Life magazine was a photo-driven current events magazine that chronicled the world through a weekly tabloid-size magazine published between 1936 and 1972, and then again as a monthly from 1978 until 2000. The value of vintage copies of Life magazine depends primarily on the content and the photographs, as well as the condition. And 1960 was a pivotal year for news, highlighted by the Cold War, the escalation of tensions in Vietnam and, most significantly, the presidential primaries and election battle between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.
Use eBay as Your Guide
For a real-time guide to the value of old Life magazines from 1960, visit antique malls, which typically have a vendor or two that specializes in old magazines. An even better arbiter of the current "street" value of Life magazines from the 1960s, however, is the online auction site eBay, which at any given time has hundreds to thousands of Life magazines up for bid.
The High End
Certain copies of 1960 Life magazines are worth more, including those having to do with that year's presidential race. They typically fetch upwards of $15 on eBay. The issue of Dec. 19, 1960, with a cover showing President-elect Kennedy, his wife and baby boy at John Jr.'s christening, sells for a little more. Also in that price range are issues featuring Bill Graham (March 21) and Marlon Brando (April 4). The Sept. 5, 1960 issue, with a cover photograph of Ernest Hemingway and Part 1 of his novel "The Dangerous Summer," is also prized by collectors and has sometimes sold in the $40 range.
The Low End
On the other end of the scale are Life magazines with cover stories about less dramatic topics, or celebrities du jour whose fame has not withstood the test of time. 1960 Life magazines with cover stories on hypnosis (March 7), California trampoliners (May 2) and kids feeding giraffes (August 1) can often be had for a few dollars.
Dedicated Online Sellers
Several websites sell vintage copies of Life magazine, but the prices are not reflective of what you would get if you were trying to sell them yourself to dealers. One of the best sites is Original Life Magazines (see References below), which sells copies of virtually every issue from every year the publication was in print.
If You're Trying to Sell....
There is a wide fluctuation in prices for Life magazines from 1960, even for sale. If you're the one trying to sell your old copies, your best bet is to go on eBay, track completed listings of the same issue and set your price accordingly. You can also go to an antique dealer, but chances are you won't get anywhere near top dollar, particularly for issues selling for less than $5 on eBay.
Thomas K. Arnold is publisher and editorial director of "Home Media Magazine" and a regular contributor to "Variety." He is a former editorial writer for U-T San Diego. He also has written for "San Diego Magazine," "USA Today" and the Copley News Service. Arnold attended San Diego State University.