How to Determine the Value of Old Magazines

By Miriam Kresh
An old magazine may be valuable if the content and condition is favorable.

Imagine finding a “McCall's” magazine from 1904. It's in good shape and the cover illustration, a girl skiing, is enchanting. Presumably this antique magazine would command a good price on eBay - but it's worth only $9.99. On the other hand, the April 1961 edition of “Life” magazine with Elizabeth Taylor on the cover sells for $33. Factors like content and condition make all the difference. It's worth doing some research to determine your magazine's value. There is a useful essay on selling vintage magazines on the BookThink site. Forums like those on AuctionBytes Ecommerce Discussion Boards provide opportunities for discussion on your subject.

Determine the magazine's condition. Potential buyers ideally seek clean, crisp copies with no missing pages. Magazines that smell musty, have missing sections or crumbling pages won't sell. Guidelines for determining an old magazine's condition are found in books such as “Antique Trader Vintage Magazines Price Guide” by Richard Russel.

Determine if the content is in demand. The vintage patterns and fashions featured in that 1904 “McCall's” magazine are far less compelling to today's collectors than a “Life” magazine from 1940 that features an article on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's third election to office, which currently sells for around $35 on Old Life Magazines.com. Look for editions similar to your magazine on eBay and other online sellers such as Tilleys Vintage Magazines.The Kaastor Magz database for magazine collectors also allows registered members to buy and sell magazines.The prices listed on these sites will give you a standard of comparison but magazine prices, and prices of collectibles in general, are always changing.

Locate your target market of potential buyers. Magazines focusing on niche issues or hobbies will probably be of interest to groups intrigued by those same subjects. For example, old copies of the official magazine of the Boy Scouts, “Boys' Life” magazine, may be very interesting to individuals working at the Boy Scouts' home office or to other groups involved with the Boy Scouts.

Study the prices of magazines that feature early mentions of individuals who became famous later. Also determine if your magazine is a first edition, which will increase its value. The first issue of “Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts” has sold for $49.99 on eBay, which is about five times the value of the 1904 edition of “McCall's” described previously.

Things Needed

  • Old magazines
  • “Antique Trader Vintage Magazines Price Guide”
  • Additional online and written resources

Tip

Interview collectors, booksellers, and sellers of ephemera in person, by phone, or via email. The more you know, the better you'll be able to gauge your magazine's value.

Vintage magazines featuring celebrities, like Humphrey Bogart, and historical events, such as the first landing on the moon, have potential increased sales value. Another potential draw for a collector is a magazine with an original story that was written by a famous author or one who became famous later.

About the Author

Miriam Kresh, an American living in Israel, has been writing articles on food, health, Jewish and human-interest themes and ecological issues since 2000. She writes for an ecological magazine, Greenprophet.com, "Hamodia," a Jewish newspaper and her blog, Israeli Kitchen. Kresh completed studies in herbal medicine and Jewish studies in Jerusalem.