Archive for the ‘magazine prices’ Category

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.

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.

 

 

 

How to sell cycling and triathlon magazines

March 18, 2018
Triathlon magazine cover from April 2018

220 Triathlon magazine cover from April 2018. Published by Immediate Media (Bauer)

Jeff writes:

Hi, I have a ton of Triathlon (2000-2015) and Cycling (2000 to the present day). They are about to go in the recycling because I need the space. Do you have any ideas or know anybody interested?

Some suggestions:

Ebay is the obvious place. Put them up as several bundles grouped by year. The going rate in bulk for the monthly 220 Triathlon seems to be about £1 a copy + post/free pickup. Cycling Weekly is bit less. They probably fit nicely in A4 photocopy paper boxes. Make sure the box weight and size is within a postal price band.

Contact one of the traders on my Collecting Magazines page, or identify an eBay trader who specialises in cycling magazines.

Cycling Weekly magazine cover from 10 August 2017

Cycling Weekly magazine cover from 10 August 2017. Published by Time Inc UK

Or give them to an impecunious teenager with the time to list them on Ebay. They have a one in four selling rate in the past 3 months. The ideal price seems to be £4.99 each for Triathlon, inc postage (£1 cheaper for Cycling). Selling price range has been 99p+post to £8.50 inclusive for a single copy. There are also lots of people around who do such selling for others and share the proceeds. Ask around.

Post a note and put the word around at the sports centre where you train. Ask the staff as well.

Give them to a charity shop. They collect them at depots and sell them on Ebay.

These blog entries give tips on selling also:

Car magazine collectors
What’s a magazine worth? -1
What’s a magazine worth? -2


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


 

 

£1,750 for a copy of Oz magazine

May 13, 2017
This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

Prices for copies of Oz just go up and up. February was the magazine’s 50th anniversary and the buyers came out for several issues. Pick of the bunch was a copy of the first Oz that sold for £1,750, with 23 bids. A first issue of Oz went in 2012 for just over £1,000. The starting price this time was £400 and five bidders fought it out. A nice thing about it was the provenance. As the seller, sarahnegotiator, explained:

Published in 48 issues between 1967 and 1973, Oz Magazine was a revolutionary anti-establishment underground publishing phenomenon that triggered outrage, numerous police raids and the longest obscenity trial in British legal history. Now, on the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, here is a unique opportunity to purchase an extremely rare copy of the very first issue of London Oz.
Owned by the current seller since it was bought at King’s Cross Station in 1967, the magazine is complete, and apart from some minor creasing and light wear on the cover corners, is in good condition throughout.

Another first issue of Oz sold for £1,000. The starting price was £500 and the seller gave a very limited description. One potential bidder, quite rightly, wanted to know more:

Q: Would you be so kind as to tell me a bit more about the condition? Are there any pen marks or rips? Has anything been cut out? Are there any creases or dog ears? How would you rate it: Mint, VGC, Good, Fair? I’m a collector so quality is very important.
A: I would say that the condition of the magazine is between Mint and Very Good Condition. There are no dog eared corners or creases to any of the pages, no pen marks, no tears, the staples and the fold-out calendar of Feb ’67 are still attached. There are a couple of very small stains on the front cover and overall the pages are very slightly yellowed with age. Thanks for your interest and please get in touch again if you need more information. Best regards and happy bidding,

I’m always wary of terms such as ‘mint’ – but the fact that the seller fills in the details shows that it clearly is not mint in any sense that a collector would understand (stains on the  cover?!).

Another issue, Oz No.11 from April 1968, The Sticker Issue, fetched £363. The seller here, silvantage925, also sold seven other issues of Oz. The description was very good , with photographs to back it up:

The magazine is complete, with no missing pages. There are some minor rips to pages, towards the back of the magazine, including the back page. Stickers are in good shape though. Please see photos.
Magazine does not display any major signs of discolouration or distress other than what has previously been mentioned.
Please check photographs and keep the condition in mind when bidding. I always try and be as honest and descriptive as I can, any flaws etc will always be photographed and added to description.

Four other issues have sold this year fetching prices of £200-£276 on eBay.

 

Gracie Fields sings for Woman’s World

April 20, 2017
Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and included stills from her films

‘Songs “Our Gracie” Sings’ from Woman’s World in 1933

Sally in Our Alley was a film by Radio Pictures in 1931, and it turned Gracie Fields from a music hall star into a film star, singing her signature song, Sally. ‘Our Gracie’ was also one of the biggest radio stars of the era. Woman’s World, a weekly magazine from Amalgamated Press, recognised this popularity and published at least three Gracie song books from 1933 to 1938 as giveaways with the magazine.

Portrait of Grace Fields form Radio Pictures in the song book

Portrait of Grace Fields from Radio Pictures in the song book

The booklet here, Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and stills from her films, Sally in Our Alley and Looking on the Bright Side. The cover photograph was by Eric Gray. Fields was famed for her Northern accent, and the song book included two songs, ‘Ee-By-Gum’ and ‘Stop and Shop at the Co-op Shop’, that reflected her heritage.

Fields was born above her grandmother’s fish-and-chip shop in Rochdale, but lost her British citizenship when she married the Italian director Monty Banks in 1940. The British authorities then refused to give her a passport at the end of the war, even though she had entertained the troops as a volunteer. No such problems for Vera Lynn.

A First World War Woman's World bases its cover on on 'Sally in Our Alley'

A First World War Woman’s World with a ‘Sally in Our Alley’ cover

The film, Sally in Our Alley, took its title from an 18th century poem that became a popular song during the First World War. And Woman’s World magazine was part of the spread of that song’s fame – a year before a British silent film of the same name was released.

The 27 February 1915 issue of ‘The favourite paper of a million homes’ carried the music and lyrics and featured a cover devoted to the song. ‘Sally in Our Alley’ by H. Gregory Hill took its first stanza from a poem by Henry Carey (1687–1743).

The poem was set to music on p177:

Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like little Sally,
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

Oh, when I’m dressed in all my best
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she dwells in our alley.

Stills from Gracie Fields' films in the song book

Stills from Gracie Fields’ films in the Woman’s World song book

The week in magazines: in and outs at Vogue

April 16, 2017
Arabic language cover of Vogue. Abdulaziz lost her job as editor on Thursday

Arabic language cover of Vogue Saudi Arabia. Princess Abdulaziz lost her job as editor on Thursday

Well, what a week in magazines. It’s difficult to have missed Edward Enninful as the the new editor at the century-old British Vogue, but did you hear what happened at the title in Saudi Arabia? They lost an editor princess, no less. And back in the UK, Relx has sold its iconic title, New Scientist.

The arrival of Edward Enninful at British Vogue is seen as marking a switch to a more digital focus, with Alexander Schulman having wrung as much from print as there is to find. It is also the start of the change of the old guard, with Albert Read – Enninful’s boss in New York – set to take over from Nicholas Coleridge as MD of Condé Nast UK  on August 1st.

But Read does not inherit the whole of Coleridge’s brief. Wolfgang Blau, digital chief of Condé Nast International, will take over as president of the international side. The fallout from the shenanigans in Saudi Arabia will no doubt still be reverberating then.

Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz was sacked on Thursday as editor of Vogue Arabia after just two issues. Abdulaziz – described last year as ‘a beacon of fashion in the region’ was appointed for the launch in July 2016. At the time, she said:

Don’t forget that we understand luxury almost better than anyone else on earth. Middle Eastern women have been serious couture clients since the late 1960s. We’ve been around long before the Russians and the Chinese ever came into the picture

Abdulaziz put Gigi Hadid, a Palestinian-American model, on her second Vogue cover

Abdulaziz put Gigi Hadid on her Vogue cover

However, putting Palestinian-American model Gigi Hadid wearing a veil on the cover for the first issue in March proved controversial. Cries of ‘cultural appropriation’ and accusations of plagiarism have bounced around social media.

Abdulaziz has since been quoted as saying:

I refused to compromise when I felt the publisher’s approach conflicted with the values which underpin our readers and the role of the editor-in-chief in meeting those values in a truly authentic way

Manuel Arnaut, a Condé Nast veteran and editor of Architectural Digest in the Middle East, has been parachuted in to calm things down. He has worked  as a writer and editor at both Vogue and GQ in Portugal.

So, that’s three editions of Vogue with men at the helm.

Madonna on Vogue covers

Vogue profile


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

 

 


 

Mods live on in magazines

March 7, 2017

 

The article about Mods in this Sunday Times Magazine from 1964 makes it valuable to collectors

The article about Mods in this Sunday Times Magazine from 1964 makes it valuable to collectors

‘We are the Mods! We are the Mods! We are, we are, we are the Mods.’ That was a chant of the fashion-focused, scooter-riding, parka-coated Mods in the 1960s. You hear it in the film Quadrophenia – in between The Who numbers that litter the sound track. The actors are a roll-call of Londoners and Essex boys such as Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone and Phil Davis – though with the ultra stylish ‘Ace Face’ played by Tynesider Sting, just before he found even greater fame with The Police. Birmingham-born Toyah Wilcox also has a part.

The film was shot in London, and in Brighton for the climactic clash with the letter-clad bikers.

However, the film was not made until 1979. To get a contemporary feel for what real Mods looked like, fans of the cult group and the era can turn to magazines that printed colour photographs alongside their articles and covers. One of the most valuable articles about Mods is in the Sunday Times Magazine above from 22 August 1964. One copy has sold on eBay for £110. As well as the cover, over eight pages, the article ‘Changing Faces’ by Kathleen Halton with photographs by Robert Freeman document the cult. The standfirst sets out the Mods’ attitude:

They have been called the ‘anti-hoorays’.
‘You can tell us by the way we walk – flat out,’ said one Mod.
‘Rockers are hunched. We hope to stay smart for ever, not shoddy like our parents.’

Two years later, the Observer Magazine ran The Who on its cover with the long-faced Keith Moon fronting the group in a Union flag jacket.

The Who were pop's front men for the Mod scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover

The Who were pop’s front men for the Mod scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover

The Who were pop’s front men for the Mods scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover. A copy of this issue sold for £40 in December.

And such powerful trends never go away. Later Mods include Janet Street-Porter (‘a sullen mod who lived largely in her head‘), Steve Marriott (‘The term ‘Face’ was a top mod, a face about town, a respected chap!’) and Paul Weller (‘I’m still a mod, I’ll always be a mod, you can bury me a mod’).

 

Gerry Dammers, a founder member of punk band The Specials was a Mod and it is in Mod gear that he fronts the first issue cover of The Face. Paul Weller was on the cover of the second issue. Bryan Ferry is on issue 3 – was he ever a Mod?

This month in magazines: Oz in 1967

February 17, 2017
The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

Oz was an underground magazine launched in London in February 1967 that became a leading part of Britain’s counterculture. Notice the word ‘London’ at the top left of the Oz title above. It’s there because Oz was originally an Australian magazine, founded by Richard Neville, Martin Sharp and Richard Walsh. They were prosecuted in Australia and Neville and Sharp came to London, where they launched another version of the magazine with Jim Anderson.

It was not the only magazine of its type – International Times, Ink and Friends were also influential – but Oz gained mainstream notoriety for the obscenity trial that followed the publication of the Oz School Kids issue (number 28).

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The three editors (Sharp had left and been replaced by Felix Dennis) selected a group of youngsters aged between 14 and 18 to edit issue 28. The magazine’s offices were raided by the Obscene Publications Squad, the issue was seized and the editors were charged with conspiring to ‘debauch and corrupt the morals of young children’ because of some of the cartoons and discussion of sexual freedom and drug use.

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

For Felix Dennis, the Oz trial was the ‘finest hour’ for John Mortimer, their defence lawyer and later author of the Rumpole of the Bailey TV series and books. Although they were found guilty under the Obscene Publications Act, the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Like Private Eye, Oz might have looked crude, but it was an innovative user of the latest production techniques such as lithographic colour printing. It produced some amazing imagery by people such as Peter Brooke – now the leading political cartoonist on The Times – and Sharp’s iconic imagine of Bob Dylan, the Tambourine Man.

Another Australian who worked on Oz, in Sydney and London, was Marsha Rowe, and Germaine Greer wrote for it, too. Greer wrote The Female Eunuch in 1970 (and was gardening correspondent of Private Eye with the byline Rose Blight!) and Rowe was a co-founder of Spare Rib in 1972. She condemned a plan by Charlotte Raven to relaunch Spare Rib in 2014. The archive of Spare Rib can be found through the British Library’s website.

Felix Dennis went on to found Dennis Publishing, which launched Maxim and The Week. Since Dennis’s death, the profits from the company have been put to creating a massive forest. As well as the people behind Oz becoming mainstream, so have many of the ideas it, and the other undergrounds titles, argued for.  Oz is also one of the most collectable magazines.

The last issue of Oz - November 1973

The last issue of Oz

The University of Woollongong holds an online archive of the Australian issues of Oz, which was first published in Sydney on April Fool’s Day 1963 and continued until December 1969.This was set up with Neville’s co-operation after he returned to Australia and became a writer.

Woollongong also has all the London editions of Oz, from February 1967 to November 1973. The last issue cover carries a photo of the Oz staff naked overlaid on a background of disgraced US president Richard Nixon.

 


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

 

 

 


Trump magazine forecasts president’s hairstyle in 1957

January 13, 2017

 

Trump magazine cover from 1959. It was a cross between Mad and Playboy

Trump magazine from 1957. It was a cross between Harvey Kurtzman’s Mad and Hugh Hefner’s Playboy

Nostradamus had nothing on this: magazine advert forecasts president's hairstyle in 1959

Nostradamus had nothing on this: magazine advert forecasts president’s hairstyle in 1957

All this fuss about Donald Trump has done great things for the price of a satirical magazine first published in January 1957 when Donald John was just 10 years old. It was called Trump – and on the back cover is a spoof shampoo advert that forecasts the US president’s hairstyle. It even gets the colour right!

A copy of this first issue of Trump has just sold on eBay for just shy of $200. The listing described the magazine’s history, and, as with so many stories to do with today’s US president elect, there’s porn involved, with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner being the publisher:

Harvey Kurtzman was the creator of Mad magazine which become a huge success. Hugh Hefner (Playboy) approached Kurtzman and told him that if we were to leave Mad he would publish him himself. The result was Trump, a more risqué version of Mad. The magazine was printed on the glossy paper that Playboy was printed on and Kurtzman hired Mad contributor Will Elder and Jack Davis as well as a number of new talent such as Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth. Despite a 50¢ cover price (which was expensive at the time), the magazine was a success on the market but was cancelled after only two issues because of how costly it was to produce. Kurtzman later created similar magazines Humbug and Help but had been quoted at saying that Trump was the closest he ever came to producing the perfect humour magazine.

The condition was described as very fine, with the pages ‘white and crisp’ and the cover being ‘amazingly clean considering how unforgiving white covers from that era could be’.

Breck shampoo advert from 1960

Breck shampoo advert from 1960

But the real value of this magazine to me is that back cover – it’s for ‘Beck’ shampoo. There was a real shampoo called Breck and the spoof advert pulls off its advertising style and typography to a T. But just look at the hair in the spoof advert! Truly, Trump magazine rates with Nostradamus in the way it has forecast the look of the next US president!

What’s a magazine worth? Country Life

January 1, 2017
Country Life magazine front cover of Prince Charles, 12 November 2014

Country Life magazine front cover of Prince Charles, 12 November 2014

Two people have emailed me asking about Country Life. The first writes:

I have a number of editions of Country Life magazine dating from 1976 to 2015; BBC Gardener’s World most of 1992-95; about 20 editions of the Royal Horticultural Society journal Garden from 1994-95 and Gardens Illustrated from 1994 and 1995.  Most are in good condition.

And the second:

My friend has every single issue of Country Life from the mid-1960s to the present date. Are these of interest to you? If not, then any ideas? They are all in perfect condition. Located in Central London

Selling magazines on eBay

Ebay has become a massive place to sell magazines, with 700,000 on sale at the moment. Narrowing things down to Country Life, there are 2,617 copies for sale. But will they sell? In the past six months, 2,082 lots have been listed (some of these will have been listed more than once). Of these, 261 lots have sold – a rate of 13%, or about one in eight.

How much does a copy of Country Life sell for?

In terms of price, the biggest listing sold was a lot of 1,400 copies from 1989 to the present day, which fetched £100 (7p a copy). A lot of 280 issues from the 1970s fetched £75 (27p a copy). A 1927 quarterly bound volume sold for £19.99, plus £10 postage.

Country Life magazine front cover 1963 January 10

Country Life magazine front cover, 1963, January 10

In terms of single issues, the highest price was a best offer accepted against £65 on what appeared to be a copy of the first issue. I say ‘appeared to be’ because I have seen facsimile copies of the first issue – and there was nothing in the listing that would convince me it was a real first issue. This is where the expertise of the seller comes in and any buyer at such a price should ask some searching questions. Next highest price was £25 for eight separate lots.

Of the 246 copies that sold, 98 (about 40%) went for £5-10 (including postage). This would suggest that unless you are selling pre-1980s copies, and are keen to sell, £9.99 including postage should be your top offer price. Only 71 of the 246 listings (about 30%) were auctions, most were buy-it-nows.

Single issue price (inc post) No. sold
less than £3 11
£3-5 79
£5-10 98
£10-15 38
£15-20 9
£20-30 11
246

Is there a pattern in what sells well on eBay?

Yes. Pre-1955 issues achieved the best prices and are the rarest. The eight copies that sold at £25 were all published during the First World War. However, these copies appear to have been bought by the same person – it may have been a collector or it may have been someone buying for a one-off reason, for example a museum preparing for an exhibition. There is no guarantee that someone else selling the same issues would get the same price.

A 1955 three-month bound volume sold for £20 and a 1903 volume for £25 (2 bids). All the single issues that sold for £15-£20 were dated before 1946. They were all on a buy-it-now listing.

What else can the eBay data tell us?

EBay listings can have a lot of data attached to them, though some of it can be incomplete or contradictory. In the case of magazines, the year and month can be added for example, though most people do not do it. So, of the 2,082 sold listings I’m analysing, only 347 gave the year of publication. This, however, leads to an interesting finding, as we’ll see in a moment. First, the overall figures.

Country Life sales based on eBay data for 347 lots
No. listed No. sold Sold (%)
2010s 67 18 27
2000s 7 1 14
1990s 71 8 11
1980s 17 3 18
1970s 35 19 54
1960s 78 26 33
1950s 44 18 41
1940s 28 4 14
1930s 1
1900s 7
347 105 30%
All lots sold 2082 253 12%

The most popular decade in terms of number listed was the 1960s, with a third of these sold. However, the 1970s (54% sold) and 1950s (41% sold) had a better success rate. Note the figures for the 1990s – 71 listed but only an 11% success rate.

The really interesting figure comes when you compare the selling success rate – 30% – for the people who filled in the year data with the 12% success rate for all the 2082 copies sold. It seems that people who fill in the year field are three times as likely to sell their copy of Country Life! Why should this be so? It can’t be just down to a factor such as buyers searching on a year, because most sellers put that in their listing title. It is probably because these are more expert sellers. The fact that they go to the trouble of filling in the extra data points to their doing everything well.

What about the gardening titles?

First, Gardener’s World. Not a great seller simply because there are so many around – it’s been the best-seller almost since its first issue; it is well produced so lasts well; and is a comparatively new title (early 1990s launch). The most a single issue has fetched recently is £3.99 (inclusive). It’s a similar story in terms of price for the RHS’s Garden (£3.50) and Gardens Illustrated (£4.99). However, bundles of these titles do seem to be selling, for example a dozen copies for £20 plus postage (£5.50). This is better for buyers and spreads the postage cost (which can be as much as is being asked for the magazine!).

First issues of Country Life

As either a seller or buyer, be careful of first issues of Country Life – is it the real thing or a modern reproduction? 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. The first issue of Country Life was letterpress, so should show signs of the impression of the type on the pages. Modern copies using offset lithography will be smooth.

Is Country Life worth collecting?

Country Life magazine front cover from 2009, December

Country Life magazine front cover from 2009, December

Yes. It has a long, distinguished history and is of interest to scholars in many areas as well as collectors of many goods besides magazines. The target market has always been the upper classes with grand houses, scholarly tastes and an interest in rural affairs. The advertising is of particular interest to upmarket estate agents. It is a weekly, has always had a strong element of news and so has documented changing tastes in high society. The size of this market is limited and so sales have never been substantial – today it sells about 40,000 copies a week.

Country Life was one of the titles that expanded the fortune of George Newnes, who had founded both Tit-Bits and The Strand, when he teamed up with the printer Edward Hudson in the 1897. Gertrude Jekyll wrote the gardening column. The early issues are also of interest to architectural historians, with some excellent writers, reflecting Hudson’s own passions and love of civilised English life. Hudson was key in establishing the career of Edward Lutyens and commissioned the architect to restore Lindisfarne Castle.

The Newnes publishing company became part of IPC in the 1960s and Country Life was later published by the UK arm of the US publisher Time Inc. The company’s offices at 110 Southwark Street in Borough, London, were a stone’s throw from where Hudson had his family printing business, Hudson and Kearns, at number 83, and in nearby Hatfields. The company dates back to 1831 but was subsumed into Keliher, Hudson and Kearns, though that company no longer exists.

The early editorial offices for Country Life were in Southampton Street, Covent Garden. In the early 2000s, Time Inc UK seemed to be dismantling the company and sold off many titles. It also sold the Southwark Street office and moved some magazines out to reduce costs. Country Life now has an address in a business park in Farnborough, Hants, suggesting a lack of investment in the title. However, even if this penny-pinching strategy leads to a decline in Country Life‘s fortunes, its history and contacts should enable it to attract a better owner – and its history can never be taken away. If I were the editor, I’d be trying to do a management buy-out.

To sum up

Country Life is a magazine worth selling on eBay. Pre-1990 issues can fetch a good price (£15 and upwards), but more recent copies are likely to sell for £5-10. I haven’t noticed any particular issue selling well. There are some copies of a 2014 Prince Charles issue being offered for £30+, but I think these sellers are going to have to wait a long time.

Gardening titles are not worth spending time on and are probably better off being sold in bundles – check the weight and offer as many as you can while staying in the cheapest postal band.

The finding that people who fill out date fields for a listing are three times as likely to sell their magazine suggests that building up eBay expertise pays off.

>>Hints & tips for buying and selling magazines on eBay


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