Are Old Newspapers Worth Anything?

By Ethan BrightbillLast Updated Jul 17, 2020 6:34:07 PM ET
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Old newspapers might not seem like they have much use. After all, it doesn’t take much to line a litter box, and there’s only so much papier mache that a person will realistically want to make in their life. However, they can have value — at least, if you know what to look for and how to use them. From historical collectibles to birthday presents, old newspapers can be worth a surprising amount.

The Value of an Old Newspaper

Every newspaper is a snapshot into a single day in the past, including articles about major events and local happenings in equal measure. Because of that, it shouldn’t be surprising that many people collect and even buy them. While age, quality and rarity are all factors in the value of a newspaper, the most important factor is historical content: whatever events are chronicled within the pages of the paper. 

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Famous events from history are sure to raise the value of a paper. A copy of the Fitchberg Sentinel from May 21, 1927, for example, includes an article about famed American aviator Charles Lindbergh being spotted over the English Channel. He completed the first nonstop solo transatlantic flight that same day, and as a result, collectors today are willing to pay roughly $150 for a copy of the paper. Similarly, a copy of the The New York Herald from the date of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination — April 15, 1865 — can sometimes sell for more than $1,000, while a December 7, 1941 issue of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin can go for roughly double that due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

If you go through your newspapers and find nothing that seems interesting, don’t give up yet. Newspaper collectors tend to focus on different parts of history, such as particular wars, periods or topics. A newspaper that’s of no interest to someone whose passion is naval history might be valuable to someone who collects newspapers that deal with Black American history or a different subject. While an article that seems unimportant to you isn’t likely to fetch a thousand dollars, it might still be exactly what someone else is looking for — and worth a modest chunk of change as a result.

Finding and Storing Newspapers

If you don’t already have old newspapers to sell, you could always get a subscription to your local paper and wait a few decades in the hopes that something big happens in your town. A more practical approach, however, is to find ones that are already old. Garages, basements, attics and even Craigslist are all potential sources for newspapers, and as long as they’re at least thirty years old, odds are good that there will be demand for at least some of them. If you’re lucky enough to find a paper from the 19th century printed on rag paper, that’s definitely worth something, but you’ll likely need to buy from another collector to find one of those.

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Once you have your newspapers, you should take care to store them properly. The National Archives recommends storing them away from light in a cool and low-humidity (ideally 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 to 50 percent relative humidity) environment. Rigid boxes or envelopes can prevent damage. You should avoid folding papers, laminating them or using pressure-sensitive mending tape. Special conservation services can sell you additional supplies and sometimes make repairs where needed.

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