Some Collectors are Paying Serious Bucks for Back Issues of Print Magazines

An eBay listing for “Vogue”‘s July 1998 issue, featuring Claire Danes. Photo: Screenshot

Before you recycle those old stacks of fashion mags in your mom’s attic, you might want to check eBay. According to Tyler McCall in Fashionista, they could be worth some real bucks.

And they don’t have to be ancient – although if you do find a 125-year-old copy of Vogue you probably won’t need to worry about your 401(k) anymore. As McCall explains, titles from the ‘80s and ‘90s are fetching some pretty prices.

“Over the course of a few days, I put offers in on nine issues of Vogues from the ’90s and early aughts, paying anywhere from $2.50 (Sarah Jessica Parker, August 2003) to $20 (my Holy Grail: Gwyneth Paltrow, September 1999) for each issue, with most hovering around $15,” she explains. “When you consider that many of these issues retailed on newsstands for $3, that’s quite the return on investment.”

In her research, she ran across stockbroker-turned-magazine dealer Matt Oran who specializes in “paper collectibles,” a business he launched with his dad after he purchased 30,000 older copies of Life magazine.

“I went on eBay, and see just a random Life magazine that we’re selling for a dollar — or 50 cents even — and it’s going for 20, 30 bucks,” Oran says. “I had no idea about this before he got me into it; like every other person, I had magazine subscriptions, but never thought that this could be a business until I realized we have 30,000 of something that might be worth 20, 30 dollars each. And based on what he paid for it, it’s actually a tremendous markup,” Oran explains.

There is a surprisingly rich trade going on in back issues, especially if the cover is someone famous or the issue represents a specific moment in history.  Anna Wintour’s first issue of Vogue, he notes, can go for “eye-watering figures.”

This is just more evidence that print remains a part of the cultural landscape, and will for a very long time to come. It’s tangible, it’s real, and it will never need a software update. We’ll still be hearing that thud in the years to come.

Try doing that with a digital replica. As for you, Mr. Oran, just keep believing and spreading the love.