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Unloved Antiques: Mid-20th Century Newspapers Covering ‘Historic’ Events

by Mike Wilcox (10/03/12).

An “extra” edition of the Elkhart Truth, Indiana, from Aug. 14, 1945, declaring the WAR IS OVER. It sold for $11.50

This next item in this series of Unloved Antiques is something that many people have squirreled away: Mid-20th-century historic newspapers. Historic in the sense that they chronicled important times and events in our lives in real time, as they happened; events like the end of the Second World War on Aug. 14, 1945; Astronaut John Glenn’s triple orbiting the earth Feb. 20, 1962 in the Mercury Spacecraft “Friendship 7”; and the assassination of President John Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

Most of these events were covered by virtually every newspaper in the country and many magazines put out special issues covering these same events. At the time of publication—it being before 24 hour news coverage and the Internet—it was not uncommon for people to buy extra issues, one to read now and others put away as almost a sort of souvenir of the event.

I, myself, have a whole suitcase of these newspapers that my mother put away for me as a sort of time capsule, stashed forgotten in a closet since about 1970. When I came upon this stash of history, while clearing her home out after she had to go into extended care, looking at all the newspapers it took me all the way back to my childhood and I thought, “Surely these must be collectible by now. Some of these are more than 50 years old.”

I pulled out examples I thought would be the most collectible and did some research. While I must admit, being in the business that I am, antiques and appraisals, it wasn’t much of a shock to find none of them were really worth much monetarily, but it still was surprising just how little they actually were worth.

The Feb. 20, 1962, edition of The Yakima Daily Republic featuring John Glenn’s triple orbit of the earth in the Friendship 7 capsule for NASA’s Mercury Project. It also sold for a relatively modest $11.

Some of my mother’s treasure trove were copies of papers with headlines telling of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, Alan Shepard’s first flight into space, John Glenn’s orbits around the earth, the assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy and the first lunar landing. The first I checked was of course the oldest, a copy of the New York Times newspaper on the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, June 2, 1953. It turns out a copy of the same paper sold just a short time ago on eBay for $6.46, so no lottery win there.

The second one covering, Alan Shepard’s historic flight into space on May 5, 1961, wasn’t much better, as a copy of the Washington Post sold for $19.99, but many lesser-known papers covering the same event have sold for less than $10. The same could be said for papers covering John Glenn’s flight as well.

I thought that maybe there might be a bump for the papers covering the assassination of President Kennedy and I was right: copies of my New York World Telegram for Nov. 22, 1963, were selling for more than $30.

Here are three editions of the New York Times from July, 1969. The edition from July 17th paper is a supplement previewing the launch while the other two are editions of the daily papers from July 21 and 25. The three together sold on eBay for $75.

My copy of the New York Times covering the first lunar landing on July 20, 1969, turned out to be the “Great Find,” as another copy recently sold for a whopping $51.

I’m sure some thought when packing away papers like these that “Someday, these will be worth a lot.” But in most cases, even 60 years of “somedays,” later, not so much.

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Previous “Unloved Antiques” articles:

Unloved Antiques: ‘Limited Edition’ Collectors Plates
Unloved Antiques: Singer Sewing Machines
Unloved Antiques: Decorator Prints
Unloved Antiques: Commemorative Whiskey Decanters
Unloved Antiques: ‘Bronze’ Flatware
Unloved Antiques: 1847 Rogers Brothers Flatware
Unloved Antiques: Hummel Knockoffs
Unloved Antiques: National Geographic Magazines
Unloved Antiques: Dragonware
Unloved Antiques: 19th Century Religious Prints
Unloved Antiques: Depression Glass
Unloved Antiques: Stradivarius-Style Violins
Unloved Antiques: 19th-Century Pump Organs
Unloved Antiques: ‘Starving Artist’ Painting
Unloved Antiques: The American Old Family Bible
Unloved Antiques: That Stack of Old Books
Unloved Antiques: 20th Century Wedgwood Jasperware
Unloved Antiques: Bone China Tea Cup & Saucer Collection
Unloved Antiques: Brass & Copper Fire Extinguishers
Unloved Antiques: Unloved Antiques: 19th-Century Bisque Figurines

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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3 Responses to “Unloved Antiques: Mid-20th Century Newspapers Covering ‘Historic’ Events”

  1. Liz Holderman Liz Holderman says:

    Great article, Mike. As a books and documents appraiser, I see many old newspapers. I also see many fallen faces when people who have carefully saved these treasures for decades learn their true value. Historic event papers from the last 50 years that were saved by everyone aren’t rare. And, more importantly, few people want to buy them.

    • Mike Wilcox says:

      Thanks Liz for your compliments. One of the reasons I began this series was because of the number of times I ran into people who were convinced they had a found a gold mine in Grandma’s attic. Mind you it is a wonderful thing when indeed the item truly is a great find.

  2. Wow nice one. I found a newspaper at my grand mothers house that was from 1912 in germany. We managed to sell it for a couple thousand $ :)

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