The World’s Most Valuable Magazines
The right vintage magazine can be worth big money. The All-Story, Playboy, New York City Television Guide, Weird Tales, Tabula, Camera Work, Look, Sports Illustrated and Doc Savage are some of the more valuable titles.
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Would you pay $20,000 for an old magazine? Some collectors will, so search those attics, basements, garage sales, auctions, secondhand stores and flea markets for the world’s most valuable magazines!
Valuable Magazine Titles – The 20th Century to the Present Day
The vast array of magazines published from the 20th century to the present day is truly staggering. This article features some of the more collectible and valuable titles from that era – the ones that can put more than a few dollars into the pockets of those who are “in the know.”
The All-Story, October 1912
This rare magazine features the first story appearance of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, who also appears on the cover. That’s big mojo among Burroughs’ dedicated fans and collectors, some of whom will pay $20,000 for an example in very good condition.
Playboy #1, December 1953
Publisher Hugh Hefner launched his famous men’s magazine in 1953 with none other than film goddess Marilyn Monroe gracing the cover. Originally priced at $.50, Playboy enjoyed an initial publishing run of 53,991 copies. Find one of those copies in fabulous near mint/mint condition and it could be worth $5,000.
Weird Tales #1, March 1923
Journalist J.C. Henneberger founded Weird Tales in Chicago in 1923. Perhaps the most famous of the horror/fantasy pulp magazines of the 20th century, Weird Tales is always a collector favorite. The premiere issue is valued at over $8,000 in excellent condition.
Tabula, February 1916
Tabula was the name of both the literary magazine and school yearbook at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, Illinois. Vol. XXII, February 1916 of the Tabula magazine features student Ernest Hemingway’s first published story, “The Judgment of Manitou,” a grim, violent tale of two trappers struggling to survive in the wilderness. This extremely rare title has been known to sell for as much as $8,000.
Camera Work #1, January 1903
Renowned American photographer Alfred Stieglitz introduced this handsome trade magazine in 1903. A total of 50 issues were published until the magazine closed its doors in 1917. Although all editions of Camera Work are extremely collectible, photography buffs love the premiere issue, which can fetch over $5,000 at auction.
New York City TeleVision Guide #1, June 14, 1948
Founded by Lee Wagner, TeleVision Guide (the title was later shortened to simply TV Guide in 1950) served the New York City area from 1948 to 1953. The first issue, priced at ten cents and featuring Gloria Swanson and Lois Wilson on the cover, is extremely rare, as very few copies survived. Find this 32-page gem and it could be worth over $3,000 to the right collector.
TV Guide #1, April 3, 1953
This issue marks the debut of Walter Annenberg’s national TV Guide, with Lucille Ball’s “$50,000,000 Baby” Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV (Desi Arnaz Jr.) prominently adorning the cover. Triangle Publications published 1,560,000 copies of TV Guide #1 and distributed it to ten metropolitan areas only. Originally priced at 15 cents, TV Guide’s debut issue is worth much more today, with near mint copies selling for around $2,000.
Look #1, January 1937
Gardner “Mike” Cowles Jr. founded venerable Look magazine in 1937. The true first issue is actually a “dummy” copy that was used internally at Look’s headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. Only a few copies have surfaced, with value estimated at $5,000. The February 1937 issue with Hermann Goering on the cover constitutes the first distributed issue of Look and is valued at around $60.
Doc Savage #1, March 1933
Another of the great adventure pulps, Street and Smith Publications’ Doc Savage Magazine ran from 1933 to 1949, producing 181 issues. The first issue is the most valuable, often selling for $4,000 or more in excellent condition.
Sports Illustrated, August 16, 1954
Hall of Fame slugger Eddie Mathews graces the cover of SI’s debut issue. Not particularly rare (but always in demand), near mint copies with the baseball card insert intact can sell for as much as $300. Several extremely rare “dummy” copies were also produced for internal use at Time-Life, SI’s publisher, including one picturing fans at a football stadium. This experimental edition brought $380.25 at a collect.com auction.
Make Money from Other Valuable and Collectible Magazines
Look for these coveted magazines as well, with their estimated values for issues in top condition duly noted:
- Life #1, November 23, 1936 $180
- TV Guide, September 25, 1953, George Reeves as Superman cover $1,000
- Island Magazine, October 1983, Madonna cover $1,000
- Time, October 27, 1975, Bruce Springsteen cover $350
- The Shadow #1, April 1931, $5,000
- Famous Monsters of Filmland #1, February 1958 $7,000
- Mechanix Illustrated, May 1954, The Creature from the Black Lagoon cover $200
- New York City TV Guide, January 23, 1953, Marilyn Monroe cover $750
- Saucy Romantic Adventures #1, May 1936 $4,500
- Time #1, March 3, 1923 $175