Mick has sent in a query about Practical Motorist, a car magazine from the publisher George Newnes that was founded in 1934 and specialised in general maintenance. It started as a weekly dated 12 May 1934, became a monthly from May 1954 and closed in 1997, a victim of competing titles that specialised in the various marques, such as Ford or VW. For part of the period, Practical Motorist also covered motorbikes. There’s a website that is gathering cover images of all the past issues. Here’s Mick’s question:
My 86-year-old father has around 2,000 Practical Motorist magazines dating back to approx 1958. Are they worth anything?
The answer is yes, but the issue is whether you want to spend the time selling them.
A quick search shows that Ebay has 70 lots of Practical Motorist sold in the three months since the end of March for £2.49-£23 each (inc postage) out of 192 listed (click through to see my search results). That’s better than a 1-in-3 selling rate. The copies at the top end are from the 1930s. Half the sales were in the £4-£6 range.
So, if you sold half of them for £5 with a cost of £2.50 for postage, packing and eBay fees, that’s 1,000 sales at £2.50 each after costs, or £2,500. The problem is the time to take the photos, do the listings, package them up, etc. Mind you, if you could get the work down to 6 minutes a copy, that’s 100 hours of work for 1,000 issues – 2½ weeks at a rate of £1,000 a week! At half that rate, you’d earn £100 a day, or £12.50 an hour. How much is your time worth?
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you could approach the online magazine shops listed on my Magforum.com Magazine Collecting page or contact the eBay sellers who specialise in car magazines. You will not get much for each copy that way (50p-£1?) but even at 50p, it would work out at £1000.
So, do some research using the eBay searching tips on the Magforum.com Magazine Collecting page and decide what you want to do. The research should give you an idea of which copies sell and which don’t. If you see issues that are particularly popular, you could cherry pick those and sell on the rest.
Another idea to consider is whether there is a keen teenager around or someone who has the time to do the listing and you could split the proceeds. Local charity shops might also be interested because the bigger charities have central teams with experience doing this.
>>Table of British car magazines
To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design