Are Old Newspapers Worth Anything? Collectors Pay Thousands for the Right Editions

If you‘re like most people, you probably don‘t give much thought to yesterday‘s newspaper after you‘ve read it. But believe it or not, some old newspapers can be worth a lot of money to collectors. In the era before 24-hour news networks and the Internet, newspapers were the primary way people learned about important events happening around the world.

While most old papers end up in the recycling bin, certain rare editions from key dates in history can fetch thousands of dollars on the collector‘s market. Does that stack of yellowed newspapers in your attic contain any hidden treasures? Here‘s how to find out.

4 Factors That Determine an Old Newspaper‘s Value

While most old newspapers aren‘t worth a lot, certain rare editions can command high prices from collectors. Several key factors determine an old newspaper‘s value:

1. Historical Significance of Events Reported

Perhaps the most important factor is the historical significance of the events reported in the newspaper. Editions that cover major world events are the most sought-after by collectors.

Some examples of highly significant events that can make an old newspaper very valuable:

  • Assassinations of major leaders like Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy
  • Major battles, the start or end of wars
  • Disasters like the sinking of the Titanic
  • Achievements like Charles Lindbergh‘s transatlantic flight or the moon landing
  • Important sporting events like Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics

In general, the more significant the event, the more valuable the newspaper reporting it will be. Papers from the city where an event took place tend to be especially prized.

2. Rarity and Supply

The value of an old newspaper also depends a lot on how many original copies still exist. Some very old papers from the 1700s and 1800s are extremely rare, with only a handful of verified copies still around. Certain 20th century papers are also rare because they were printed in limited quantities.

Factors that increase an old newspaper‘s rarity and value:

  • Very old editions from the 1700s or 1800s
  • Special editions with limited print runs
  • Small town papers with a limited circulation
  • Papers that were not saved in large quantities

In general, the fewer copies of a given edition still exist, the more valuable they will be.

3. Completeness and Condition

The condition of an old newspaper has a big impact on its value as a collectible. Is it complete with all pages intact or are pages missing? How much wear, fading, and damage does the paper have? Is it still supple or has it become dried and brittle?

Most collectors prefer newspapers that are:

  • Complete with no missing pages
  • Free of tears, holes, stains and excessive wear
  • Still white instead of yellowed
  • Not brittle and crumbling
  • Able to be safely handled

Of course, many old newspapers will have some degree of wear, yellowing and damage after many decades. But in general, old papers in better condition will command higher prices than those with a lot of damage and wear. The closer a paper is to "like new" condition, the more it will be worth.

4. Display and Headlines

How an important story is presented in the newspaper also affects value. Collectors prefer papers with dramatic, memorable headlines and large photos or illustrations. The bigger and bolder the front page, the better.

Some of the most dramatic headlines in newspaper history include:

  • "PEACE! VICTORY!" after WWII
  • "ASSASSIN KILLS KENNEDY" after JFK‘s death
  • "MEN WALK ON MOON" for the Apollo 11 mission
  • "NIXON RESIGNS" after the Watergate scandal

Stories that are buried inside the newspaper with small headlines are less desirable than those that dominated a front page with huge type.

The same event reported in two different papers can have very different values based on how dramatically the story was presented. In general, collectors want papers that capture the excitement and importance of historic moments.

Examples of the Most Valuable Old Newspapers

So what are some of the most valuable old newspapers in the world? Here are a few examples of editions that have sold for astronomical prices due to their rarity and historical importance:

  • A 1787 edition of the Pennsylvania Evening Herald announcing the ratification of the U.S. Constitution sold for $722,500 in 2009. It‘s considered the oldest newspaper announcement of this key event.

  • Honolulu Star-Bulletin first editions from December 7, 1941 reporting the Pearl Harbor attack have sold for over $3,000. They feature the huge "WAR!" headline.

  • A Dallas Morning News from November 22, 1963 reporting the JFK assassination sold for $39,000. Prices vary widely based on condition and some have sold for a few hundred dollars.

  • A St. Louis Post-Dispatch special edition from August 20, 1920 announcing the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote sold for $2,400 in 2020.

  • An April 15, 1865 edition of the New York Herald reporting Abraham Lincoln‘s assassination is valued at around $250,000 if in good condition. Only a handful still exist.

  • July 21, 1969 newspapers covering the Apollo 11 moon landing can sell for hundreds to over $2,500 based on condition and dramatic headline size.

As you can see, newspapers from highly significant dates in history can be worth a small fortune if they are rare and in good condition. Even more modern papers covering events like 9/11 or the election of Barack Obama may be very valuable to future generations.

Preserving and Protecting Valuable Old Newspapers

If you have a potentially valuable old newspaper, preserving it properly is key to maintaining its condition and value. Old papers are delicate and very susceptible to damage from light, air, humidity, acids, and oils on our skin.

Here are some preservation tips for old newspapers:

  • Keep papers out of direct sunlight which can quickly fade and deteriorate them
  • Store papers flat in acid-free archival boxes or folders, never folded
  • Keep papers in a cool, dry place with low humidity and good ventilation
  • Avoid storing in attics, garages or basements prone to dampness, heat and pests
  • Use clean white cotton gloves to handle old papers and minimize skin contact
  • Avoid paperclips, rubber bands, tape, and lamination which can all damage paper
  • For especially valuable papers, consider having them professionally restored and preserved

Proper care and storage can ensure an old newspaper survives in good condition for many more decades or even centuries.

How to Determine the Value of an Old Newspaper

If you have an old newspaper you think might be valuable, how can you find out what it‘s really worth? Here are some steps to take:

  1. Research the key factors affecting value to gauge importance
  2. Check price guides and recent auction records for similar papers
  3. Reach out to newspaper collectors and dealers for opinions
  4. Consider getting a professional appraisal for very rare or unusual papers

Authentication can also prove that a very rare old newspaper is genuine and greatly increase its value. Forgeries of some famous papers like the Honolulu Star-Bulletin Pearl Harbor edition are common, so authentication by an expert is important.

Where to Sell a Valuable Old Newspaper

If you do have a rare old newspaper you want to sell, where should you start? Some options include:

  • eBay and other online auction and classified sites
  • Dealer websites that buy old papers
  • Live auctions that feature rare books and ephemera
  • Directly to interested collectors found online
  • Consignment with reputable dealers

Before selling, research prices for similar papers carefully. Set a reserve price you are comfortable with. Consider having very valuable papers professionally graded and authenticated. Take high quality photos showing condition. Always use secure payment and shipping methods to avoid scams.

Conclusion

While most old newspapers aren‘t worth a lot, certain rare editions covering key historical events can be worth thousands to collectors. An old newspaper‘s value depends on several factors including its historical significance, completeness, condition, and the dramatic nature of its headlines.

Some of the most valuable old newspapers include rare 18th and 19th century editions, papers covering the JFK assassination, Pearl Harbor attack, and iconic events like the moon landing or Lincoln‘s assassination.

If you think you might have a rare and valuable old newspaper, research it carefully, get expert opinions, and consider having it appraised and authenticated. And above all, treasure your old newspapers as important artifacts preserving our shared history and experiences.

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