by Kevin O'Byrne - Editor, Magazine Collector - March 2011
It has been interesting to witness an increase in the number of magazines being offered for sale on eBay and the asking prices placed on some of them. I have been monitoring it for a couple of weeks (during Feb 2011) and storing some 'real world' valuations (from completed auctions where the item actually sold). The overriding feeling I get is that a lot of people are hoping the collection stored in their loft might actually be worth quite a lot of money today, and I feel it might be worth dampening expectations just a touch.
With our economy so spectacularly on its knees, it's no surprise that people are hoping to uncover a goldmine at the end of their loft steps. It some cases they may find some 'gems', in magazine terms, that even now will earn them some useful extra holiday money, but for the most part it's very much a buyer's market, since magazine collecting is not as yet a mainstream hobby. Later, as magazines become e-Reader-only digital editions, when the folly of chopping down trees and the expense of running tons of paper up and down motorways sees the traditional format consigned to the history books, then I think it will become a collectible much like the vinyl record. If you start out collecting magazines as a hobby, you really can't go wrong. Your investment is made out of the interest you have in the magazines and the pleasure you get from them. If, one day, they actually become in any way valuable, you'll be the envy of family and friends and perhaps your children will benefit from it if they later decide to 'cash in the family's riches'. Building a collection at this point in time is not an expensive thing to do, and there are plenty of sellers out there!
If, on the other hand, you are buying magazines specifically in order to make money, it is best to take a longer term view than to expect quick gains. The only genre of magazine that is currently sure to earn you better than pocket money, if you are lucky enough to have a collection, is the men's/adult genre. There are probably not too many like me who collect magazines irrespective of genre. Most will collect because they have a hobby associated with a particular title or genre of mags. Adult, hobby? Well, you know what I mean. Even then, prices at auction are generally not high and I would doubt dealers are currently selling many advertised at £15-£20, even if they are probably in better condition than those offered privately. But I may be wrong - the adult genre is not a market I'm in, apart from a few acquired first issue titles.
Apart from the men's magazines - notably the 'superior' titles such as Playboy, Penthouse and Mayfair (I term these 'superior' for their paper weight, print/photograpic quality and the editorial quality of their writers), plus the 'vintage' pre-1960s magazines that are just so wonderfully coy - there is no other single genre of magazine guaranteed to sell at auction, although true vintage issues of any type in good condition, older cinema/movie magazines, first editions in general and the more quirky publications do sell. The more well known fashion magazines - Vogue and the like - also seem to sell.
So it is all about curbing expectation if you are tempted to buy lots of magazines in the hope of making a quick killing. It's unlikely to happen... unless you find a first edition of Playboy in there. But take it on as a hobby, perhaps with one eye on it as a longer term possible investment, and then I'd certainly recommend taking a look at what buyers on eBay, eBid and similar auction sites have to offer.
by Kevin O'Byrne - Editor, Magazine Collector
As a collectible, magazines have lagged behind books and many other things, and yet magazines offer enjoyment, interest and a collectibility factor that goes beyond many other popular items. As mentioned in my introduction on our home page, something fascinated me about magazines even before I entered my teens. It has something to do with the way they grab a moment in time and capture it within their pages. And then there are the adverts. They bring back many memories and often a smile as you are reminded of how things were "back then".
People often end up with a collection of magazines because of a hobby, and because that hobby was important to them, the magazines were stored nicely, perhaps even in binders. They remain close to how they were the last time they were read, apart from perhaps some yellowing of the pages. And yet how many people decide it's time to clear out the loft and simply say "this lot has to go". In one hasty move, a lovely collection is trashed, and that is very sad.
There are those of course who will have the same hobby and would love those magazines simply for that reason, but magazines are collectible in their own right. Of course the condition of the magazine is important, and a magazine that is both old and in good condition is likely to appeal to a collector almost irrespective of the subject matter. It doesn't however follow that only old magazines are collectible, though a more recent publication will generally need to be a First Edition to be of interest. It's a good time to start building a collection because - apart from certain sought-after editions of particular magazines - it is a buyer's market and prices are sensible. A copy of the first issue of Rail Express Magazine (June 1996) "in good condition" was auctioned privately on eBay in March 2007 for £10.99. Trade sellers tend to charge a little more.
Finding collectible magazines (that is, vintage or first editions) in good condition at under £10 is still quite common, but that also means there probably isn't a goldmine sitting in your loft... not yet anyway. While some magazines have famously sold for hundreds and even thousands, and first editions of most magazines are worth a few pounds if the condition is good - vintage publications adding to the value - beyond that they are of little value but can be very entertaining all the same.
Prices are, of course, entirely market led. As with the vast majority of collectibles, what it's worth is simply down to what anyone is willing to pay at the time. Some people may be willing to pay a good amount for all sorts of obscure reasons - it was published in the month of their birth; it features their grandfather; it pictures the very guitar they now have sitting proudly in their music room... or it might simply be an important piece in the jigsaw that is a collector's personal collection.
Whether you are inspired by the contents and subject matter of certain publications, or see the magazine as a collectible in its own right, it can certainly be a rewarding hobby. And who knows, it could even become a modest investment for the future. Not that we can guarantee that - take it on first as a hobby, second as an investment, that way you can't go wrong.
If you have a magazine to sell and are wondering if it's of value, well, it's all about finding that one buyer who wants exactly what you're selling, and that can demand a heap of patience. I don't believe there are many who just collect any old magazines; it's much more common for people to first be attracted by the subject. If you are passionate about Jaguar cars, you may well be tempted to buy a particular back-issue of a magazine with a feature on 'your' car, and that may lead on to others, building into a precious resource of information all about your particular interest. The motivation is the subject matter, not the magazine in itself. This means that, if you're looking to sell, it's about attracting that possibly one in a thousand person who would be interested in your particular copy.
Ebay and similar online auction sites have become the popular way to sell individual magazines. I prefer to sell from my own site, allowing me more space to talk about the magazines, but I'm sure a lot more people pass through Ebay than they do here! So, if you're looking to sell magazines, that's a good place to start, but there is a cost involved. You can also make use of our free message board.
Ingredients of a collectible magazine There are certain criteria that will make one magazine more desirable than the next: