Many people have old magazines stored in a forgotten corner of the attic, garage or basement that are worth a tidy sum to the right buyer. Those in the know can turn turn that information into 800% to 2,000% profits. A stack of back issues of Life magazine, for example, can often be purchased at an estate sale or garage sale for fifty cents or a dollar each, and sold on eBay for ten to twenty dollars each. Even common magazines that are not collectible have value if the articles in that issue have appeal. If a magazine has how-to information about a hobby or solving a common problem, there are buyers that willingly pay for that information.
Other buyers are seeking magazine issues about a famous person – a celebrity, sports star or VIP. It could be anyone from movie star Natalie Wood to serial killer Ted Bundy. Serious buyers will often pay more for a collection of magazine clippings about a celebrity than for a magazine issue about them. For example, it’s not uncommon to see clipping collections about movie and music start, Madonna and David Bowie, for example, bring hundreds of dollars on eBay.
Here are five ways you can make money with old magazines.
1. Look for magazines with a celebrity on the cover. Famous people such as sports stars, movie start, well known artists and musicians even politicians and criminals are “hot” and collectors are scouting eBay for more material about their favorites. Surprisingly, lesser-known celebrities have minor “star power” and a fan base that is actively buying memorabilia online. It’s easy to find out if a celebrity is popular, just do an eBay search to see how many magazine issues and clippings are listed and how quickly they sell out. You’ll notice that successful sellers have detailed descriptions of each magazine issue, including articles and additional photos of the celebrity on the cover.
2. Older issues of a magazine bring higher prices than newer issues, so always be on the lookout for the early issues. First issues bring the highest price, followed by issues from the first year. It’s all about scarcity, as most magazines have a small circulation in the first year. Specialized magazines about a specific niche, like collectibles or hobbies such as pottery, woodworking or RC cars that are out of print are easier to sell online for above-average prices. Magazines with inserts, such as baseball trading cards (Sports Illustrated) or patterns (McCalls) bring premium prices as well.
3. Old magazine ads are collectible, so look for older magazines with ads for cars, beer, food products (Planter’s peanuts is a good example), tractor ads like John Deere, and a host of others. One full time dealer specializes in old full-page ads from early homemaking magazines like Good Housekeeping and McCalls. Framed or mounted, a full page ad can bring up to $60, or can be sold unmounted for $10-$20. Check eBay to see what’s selling now.
4. There are thousands of cover collectors who purchase only magazine covers done by well-known artists, illustrators or photographers. Norman Rockwell covers are the best known, and can bring over $100, but covers by lesser known illustrators are sought after as well. The illustrations of Jessie Willcox Smith, for example, who specialized in illustrations of children, bring high prices as well. The work of Alberto Vargas, known for his Playboy pinup girls, has a broad collector base.
5. Hard-to-find articles about hobbies sell well on eBay, if the information is not widely available. For instance, comprehensive how-to articles about building a henhouse or a wood rowing skiff can bring $10-$20. If you’re selling an article about a specific topic, like making fused glass, be sure to list it on eBay under “crafts”, as anyone searching eBay is more likely to search by topic than by magazine name.
There are hundreds of folks making a good part-time income selling old magazines online. Local garage and estate sales can produce a steady supply of inventory if you know what to look for. To learn more about buying and selling old magazines, read Old Magazines Into Gold.