The worth of old newspapers as mementos
We all save them – the newspapers and magazines chronicling historical events in the country. Sept. 11, 2001. World War II and other wars. The assassinations of the Kennedys and Dr. King. The first moon walk (the real thing, not the Michael Jackson one). Obama as the first African American president.
There are many of these events and we have the papers stored away someplace to prove them. But what happens to those mementos 50 years from now – like now for some earlier events – when you can find anything you want electronically.
I began mulling our penchant for saving these relics after finding a collection of old newspapers and magazines in a box lot at auction recently. They told of the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy, the 1969 walk on the moon and Teddy Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick troubles. Also included were five John Kennedy trading cards.
John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, shook the country and the world, and set off a state of intense mourning and disbelief. People absorbed every word written about it – it was high time for newspapers – and stored away the newspapers as testimony that it was real. The lot that I got at auction contained the Philadelphia Inquirer on the day after the shooting, along with individual clippings up to Jacqueline Kennedy’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis in 1968.
The newspapers were not in very good shape – faded, tattered, torn and folded. They had not been very well-preserved, and there is an easy way to do it.
Here’s a sample of what I got:
Philadelphia Inquirer, Sat. morning, Nov. 23, 1963.
Picture of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s coffin.
Life magazine, Murder of the President, Nov. 29, 1963. Torn cover.
Life magazine, Kennedy’s funeral, Dec. 6, 1963. Missing cover.
Saturday Evening Post, Norman Rockwell cover illustration of Kennedy, Dec. 14, 1963.
Life magazine, Oswald: Armed for Murder, Feb. 21, 1964.
Life magazine, A Thousand Days, recollections of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., special assistant to the President, July 16, 1965.
The items were apparently tossed by a family member who had no use for them after the collector died. I was curious about whether they were of any value, so I checked Ebay and other sites to see if the family had given up an unperceived inheritance.
I found that the newspapers and magazines from my lot were not selling well or at all. At Ebay, no one wanted to pay $4.99 for the Norman Rockwell cover. Interestingly, many Rockwell covers were selling quite well but modestly on the site. Four editions of the Inquirer after the shooting had five bids and sold for $6.27. The Nov. 29, 1963, Life magazine had one bid of $15, as well as a Nov. 29, 1963, copy with Lyndon Johnson on the cover.
Top-name newspapers were not doing too well, either: a Nov. 23, 1963, New York Times did not make its starting bid of $9.99 while a Nov. 23, 1963, Boston Herald did not attract a 99-cent bid (it had not been well-preserved).
Two years ago, at the New York auction house Guernsey’s, the same Boston Herald sold for $1,000. The Boston Globe for the same day sold for $100, and the New York Times for Nov. 25, 1963, sold for $500. A lot of five Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspapers did not sell.
The Apollo 11 moon walk newspapers didn’t fare much better. I did find that World War II and Civil War newspapers sparked lots of bids, but prices were still modest. It’s a bit too early for 911 newspapers.
The five trading cards were among the most interesting in the lot because I had not seen any like them before. They showed a happy Kennedy with his family. They were produced by Rosan Printing Co. around 1963 or 1964. A complete set of 64 cards were being offered on Ebay for $39,and for $68 on another site. On yet another site, single cards were selling for $4 to 4.47 each. A lot of 4 cards sold for $10 on icollector.com.
As for Obama, my stash includes copies of Ebony and Vibe magazines (primarily because I subscribed to them), and the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest continuously published newspaper in the country. Fifty years from now, their worth, too, will likely be in the memories.
If you’d like to determine the value of your Kennedy assassination newspapers, please read my blog post on the subject.