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Preserving Your Vintage Magazines (May 26, 2020)

Clients on occasion come upon vintage magazines. They often wonder if they should keep them, sell them or send them to recycling.

I refer clients that have questions about selling or buying magazines to the internet link by Flipsy entitled:

"Your Old Magazine Could Be Worth $50,000 – Or More. Here’s How to Sell It:"

Ironically, magazine ads are often more interesting to the collector than the original articles... Magazine covers with living "stars" often have a higher value than magazine covers of dead legends. Magazines that can be taken to a living person for an autograph have the potential to have some increasing value... Autographed magazine covers are a whole other topic.

Preservation of vintage magazines presents special challenges due to the nature of the economical methods of printing and binding used.

If you have decided to retain and maintain magazines, there are three general tips I suggest:

  • Low Light.

  • Low Humidity.

  • Store / Ship: Keep flat*, pack tight.

LOW LIGHT. First, keep the magazines out of light; avoid natural or manmade light. If the items remain in the light, they will fade (sunning/sunned).

If you are going to display the items, you may want to consider framing or "encasing" in a manner that is not exposed to constant direct light. Stop by your local museums and observe how they do lighting, framing for magazine cover displays.

If you wish to have them in a library type setting you may wish to place them in a large binder with plastic storage sleeves.

LOW HUMIDITY. Second, low humidity. Avoid exposing your vintage collection of papers to continually high humidity. Damp paper collects mold. It will degrade your papers. If your items have a slight smell... you can air them out in a dry room. Before you put the magazines into a plastic comic book sleeve, please ensure your items are dry. Store in a climate controlled, dark area that has a dehumidifier.

Few, if any- will pay big money for putrid smelling decay. The simplest way to prevent this peril is to keep your collection in low humidity.

Store / Ship Flat*, pack tight. Third, store magazines flat without a great deal of weight on top of the magazines. *Some collectors opt to place magazines or comics in plastic sleeves, storing them upright, like record albums. (The thicker the magazine, the more likely the magazine will fall apart, if it is stored in the upright- slanted vertical position.) Some collectors may opt to store the magazines in plastic sleeves that are protected in a leather (or plastic) binder.

The best way to ship a book or magazine is to ensure it is tightly packed in the shipping container. Items that can shift inside the shipping container will get scuffed (rubbed cover) or the covers and pages will rip away from the binding.

The Bottom Line. Magazines generally do not retain or gain monetary market value due to poor manufacturing and rapid decline in condition. Weight causes the binding (often staples) to come apart. (National Geographic is a notable manufacturing exception. They were manufactured to stand in a book case, and have a better type of glued binding....) Even with a bit better method of manufacture, so many were published few have significant value. There are exceptions due to the topic or author, but generally magazines are not a treasure trove of gold. Most magazines fall apart over time and are not worth the warehousing space. Exceptions are the British Strand magazine from the 1890s -1930s which is where short stories such as Sherlock Holmes were first published. Magazines that had short stories, science fiction, or fantasy occasionally have value to collectors. If you have an old magazine that is in great condition, you might indeed have a rare find. Your common sense is often your best guide.

As a bookseller, the Collier's January 19, 1924 has special meaning. It contains the original short story that this book store's founder read in a middle-school textbook as a teenager in 1977, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. If that original Collier's walked into the store, what would Captain's Book Shoppe pay?


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