Peddling the Past: The Value of Vintage Newspapers

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The majority of 21st-century news is funneled through online sites and television broadcasts. However, in the early 20th century, there was a less digital way to stay up-to-date on current events: newspapers. Papers helped to get relevant information into the hands of the people as quickly as possible. While smartphones and laptops have largely taken over this practice, old newspapers provide important snapshots of a lived history. As such, vintage newspapers can prove hugely valuable to collectors. Do you have any old newspapers that you want to sell? This article will discuss what gives old newspapers their value, how to sell them, and how much money you can expect to pull in.

What Gives Old Newspapers Value?

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Old newspapers are valuable because of what they offer to collectors: a window into a moment in history. Collectors can hold a paper in their hand and imagine what it may have felt like to first hear news about WWI, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and other world-stopping announcements. Vintage newspapers are most valuable when they highlight a specific historical event. Collectors are not likely to shell out much money for a small-town paper with no large-scale significance. However, collectors are always on the hunt for papers that chronicle significant moments from our past: the moon landing, the assassination of JFK, or the death of Princess Diana, for example.

For non-collectors, newspapers can be valuable due to their personal relevance. Non-collectors seeking out newspapers may look for those released on anniversaries important to them or their loved ones. Vintage birthday newspapers are a huge hit. AnyDate sells birthday bundles featuring newspapers from the date you were born, down to the year, month, and day. The New York Times sells an Ultimate Birthday Book that compiles the front pages of the Times on your birth date over several decades. This is to say, even papers of low public interest may have value to certain individuals.

Valuable Newspapers Throughout History

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All of the high-priced newspapers that have sold across the years have had two things in common: they were in fair condition and highlighted a distinctly important event in history. These include natural disasters, wartime announcements, celebrity deaths, serial killers, major elections, and other crucial experiences that shifted the world as we know it. Not all papers featuring major events turn up a huge profit, as many were mass-produced, yet those that are well-preserved, rare, and/or unique in their locality to the historical event can pull in quite a bit of money.

Newspapers sold for only a few cents at their conception later drew in thousands from bidders. At one auction, a newspaper from the Chicago Daily Tribune declaring the victory of Dewey over Truman in the 1948 election sold for $1,392. Few copies remained in circulation, especially since the Chicago Tribune sent their workers to collect the papers after Truman defeated Dewey, making it a rare collectible. Another high-value paper was the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from December 7th, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attacks. One of these papers, with the headline “War! Oahu bombed by Japanese planes,” amassed a stunning $3,750 in an auction. Newspapers may be a niche category, but, like collectible Beanie Babies that sell for tens of thousands on eBay, collectible papers can be a major money-maker.

How Do You Sell Old Newspapers?

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The first step to selling old papers is hunting down those with the most value. There’s a good chance you’ve got a collection of newspapers lying around in your attic, basement, or garage (or those of family members). If you don’t turn up much, you can post ads on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace in search of free or low-cost old newspapers. People are often trying to get rid of the extra junk in their homes, and newspapers might be on their list of discardable items. This gives you the chance to get your hands on many unique newspapers with varying dates and events. Once you have a stack of papers, go through them and find those in good condition and/or may have a high value due to their feature stories.

Once you have your ideal newspapers picked out, your best bet for selling them is online resale sites. There aren’t many in-person locations that are likely to buy vintage newspapers at a reasonable price. However, there are plenty of sites where collectors search for old papers. One of the main selling sites for newspapers is eBay, where various antiques are marketed and sold by individual sellers. You may also be able to contact antique-specific selling sites or auctions if you believe that your papers are valuable enough, though you’ll likely want to get your newspapers appraised first. It’s also important to consider that you don’t have to sell an entire newspaper to turn a profit. You can also sell specific sections, such as old car and food advertisements, which can be nostalgic for collectors and non-collectors alike.

What Kind of Profit Can You Make?

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Chances are, you won’t make a hefty profit selling old newspapers. On eBay, the price range for old papers detailing events like the end of WWII and the election of JFK averages between $5 and $15 per paper (aside from some outliers). While they can be valuable markers of time and experience, there is an unfortunate catch: newspapers have always been produced in large quantities. An enormous amount of best-selling papers were printed for all of history’s most significant events. The influx of newspapers made available to the public has lessened their value.

Still, the value of old papers isn’t the same across the board. One factor that makes a difference is locality. Consider, for example, newspapers announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since Hawaiians were directly affected, papers from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin are more valuable than an NYT paper on the same subject. Additionally, the quality of a newspaper can significantly impact its selling range. Make sure you care for any papers you plan on selling. Keep them out of humid environments, package them in cardboard or stiff envelopes, and don’t place them in any sunny spots. Lastly, the natural passage of time plays a significant role in a newspaper’s value. Recent newspapers don’t turn a good profit, even those that chronicle major events, because there are plenty in circulation. However, papers dated at least 30 years back are likely to have some value, whether big or small.

So, how should you price your newspapers? Observe what other sellers ask for papers from the same date, event, or publication. If you think you have a gem on your hands, talk to an appraiser to find out the real value of your papers. While selling old newspapers may not be a full-time gig, with patience, insight, and knowledge, you can make a nice profit on the vintage newspapers in your possession.