For decades, basically everybody who could read read the newspaper. It was the best way to stay up to date and informed-in-detail about events of the day – politics, sports, movie reviews, etc. Most of these ended up in the trash (or later recycling), but some folks curated a collection. Usually, these were for major world news events or local sports victories. When an intrepid spelunker uncovers these collections, they have one question: are old newspapers worth anything?
Why People Collected Newspapers
Daily newspapers were, by design, ephemeral. By the time Wednesday rolled around, the information in Monday’s paper was no longer the most up-to-date. Many readers subscribed, bringing the day’s paper to their front porch before the sun was up. The front page carried the most salient information, with the biggest events taking up a full half of the page. Their straight-to-the-door nature made them very easy to hold on to when something major happened.
When war broke out, when a president or otherwise beloved celebrity died, when the local team won the championship, it was trivial to toss that day’s paper, or at least its front page, out of the trash can. The idea was that those papers were a physical memory of a major event, a way for a person to hold onto a piece of something that affected them emotionally if not physically. Those who planned ahead framed those front page headlines, many others stored them in boxes alongside other mementos. The internet age has made this practice, like newspaper subscriptions in general, largely obsolete.
Can Old Newspapers Be Worth Money?
Maybe, but it’s rare enough as to effectively be a “no”. Your best chance at getting serious money for them is if you have ones that are in the “century or more old” category. That means headlines about the Titanic, World War I, etc. Fewer people held onto papers in those days, and many who did so out of habit would have given them over to paper recycling drives during World War II. They’re rare in general, even rarer in good condition, and can be worth some notable sums.
More recent events, however, are considerably less likely to interest buyers. Millions of people held on to their newspapers about the Kennedy Assassination, Moon Landing, Nixon Resignation, Red Sox World Series Win, Princess Diana, etc. Today, there really aren’t that many people kicking themselves for not saving a copy. The supply is plentiful, the demand is low, so they often aren’t worth very much.
Are Old Magazines Worth Money?
Most well-known magazines, like Car & Driver or Playboy or Good Housekeeping, encounter the same value problems as newspapers. There can be more value in niche, special interest magazine back issues, but even then twenty years old or more is still where value picks up. Early issues, prior to mainstream popularity, of well-known magazines can grow in value pretty well. Full year groups do a bit better than individual issues, at least in general.
But periodicals are like any other collectible in that there are exceptions to every rule an expert can explain. There are also unexpected trends can affect value over a short time, like a long defunct pop politics mag catching on with modern conspiracy theorists. Those aren’t usually long term gains in value, so striking while the iron is hot is the best option.
That’s why its always best to have an inherited collection evaluated by an expert before deciding how to dispose of it. Items bought for next to nothing decades ago can now be hidden gems. Likewise, stuff bought for top dollar only months ago may have since cratered in value. Let Back to the Past help you by applying our thirty years of experience navigating the highs and lows of the collectibles market to your collection! And if you have a question or comment about this (or any other) article, you can hit us up below or on social media @b2pcollect!