How to spot a magazine reproduction

July 12, 2020
sharpes-london-magazine-1866-letterpress-printing

Letterpress impression on this 1866 issue of Sharpe’s London magazine is clear

Country Life, Women’s Weekly, Time Out, The Face – all magazines that have published reproductions of their first issue. In the case of the latter two, the fact that they are celebratory facsimiles is made clear, but there is no such indication in the others.

So, if you’re buying a copy of Country Life that seems to be a first issue from 1897 or a premier Women’s Weekly from 1911, you need to watch out for clues, because the real thing is worth far more than a repro.

As I mentioned in a post about buying and selling copies of Country Life magazine, the giveaway is the printing technique. Most magazines before 1950 will have been printed letterpress, with gravure for big run titles between about 1930 and 1990. With letterpress, the metal type is raised and often makes an impression on the paper.

The scan at the top of this page shows the detail from a copy of Sharpe’s London magazine from 1866. The impression from the printing of the reverse page can be clearly seen. This is a particularly obvious example and better techniques as the century progressed greatly reduced the excess pressure, so it’s unlikely to be this clear.

womans_weekly_1911nov4_110

Facsimile of first Woman’s Weekly

The first issues of both Country Life and Women’s Weekly were letterpress, so should show some signs of the impression of the type on the pages. Modern copies using offset lithography will be perfectly smooth.

 

Also, the real issues are unlikely to be in good condition. Women’s Weekly was printed on newsprint, which will have turned brown and brittle because of the acid in the woodpulp paper. The facsimiles are printed on brown paper, but the colouring is very even, which will not be the case with the real thing, because these usually brown from the outer edges in.

Country Life is tricker in this regard because it was printed on good paper, but it will have picked up dirt. Finally, the staples will have discoloured the paper on the centre pages and will probably have rusted, particularly on Women’s Weekly.

So, if you’re selling one of these, be careful in your description. If you’re buying, ask about the provenance. If in doubt, assume it’s a repro.

Saucy side of the first superstar of comics

June 12, 2020

fleet-magazine-1932-ally-sloper-favourite-relish

Ally Sloper was ‘the first superstar of comics’, says The Oldie magazine, who inspired the screen personae of Charlie Chaplin and, especially, WC Fields.

ally-slopers-favourite-relishNo small accolade, but it doesn’t end there. From 1867, with his first appearance in Judy, a rival magazine to Punch, into the 1920s, Sloper also put his name to no end of goods – and got his very own weekly comic, Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday, which ran for nigh-on 40 years. His fame also spread through the music hall, theatre and magic lantern shows, and in motion pictures as early as 1898.

The BFI has a short comedy sketch online based around a man reading a copy of Half Holiday at the barber’s.

As shown here, Ally Sloper’s Relish was one of these products, alongside everything from clay pipes to doorstops to ceramics and watches. These, alongside empty bottles of the sauce, often come up on eBay searches for Ally Sloper. The advert is from the February 1932 copy of The Fleet, a monthly aiming at serving sailors and anyone else interested in Britain’s Royal Navy.

 

 

 

Chubb banks vaults in Chambers’s Magazine

June 10, 2020

chamberss-magazine-1924-august-chubb-bank-vault-advert

It’s not often anyone gets to go in a Goldfinger-style bank vault, but pay a visit to Lisbon’s Museum of Design & Fashion and you’ll find yourself in one.

The museum is housed in a former bank. On the ground floor, you can stroll past  clothing, accessories, household goods and furniture – and the pair of Vivienne Westwood platforms that brought Naomi Campbell tumbling down on the catwalk in 1993.

The underground vault and upper floor host temporary exhibitions, with jewellery on display in the old steel safe deposit boxes.

The vault, built for the Banco Nacional Ultramarino, is just like the one shown in this advertising insert from a 1924 copy of Chambers’s Journal (August 1). And it was made by Chubb – you can see a chub fish symbol engraved in the side of the crane hinge door as you walk in, as well as the usual branding. British vaults made by Chubb, or Tann, its main rival, can be found in central banks across the world. Today, however, Chubb only exists as a brand name on locks and alarms.

Of course, there were probably not that many bank vault owners reading Chambers’s Journal, but the reverse of the insert promotes Chubb’s domestic and commercial products. The insert was printed offset by George Stewart & Co in Edinburgh.

Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal was a weekly founded in 1832 in Edinburgh by William Chambers. In 1854, the publishing offices moved to 47 Paternoster Row in London, an area near St Paul’s Cathedral that was then the centre of the English book trade. The title was expanded to Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts. The title shrank again in 1897 and the magazine survived to pass its centenary, but closed in 1956. Chambers’s English Dictionary was founded in 1872 and is today an imprint published by Hodder & Stoughton.

chamberss-magazine-1924-august-chubb-bank-vault-advert

 

Stephen Hawking waged Penthouse against Private Eye in black hole bet

June 8, 2020
private_eye_1972_12dec1_sunday_times

A copy of the satirical bimonthly Private Eye in 1972

Who would have thought it? A wager that a celestial object was not a black hole was made by Stephen Hawking, the mathematician, cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time, with the stakes being a year’s subscription to Penthouse against four years of Private Eye magazines.

penthouse_1968_barbarella

Penthouse in 1968

The story is described in chapter six of Hawking’s 1988 book, Brief History of Time. I came across it in Inside Einstein’s Mind, a recently-shown BBC documentary about Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Kip Thorne, a US cosmologist, was on the other side of the 1975 bet, which was based on whether X-1, a source of X-rays in the Cygnus constellation, was a black hole. It took 15 years for Hawking to accept he had lost the bet and fork out for the Penthouse subscription to Thorne.

The programme says that both Thorne and Hawking believed Cygnus X-1 was a black hole all along, but Hawking took on the wager because four years of the satirical twice-monthly Private Eye would have been a form of compensation had he been wrong.

In the documentary, Thorne mentions how the British version of Penthouse magazine was much more explicit, compared with the US editions. Bob Guccione, an American, had launched Penthouse in Britain in 1965, and in the US four years later. It traded on being more sexually explicit than other men’s magazines sold openly in newsagents and was the first of these to show female pubic hair, in its April 1970 issue.

In 2018, Hawking died and was buried between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin at Westminster Abbey in London. Hawking had been Lucasian professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post that dates back to 1663 and has been previously held both by Newton and Charles Babbage.

Field & Tuer’s types of beauty

June 7, 2020

 

Field & Tuer advert for their typefaces of beauty and Stickphast paste

This page advert for Field & Tuer, art printers and publishers, is from the first issue of Merry England in 1883.

Andrew Tuer and Abraham Field founded the printing firm of Field & Tuer in the early 1860s and went on to establish a publishing arm, the Leadenhall Press, named after their  offices in Leadenhall Street in the City of London.

Stickphast, a vegetable paste and a ‘cleanly substitute for gum’, was a profitable sideline.

Merry England, was a monthly magazine that lasted two years from 1883, according to the British Library. It was based in Essex Street, which runs down to the Thames river at 2 Temple Place from The Strand at the west end of Fleet Street. Halfway down the street is the Edgar Wallace pub (pre-coronavirus archived page).

Arthur Rackham’s magazine masthead

May 30, 2020

ladies-field-magazine-masthead-1898-by-arthur-rackham-signature

The best publishers stay that way by using the best suppliers, from writers to illustrators to paper merchants. And front page titles, mastheads as they are now known, are a case in point. I was struck by this one, which is from the first issue of The Ladies’ Field from 1898.

The magazine was a spin-off from Country Life, which had been launched the previous year by Edward Hudson, who owned the printers Hudson & Kearns, and George Newnes, publisher of Tit-Bits and The Strand. As was common at the time, the cover was a protective ‘wrapper’ dominated by advertising.

ladies-field-magazine-1898-march-19-first-issue

And a close inspection shows that the masthead artwork was by no less than Arthur Rackham, renowned as one of the best illustrators of the era for his work on books such as Peter Pan and Grimms Fairy Tales.

 

 

How Radio Times marked VE Day

May 8, 2020

radio-times-magazine-cover-1945-VE-day-Victory-Europe-May

This is the front cover of the Radio Times listing VE-Day celebrations in Britain to mark Germany’s surrender in May 1945. Special victory radio programmes on the BBC marked the week, celebrating each of the armed services and the civilian effort.

Beautifully illustrated as always, even the advertising, such as this Nestle advert, drawn, I reckon, by Mabel Lucie Atwell. She was an incredibly successful illustrator, renowned for her drawings of cute children.

radio-times-1945-may-10-Mabel-Lucie-Atwell-nestle-advert

 

 

Lockdown – the magazine

May 6, 2020
lyttletonian_1924

Hand-drawn cover for a 1924 school magazine

I took a good look and I can find no trace of a magazine called Lockdown. Which was a bit of a surprise, because there tends to be a magazine about just about anything.

wooden_city_1915_7jul1_no1

British prisoner of war magazine from 1915

And there have certainly been plenty of magazines produced by people in much nastier versions of lockdowns than today’s. I certainly associate the word ‘lockdown’ with prison and The Wooden City was first produced in 1915 by British prisoners of war.

 

At around the same time, the hell of the mud and bombardment at Ypres inspired troops during the First World War. They found an abandoned printing press and came up with The Wipers Times or Salient News, which has been reprinted as a book and has been the subject of documentaries by the likes of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

And, in January 1915, Ernest Shackleton and his men got trapped in the South Pole ice in their ship, the Endurance, and lived on board for ten months. They scrubbed the decks, played football when they could get out but even so, ‘in May they all had a fit of madness and decided to shave their heads’. They had to bring in ice every day to melt for water. And had to kill their dogs when food ran short. But, in November 1915, things got worse – the ship sank, so they had to live in tents on the ice. That left them with no choice but to drag an open boat across the ice for seven days to the sea. Shackleton and five others left their 22 comrades behind and then rowed 750 miles across the ocean to South Georgia to get help from whalers there. It was August 1916 before everyone was rescued.

Luckily, Shackelton had taken books with him and a typewriter, which the men used to produce a magazine to entertain themselves.

Alongside diaries and ships logs, such journals were a Royal Navy tradition and Robert Scott and his explorers produced the South Polar Times, for both of their Antarctic exhibitions. Scott himself wrote several articles, ‘including Horticultural Notes’, a humorous piece, for which the manuscript survives. Twelve issues of South Polar Times were produced, including four from the second, ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. The issues are ‘marked by their jollity‘. However, the last issue was produced in 1912 at the expedition base hut, by men who would have known that Scott and his four companions were dead because their food would have run out. They were trapped in their tent in a blizzard, where they died, apart from Captain Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates, who walked out of the tent with words that have gone down in history: ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ Scott’s journal was found in his pocket after he had been dead for eight months.

4on7pyauqii6feglb24dul7xo4

How Arthur Conan Doyle recorded his voyage to the Arctic

But it was a trip to the Arctic at the other end of the world that inspired a more mainstream writer. In 1880, Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, took six months out of medical school to work as a ship’s surgeon on a whaling expedition. This has been published as a facsimile book. He produced a magazine-like journal of the voyage, something he had also done at school. And he carried on making such notebooks as research in his later work, such as The White Company.

 

Schools aren’t exactly prisons, but they’ve produced many magazines – often going back a century or more. The Lyttletonian from 1924 is one example, which recently went up for sale on eBay. It came from a girls’ school and is typical in using mimeographed pages (today it would be a photocopier), with an ink and watercolour cover – ‘I expect the girls made their own,’ said the seller.

And no doubt penned-in children and adults around the country are producing their own magazines, News from Over the Road or Our House Journal or Lockdown Fashion World. And these are far more likely to be accessible to our descendants another century from now than a website or blog post. After all, you probably can’t even read your emails from a decade ago, never mind a floppy disc from 20 years ago.

Vogue outs bonkers celebrity

April 26, 2020

vogue_magazine_masthead

Vogue, or at least the British edition of the Condé Nast monthly, finds itself credited in today’s Sunday Times for its sound judgment in spiking an interview with Maya Arulpragasam, better known as the singer MIA. ‘Thank heaven for Vogue,’ says Sarah Baxter, in condemning MIA’s ‘bonkers’ attitude towards taking a vaccine coronavirus.

The row came after MIA had tweeted that death would be preferable to taking a vaccine. ‘if I have to choose between a vaccine or chip [against the coronavirus], I’m gonna choose death’. She said that Edward Enninful, the editor of British Vogue had withdrawn his offer for a feature. She has since removed the post.

Enninful, editor of British Vogue – known as Brogue – responded:

Considering . . . we’re chronicling the struggles of the NHS to cope, we don’t feel we can have her involved. It just wouldn’t be right.’

Even after deleting her messages, MIA responded to Vogue: ‘I missed a lot of vaccines and PLOT TWIST. I’m still alive. If I don’t make it past this age, that’s okay.’ Is she loopy or what?

Baxter adds the tennis player Novak Djokovic to the list of bonkers celebrities as another ‘anti-vaxxer’ in an article that compares their warped attitudes with the madness of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr Strangelove.

It’s not all glory for Vogue, though. The columnist also recalls that the US version of the glossy fashion magazine once described the wife of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, as the ‘rose of the desert’ just as the country’s civil war broke out.

What’s it worth: Empire film magazine

April 23, 2020
Screenshot 2020-04-23 at 15.14.23.png

Empire magazine: this lot fetched £120 for 35 issues.  That averages out at £3.40 a copy

I’ve put a lot of guidance on Ebay selling in this blog and also on Magforum’s Collecting Magazines page. But every seller is different and it’s difficult making judgements. Isla has emailed me with this query, which is a good opportunity to set out the main points:

I recently discovered that my Dad has a large collection of Empire magazines in the loft. There are almost all of the issues from 1989 (first issue) until about 2007 maybe later (it’s hard to tell as I haven’t been able to get them all out from the cupboard). Most of them are discoloured (like yellow/brown pages), I spotted at least one unfortunate coffee cup stain, a lot have minor rips and creases from where they’ve been read and some of the free posters have been removed (only a few issues have free posters). There are several collectors edition issues. I have read all of your information about selling but after looking at other listings on Ebay, I still can’t tell if they would be of enough value to be bothered to sell (I am quite happy keeping them to read/cut up). Do you think that they could be worth anything?

It’s always difficult to judge what sort of money makes it worth someone’s while getting up to speed on eBay. So, let’s look at this from the bottom up with the questions that come to my mind.

Is there a market in Empire magazine?

A quick search on eBay (Empire magazine -bbc for UK only) suggests there is, with 5,155 lots up for sale at present. But that’s also a lot of competition. Of these, about 2,100 are tagged with dates:

  • 450 are marked as being from the 1990s;
  • 851 from the 2000s;
  • 834 from the 2010s.

Generally, older issues fetch more, but my experience suggests that subscriber-only collectors’ editions and special issues, such as the Star Wars issue of Empire from June 2005 with a breathing Darth Vader, are more valuable. Posters and special gifts make a difference too.

In terms of selling though, the asking price on live listings may not be a good guide. Many dealers put up hundreds of lots at high prices and are prepared to wait a long time for a sale. They just put it up on a buy-it-now and wait for months and generally have an eBay, or even a real, shop. In general, the cheaper your asking price, the quicker something will sell. So, next question…

What do copies of Empire actually sell for?

Screenshot 2020-04-23 at 19.05.31To discover this, first of all use the left-hand menu on eBay to select only lots that have ended (completed). This gives 3,482 results.

We can then select only items that have sold (see the partial screen grab shown on the left).  In this case, we get 854. This gives us a rough and ready ratio of about one in every four lots selling (if you look at the detail, it’s a crude measure because many listings are only up for a few days ands then get put up again when they don’t sell, but let’s not complicate things here). That’s not a bad figure, a calculation I did a while back on Country Life came out at just 13%.

Screenshot 2020-04-23 at 15.13.43Now, we can list these by ‘Highest price + p&p’ in a dropdown menu near the top right of the eBay page. (Again, see the partial screen grab shown on the left.)

The highest price was for a magazine item about the British empire, so we can ignore that – though we might want to tweak our search by adding ‘-british’ to take out such items (though it would also remove listings that used British in their listing). This cuts the total to 801.

We can see that a bulk lot sold on the 5th of February for £120 plus £25 postage. This was for 35 issues dating back to 1993, 1994 and 1995. That averages out at £3.40 a copy. Note, though, that these are listed as VGC – very good condition. It seems unlikely that many of Isla’s copies are that good. As she says:

Most of them are discoloured (like yellow/brown pages), I spotted at least one unfortunate coffee cup stain, a lot have minor rips and creases

The February seller, funkymonkey62, stresses the condition, describing them as ‘All in very good condition’ and ‘Pre-owned but in excellent condition’ within the listing. Funkymonkey62 also has a solid record of 1,283 sales, with 117 of the last 118 items having positive feedback.

What can Isla expect for her discoloured magazines?

Isla could put up the complete three years of issues, but would have to be honest about the condition. Photos help here, so people can make their own judgement. The discolouration is likely to have come from exposure to sunlight or damp. At least the magazines are complete, no pages ripped out or photos cut out.

The postage cost is likely to be the same, and the asking price: half the VGC price? That’s £1.70 each or £61 for the 36 issues plus postage.

Ilsa has far more than that, of course.

almost all of the issues from 1989 (first issue) until about 2007

Let’s assume she has every issue from June 1989 to the end of 2006, and that there were 12 issues a year. That’s 7 issues plus 17 full years, or 211 copies. So, if they all sold for £1.70 each, the grand total would be £358. However, there’s another question…

Are all copies worth the same?

The answer, of course, is No, even assuming they are in the same condition. First issues and older issues tend to fetch more because they are less likely to have survived. And the eBay results give evidence here, with another two high-earning sales.

Screenshot 2020-04-23 at 17.51.29In the first example, the winner of two bidders in an auction paid £43 plus £8 postage for copies of the first ten issues: an average of £4.30 each. This was almost a quarter more per copy than funkymonkey62 achieved for their VGC copies. The condition description was ‘in bookcase for the past 30 years – spine getting the only bit of daylight. No fading, excellent colour’. This is a better form of description because it’s more objective, allowing some one to make their own judgement, whereas ‘VGC’ is more subjective.

Another listing contradicts this though: issues 1-56 in unique bindings sold for just £50 – less than £1 each. The condition was described: ‘Kept in excellent condition due to custom binding. (My Dad collects railway magazines and had them bound so I wouldn’t turn them all into posters!).’ But this was a ‘collection only’ offer, greatly limiting the potential buyers. And the seller probably underpriced them – remember funkymonkey62’s £120 buy-it-now for £35 issues. But if the seller wanted to get a bulky item out of the house quickly, it worked for them.

Is it better to split up a collection?

If you want to spend the time getting to learn eBay and are prepared to do the research and live close to a Post Office, you can certainly earn more, particularly if there are unopened posters and supplements.

The tactic here is to find use eBay searches to identify the best issues, sell those separately, and then sell the rest in bigger lots, probably by year (but check on the most efficient postal bands).

As an example, four copies of Empire‘s Fantastic Beasts special edition have sold for between £28 and £48 (issue 330, Dec 2016). The standard newsstand issue fetches £2-£5. It’s a similar story for Empire‘s Mandalorian Baby Yoda subscriber edition from April 2020 – £20-£40, and other recent Star Wars specials. Individual copies of the first issue have sold for between £6.41 (auction) and £22.99 inclusive (a buy-it-now).

So, what should Isla do?

Only Isla can decide on her priorities and the balance between time spent and money earned. In her shoes, assuming she wants the cash, I would suggest:

  1. Pick out the issues that fetch the most from the sold issues selection on eBay.
  2. Pick out the best issues by condition.
  3. Experiment with these one at a time using buy-it-now listings to judge the best selling price.
  4. Sell the rest in chunks, but again experiment with doing it by year or perhaps theme: Star Wars, Marvel heroes, etc.

Any tips for the listings?

  1. My research into Country Life suggests that building up eBay expertise pays off. The conclusion was: ‘people who fill out data fields for a listing are three times as likely to sell their magazine‘.
  2. Put a lot of pictures and details in the listings. Mention the films and actors covered in the big articles and who’s on the cover or in any posters, or whole page pictures.
  3. Make the descriptions objective. Describe the copy (all pages complete, no creasing to cover, clean, demo a no-smoking home), rather than judge (excellent condition). Above all, be open and honest; refer to the photos in the description.
  4. Before you put up an issue, check out the competition. If you want to sell quickly, price low; be prepared to wait if you aim high. Watch out for news or new films relevant to the issue you’re selling – topicality can raise prices.
  5. Make the best use of the limited character you have in the main description – think about what words people use for searching. Leave out filler words such as ‘a’ and ‘the’.
  6. Look at the sold listings for tips on descriptions. Compare these with those that don’t sell, so you can work out what works.