Magazines are collected by people all over the world, but most of them do not command high prices - on Ebay, 86% of magazines fetch less than £10. So when someone asks me what a copy of Gardeners' World is worth, I'm afraid the answer is likely to be 'not much'. They were sold in their hundreds of thousands and have little 'cult' status. They were also heavy, so postage is expensive. The first issue might sell for up to £5, but the rest? Unless you have a lot of time and patience for selling on eBay, try the charity shop - or offer to donate them to Magforum. If you have had problems as a buyer or seller, take a look at my blog on such issues.
Also, WATCH OUT for my book on British Magazine Design out now!
However, there are magazines in lofts around the country that can fetch hundreds of pounds. In December 2007, Bloomsbury Books held an auction in London of underground magazines, including a complete run of Oz, which made £3,600 and an almost complete run of International Times, for £3,000. So if you've got those in a suitcase under the bed, it may be worth talking to an auction house. And there is always a demand for vintage fashion magazines, such as Tatler and Vogue, which are still published, and Town and Nova, which are not; pre-1970 Radio Times also sell well.
Celebrity fans can drive up the price of any title:
- in 2015, someone paid £147 for a 1965 copy of TV World with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel of The Avengers on the cover.
- Two years earlier, a 1954 copy of Blighty with a Diana Dors cover fetched £25.69;
- a 1926 Christmas Radio Times fetched £74 whereas the first Radio Times Dr Who cover pulled in 33 bids to reach £509.99;
- £31 was paid in 2009 for a copy of Tit-Bits with Raquel Welch, Honor Blackman and Robert Powell from 1979 – it originally cost 12p. Copies of Tit-Bits usually fetch £1-£10.
- Marilyn Monroe covers from the 1950s can fetch thousands - a rare copy of True Story from October 1952 fetched £1,000 in 2017.
- The priciest combination is Sherlock Holmes in the Strand Magazine - an 1891 copy fetched £540; it's the unbound copies that achieve the best prices.
And certainly there are far more magazines being sold on eBay - the number doubled in three years from 2010. By 2015, there were 600,000 magazines for sale at any time in the UK alone on ebay.co.uk.
This page analyses eBay sales and discusses collecting magazines:
- A feel for the magazine market
- Magazine prices on Ebay
- What sells a magazine?
- How do people collect magazines?
- Places to buy and sell magazines
- Describing the condition of magazines
- Looking after and storing magazines
- Selling on Ebay
- Useful eBay searches
- Quoting Magforum in your Ebay ads
One way to get a feel for the magazine market is through Ebay.co.uk - and it demonstrates big growth in magazine sales online. A search in May 2013 showed 203,585 live listings - in December 2010 it was 98,095 using the words 'magazine -book' in the section Books, Comics & Magazines. Analysis of the 2007 data suggests the price breakdown in Table 1. So, 86% of all the magazines would fetch less than £10, and 99.66% less than £65.
On the first two pages of 100 lots, prices ranged from £839.99 to £65, but half of these did not sell, including the two most expensive items (nine volumes of 1861-63 Temple Bar magazine and a set of Buses 1971-2005 for £650). Someone tried selling a copy of Nova from 1967 for £150. A set of Q to issue 117 didn't sell at £199.
Among those that did sell, were:
By the end of page 30, prices were down to £30 (again, typically, half the lots were unsold). By page 83, the price was under £10, but only about a quarter of the lots sold; there was page after page of bulk-selling, pay-it-now items at £15 and £10 not selling.
The same period saw more than 130 pages listing titles for £1 or less - most of which did not sell.
The Ebay list gives excellent clues to what sells. Attractive elements include:
A sale can be down to luck. For example, there were 70 listings of Oz in the period covered. The cheapest was £1.95 (issue 40 in good condition with a 'loose' cover). Also, Ebay is not a perfect market. A copy of issue 26 didn't sell; another sold a week later for £4.20. Both in 'reasonable' condition. Two copies of Oz 7 sold - for £169 and £156.
The highest paid for Lost issues 1-9 was £124.99
plus £9.99 postage, but four other sets
went for £51-£90. A first issue sold for £19.99
and other copies for £1.60 to £19.99.
There are as many reasons for people to collect magazines as there are magazines. However, there are some common factors that attract collectors:
Some people like to collect a complete run of a magazine, which can be an easy way to start! For example:
Then people might buy a one-off title, for example to commemorate a birthday or rekindle a teen/childhood event - or seek inspiration for a 70s theme party.
One Ebay seller was auctioning a complete set of pop monthly
Rave (February 1964 to September 1971): 'This
collection was purchased monthly for my wife and lovingly stored,
for her to look back on her teenage years.' He added: 'Individual
copies can sell anywhere
so the price I am asking is an average cost per issue of £9.50
(copies that have sold recently, are averaging out
at £18 per copy).'
Please mention Magforum if contact any of these sites - it helps when I'm after a favour such as a cover scan. See the blog item on ideas for selling magazines collections. Websites include:
A seller who is not familiar with 'official' collectors' terms such as 'mint' and 'fair' should stick to everyday language. Be careful to state, for example, whether:
A good, square-on picture really does help. Don't use sttock pictures or someone else's image - that is not what you are selling. Soccerbilia publishes a magazine grading guide.
Be sure to get your facts right. If you can't prove a statement yourself, give a source for the quote so people can check it out for themselves. Magforum is regularly quoted on the history or background of a magazine on eBay, which is fine as long as you credit the source.
Looking after and storing magazines
There are many factors to consider when storing magazines:
It's astounding what people think they can sell a magazine for. One Ebay seller put up a first issue of Cosmopolitan that had an undisclosed reserve on it (bad idea) that turned out to be something ridiculous like £100. I asked about this and they said they'd spoken to someone 'high up' at NatMags who said they were very rare and the office copy was kept in a glass display case(!). Do I detect the pitter-patter of someone being led off up the garden path?
This demonstrates the first rule - do an advanced search on Ebay for sold copies. If the would-be seller above had done hers, she would have seen a copy of that issue sell the month before for £8.50. Even a copy in mint condition would be unlikely to go for 12 times that.
Of course, people have different strategies. If you have a collection of Honey magazines and you put them all up at £125, perhaps some of them will sell. But most will not. And none of them will go very quickly. But it's your choice. So my advice:
Finally, consider doing a summary of the content - an article
by a famous writer, images by a popular photographer or a
profile of a star can expand your customer base.
Here are two useful eBay searches, just click on one and it'll take you to eBay and do the search for you in a new browser window:
The trick is to narrow down the numbers - from 404,000 live listings in this case - to focus on what you want. If the magazine has a unique name, it's easy:
It's tricky if your title is part of other titles. Take Today, a general interest weekly from the 1960s, for example:
There are 2,500+ results for this because of all the titles with 'Today' as part of their name: Yachting Today, Today's Golfer, History Today, etc. So, remove those words using a minus sign:
No doubt you can see ways to improve the search based on the results that you don't want. Be careful though, because you will also remove results for your target magazine that use that word in the description.
There is a Categories menu on the left column in eBay that can narrow down a search. However, I find this unreliable. On the day I wrote this, the News & Current Affairs category had 5 results - and no copies of Today were there, but there was a book about bears!
Once you're happy with it, save the search so you can repeat it later.
It's worth bearing in mind that sellers listing magazines can get things wrong - or perhaps list an issue in, say 'Collectables' rather than as a magazine. Again, Empire might be found in 'Films & TV'. So, step out of your focused search occasionally to see what might be coming up elsewhere. Also, watch out for alternative spellings and errors: Car Week or CarWeek, Today's Golf or Today's Golfer or Todays Golfer.
I'm very happy for eBay sellers to quote from Magforum pages - but you should acknowledge this by giving the Magforum page address and ideally adding a link to the page. All the material on Magforum is copyright - the site has taken the best part of a decade to build up and it's a one-man band, so you can imagine how how much time and effort has gone into it. Income from advertising pays for the site's fees, research costs and buying magazines.
A link to Magforum will benefit your eBay marketing because:
Note that you can often jump straight to the magazine in question. For example, if you are selling a copy of Queen:
One final thing though, don't copy the images because they are not of your actual copy of the magazine and will usually have been cleaned up to show the cover in better detail. Good luck!