seem to be in the $10 to $25 per issue range although there are exceptions at both ends of this range. Looking forward ten years… will they be considered bargain purchases? Again, time will tell. It’s part of the fun of collecting! 

All this being said, please note:  When the potential investment value of a newspaper becomes the primary motivation for purchasing historic newspapers rather than the intangible value of holding history in your hands, the joy of the hobby may well be sacrificed. Keeping true to the hobby, we urge “collecting” and not “investing”.

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One Response to “Obama election victory : a follow-up…”

  1. TimHughes on November 17th, 2008 10:35 am

    A person asked some questions concerning newspaper collecting as it relates to both the Obama election specifically, and interest in newspaper collecting generally, so I thought I would share his questions and my responses:

    (1) Do you think people will start collecting Obama papers beyond the election?
    I don’t anticipate collecting other Obama-related newspapers save for the inauguration issue of January. Typically election and inauguration issues are “THE political pair” for collectors interested in American politics. What I do predict is an increased interest in newspapers celebration African-American achievements in American history, from the 13th Amendment (right to vote), reports on significant African-American American leaders in politics, science & eductation, and an entire host of other “firsts” in the Civil Rights struggle of African-Americans.

    (2) Has anyone approached you with papers for sale? As of yet, no. But if the past is any indication I suspect that once the initial push to move large numbers of Obama election issues works its way through eBay and interest dies off, people will be in touch with us about their remainders and want to unload them rather than store them for some future year.

    (3) Are you getting a collection together for future sales? Since we expect to be in the rare newspaper business for many, many years to come, we always plan our inventory with distant future needs in mind, so yes, we hope to have “Obama Elected” newspapers for sale 50 or 100 years from now. Part of the success of our business is that we never looked for the quick turnaround of our inventory. We buy in large quantities with plans of selling issues slowly in the succeeding years. We had purchased a collection of 500 issues of the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination newspaper from Dallas, the most desired JFK newspaper to be had, and we still have about half that inventory remaining. Our inventory of over 2 million newspapers is proof we expect to be involved in this hobby many years from now!

    (4) Do you anticipate this event raising interest in historic newspapers as a hobby (not investment)? I think any major event which causes people to keep a newspaper they pick up at the local newstand does cause some to think about collecting other issues as well. I think the tragedy of September 11 created some newspaper collectors, and every four years more discover our fascinating hobby with the presidential election and inauguration. Our hobby has grown slowly over the years and I expect the trend to continue. I also believe the that future for “hard copy” newspapers is somewhat bleak with so much information coming from the web, and if this causes the demise of print editions of newspapers the hobby will be more intriguing to more people as newstand copies may become nothing more than a pleasant memory of the pre-internet & pre-digital age.

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