How to Appraise Antique Magazines

Like other antiques and collectibles, vintage magazines are not necessarily valuable because they are old. Collectors should consider a magazine's rarity and its physical condition.

How to Appraise Antique Magazines
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Overview
Appraising antique magazines, like pricing any sort of antique, depends a lot on what the going rate is --- in other words, what someone is willing to pay for it. In this article you'll learn where to look to find what similar items are selling for, the importance of condition, and other attributes that make a magazine valuable and collectible.
Educate Yourself

Step 1
Before you start trying to appraise your antique magazines, here are a few rules of thumb. For starters, magazines that chronicle and depict everyday life, such as old Life or Look magazines, are more valuable than specialty magazines, such as National Geographic. Secondly, just because a magazine is old doesn't mean it's valuable. Some older magazines were printed with huge press runs; others just aren't that interesting. Some newer magazines, on the other hand, are highly prized, including the first issues of Martha Stewart Living, which had very limited press runs. And recognize that what's inside the magazine --- or on the cover --- can make the price swing wildly. For example, issues of Life magazine from 1952 with scenery on the cover typically sell for as little as $3. But the issue in which Ernest Hemingway is on the cover has sold for upwards of $100 on eBay. That's because the issue also contains the first publication of his landmark novel "The Old Man and the Sea."
Step 2
Your next step should be to scan auction sites, chiefly eBay, for the latest antique magazine prices. While price swings are understandable --- a magazine that sells for $20 one week might only fetch $5 the next --- you'll start noticing a trend that the better the condition, the higher the price. Magazines in pristine condition will sell for twice as much as, if not more than a magazine with a one-inch tear on the top cover and a subscription label over the cover portrait.
Step 3
For additional information, pick up a copy of Richard Russell and Elaine Gross Russell's excellent book, "Antique Trader Vintage Magazines Price Guide," published by Krause Publications in 2005. The book lists more than 250 magazine titles and contains 1,000 full-color photographs. Listings range from the 1830s to the post-World War II years. The book also is a great education: you'll learn that some of our greatest writers, including Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle and William Faulkner were first published in magazines, and some continued to write short stories and articles for magazines even as their now-landmark books were being published. The book spotlights such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post and The Strand magazine, both of which are prized by contemporary collectors of literature.
Step 4
Now is the time to pay a visit to some local antique malls. Many malls have big sections of old magazines, and you can certainly see a trend. Life and Look magazines are commonplace and typically sell for anywhere from $3 to more than $50, depending on the subject matter and who, or what, is on the cover. National Geographics can be had for pennies, but the good news is you'll likely be able to find issues from as far back as the early 1900s --- great for browsing through ads.
skill
4
ingredient
Internet access

Antique Trader Vintage Magazines Price Guide, by Richard Russell and Elaine Gross Russell, Krause Publications, 2005

Access to antique malls

ingredients
Internet access
ingredients
Antique Trader Vintage Magazines Price Guide, by Richard Russell and Elaine Gross Russell, Krause Publications, 2005
ingredients
Access to antique malls
tip
To really ascertain a fair market value for your old magazines, put a few up on eBay and see what you get. Be sure to describe them accurately, and feel free to throw a little marketing in there. Instead of "1952 Life Magazine, Ernest Hemingway on the cover," write, "Rare 1952 Life Magazine with Ernest Hemingway on the cover marks the FIRST PUBLICATION of The Old Man and the Sea."

Store your old magazines in plastic slips (see resources, below), and keep away from moisture, which attracts the destructive silverfish.

tips
To really ascertain a fair market value for your old magazines, put a few up on eBay and see what you get. Be sure to describe them accurately, and feel free to throw a little marketing in there. Instead of "1952 Life Magazine, Ernest Hemingway on the cover," write, "Rare 1952 Life Magazine with Ernest Hemingway on the cover marks the FIRST PUBLICATION of The Old Man and the Sea."
tips
Store your old magazines in plastic slips (see resources, below), and keep away from moisture, which attracts the destructive silverfish.
keyword
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Resources
reference
Magazines.Things-and-Other-Stuff.com
reference
Magazine History: A Collector's Blog
resource
Bags Unlimited