how to start collecting antique newspapers

article by ron bowen

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Wednesday, Aug 04

The vast majority of us are collectors of something. Whether we realize it or not, we tend to keep things from the past (or our past) as keepsakes. One such collector’s item are old newspapers.

Why collect old newspapers? Well, collecting newspapers can be a way to mark famous historical events. Some may even collect newspapers from the city that they live in to vicariously relive the history from that city.

Whatever the reason may be, there are a few helpful tips for effectively collecting antique newspapers. Before long, you will have an impressive collection that you can flip through, living the days listed in print as if they were yesterday.

How Do You Know If an Issue Is Authentic?

One of the most important aspects to collecting antique newspapers is to determine whether or not that issue is authentic. It is also not uncommon for newspapers to celebrate the anniversary of a particular event or even an inaugural issue through a reprint.

There is nothing deceptive about it, but it can create some confusion and misdirection for those who enjoy collecting newspapers. Sometimes it can take a little extra examination to determine the reprint from the original.A Woman of Newspapers_Image by Thomas Wolter

Does the newsprint match?

There are specific newsprint types used for specific periods of time. Anything from pre-1880, for instance, usually was reasonably white, sturdy, and pliable. Anything after that tends to be fragile, brown, and lacking physically.

Does the issue have a significant or historic report?

A lot of reprints contain the historic reports rather than the run of the mill news from the day. Genuine issues may be more difficult to find outside of larger collections.

How Are the Issues in Such Good Condition?

Another question that may come to new collectors is how some newspaper issues remain in such good shape. There are many pre-1880 publications that are seemingly in nice condition. That’s because the paper had high linen and cotton content.

It is not uncommon for issues from the 1600’s to 1700’s to be in better condition than those issued during, say, World War I. Condition depends largely on the materials made in the printing process. Sturdier materials were used back then, so they tend to hold up over time versus issues from the 1900s.

What Makes One Issue More Valuable Than the Next?

For the most part, collectors value old issues of newspapers and periodical publications based on a few things. They look for the condition of the issue, the displayability of that item, the demand or desirability of that item, and the historic importance of the issue.

The more collectable papers are the ones reporting a major event. Presidential assassinations may be a rare issue, for instance. That issue has to be from the day it happened or from the first newspaper that reported on the incident.

The greatest appeal in the newspaper collection hobby is the impact of these rare reporting instances. Moreover, longer accounts of these historically significant moments are more valuable than shorter clips from other publications.

Rarity is one of the most important factors in determining value as well. The more difficult a publication is to find, let alone in quality condition, the more it will command.

Location plays a role as well. Given the ages involved, all newspapers are technically rare but one from a smaller town may be less valuable than one from a larger city. It also doesn’t hurt if the issue has an association with someone famous. A good example of this would be an issue of STAR from the 1880s in Marion, Ohio. The reason being that the editor, Warren G. Harding, would go on to become the President of the United States.

What Are First Issues?

There is some debate as to what encompasses a first issue. For the most part, any newspaper that is in the nonspecialized marketplace that is numbered “Volume I Number 1” should be considered to be a later reproduction unless the authenticity can be verified.

It may come as a surprise but the vast majority of newspapers in the country have printed a facsimile anniversary edition of that first issue. In the case of some of the oldest newspapers out there, they have reproductions that were made as many as a hundred years ago. So, they are technically “old” but aren’t quite the first issues of a paper.Old Western Town_Image by Brigitte make custom works from your photos, thanks a lot

The only way to verify a true first issue is to have it examined and determined to be completely authentic. This can take time and resources but can also drastically improve the value of that item.

Fakes Aren’t All That Common

One question that a lot of newcomers to newspaper collecting have is concerning “fake” prints. While that is certainly a valid concern, it is one that is quite unfounded. As a matter of fact, there are very few productions of pre-1900 newspapers out there.

Best of all, the true fakes are generally pretty distinguishable from the genuine thing. Furthermore, these non-genuine articles were actually produced for advertising or educational purposes, not to pull the wool over the eyes of collectors.

With a cursory Internet search, even the newest collectors could find resources indicating which “fakes” are out there and how to tell them apart from the genuine article.

How Can a Newspaper Be So Old Yet So Inexpensive?

Remember, age is not necessarily an indication of value in a collectible. The cost of an antique newspaper is generally dictated by supply and demand. Demand tends to drive the price point on specific pieces.

Some issues may have just a handful of diligent collectors looking for it, leaving it a relatively inexpensive endeavor. But if a thousand different collectors want a specific item, then it will drive the price up substantially.

Rare items with famous historical headlines – think “Dewey defeats Truman” – tend to be the most valuable. That issue of the Chicago Tribute can fetch well over $500 because of the demand versus the production.

 

 

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