Well-Aged Collectibles

I don’t want to seem ungrateful, pumpkin spice calzone. But I’ll take my chances.

The whole collection has not been unboxed yet, but a generous soul has just given me half a box of newspapers dealing with the Oliver North investigations, and two boxes of newspapers dealing with the election and inauguration of Barack Obama. I have been promised that there is at least one box of magazines dealing with September 11.

“These are real collectibles,” she told me.

I cannot argue with that. They ARE real collectibles. They are also NOT really valuable.

I’ve mentioned this before, cranberry latte: they ARE collectible, and I wish YOU’D collect them. I’d rather wait, oh, sixty or seventy years. 125 years might be better.

See, it was a phase the nation went through in the 60s and 70s. We all discovered that old newspapers and comic books and baseball cards and political buttons were helpful in bringing back a bygone era. A candy wrapper from 1935 can tell you things you may not have realized about the past. (For one thing, there was once a time when the government didn’t warn us about the calories and fat content of food. (This is why we call them the Good Old Days.)

And people starting collecting stuff. I’m in favor of this, I see no harm in it, and I sneer at those of you who are muttering “Hoarder”. All I object to is that assumption that these things are of huge and remarkable value.

“The library should probably keep this: it’s historic” said one of my constant advice-givers, on seeing the New Yorker issue with the solid black cover for September 11.

Yes, it is historic, and roughly 120,000 households in this country kept a copy for that very same reason. Allowing for coffee spills and overflowing dishwashers, I would guess there are probably 119,987 pristine mint copies sitting out there waiting to be donated to a Book Fair.

Where is that newspaper with the account of the assassination of President Lincoln? Now THAT would be valuable. (spoiler: but there have been plenty of forgeries, so watch it.) I’ll tell you where it is. Your Great-Great-Great Aunt Booney saved a copy because she thought it was historic. So did everybody else on the block. So her grand-daughter (Great-Aunt Rosalie—the one who ran off the Canada with the lard salesman) threw it away because it had been sitting around in the cupboard so long and, anyway, nobody wants old newspapers.

That’s what has to happen for your real collectible to become a saleable collectible: it has to outlive its contemporaries. And because of that nostalgia boom of the 60s and 70s, a lot of fine collectibles are still not in the First Issue of Superman class, even after half a century.

Hey, did you know that in 1960, the Richard Nixon campaign came up with the slogan “Click With Dick” and put out a lot of little metal clickers? This didn’t click with the public (It was no “I Like Ike”) but it was something different. A Click With Dick clicker in excellent condition, with his face on it, is worth…well, maybe two or three of these Ollie North newspapers.

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