This morning, I reached into one of the many boxes of old National Geographic Magazine’s storied in the garage and scooped out four issues at random, two from 1961 and one each from 1962 and 1964.
These will probably be thrown out as part of my getting rid of old stuff project. Looking online for the December 1961 issue, I see it for sale on Amazon at $4.00 and on eBay at $34.99. What a price range!
I doubt that neither copy will sell. I’ve never had much luck selling old magazines. Time was, they were seemingly more valuable if you cut them apart and sold the pages with the advertisements.
Funny how a Great Northern Railway ad would sell quickly on eBay but if the same ad (along with other vintage examples) were offered as part of a complete issue, it was a harder sell.
The only copies I’m saving are those that are especially historic—some early space exploration issues, a John F. Kennedy tribute issue, and the issues that came out during the birth months and years of people in the family. I’m also saving some ads, mostly those having to do with train travel. Or, a few that are simply “strange” by today’s standards.
The December 1961 issue includes articles about “Life in Walled-Off West Berlin,” “Canada, My Country,” and “Australia’s Amazing Bowerbirds.” The West Berlin article includes a map of the city, now from almost another time and another place ever since the Berlin Wall came down. But as Russia rushed to annex Crimea, I’m reminded of those cold war days. When I saw Berlin, there was a wall there. That shows how long it’s been since I was there.
A Look at London
You can tell at a glance that the June 1961 issue includes an article about London. When I originally read the article about the city’s “Storied Square Mile,” I didn’t know I would see it six years later. The article includes a fold out map along with photographs of people, places, pomp and pageantry.
When this issue came in the mail, you could also read about the FBI, Thailand, rose aphids and whaling.
There’s also a cute ad of a boy leaving his house with a red wagon filled with all his stuff for Bank of America Travelers Cheques. I used to carry these years ago, but in time I got fed up with explaining to stores and hotels with clerks who said “we don’t take checks” that these aren’t the same as the potentially bad checks torn out of a check book. You’d think people in resort towns would know that.
They probably still don’t know it.
The Holy Land and New Guinea
The December 1961 issue contains multiple articles about the Middle East. My father, who did some media consulting in the area in the mid-1950s probably liked the memories stirred up by this issue. If I had ever been there, I might be tempted to save this issue, though for what purpose, I’m not sure. I’m sure I still have this copy because my father saved it as part of his collection.
I haven’t been to New Guinea (or even the Canyon Lands of Utah), so the May 1962 issue isn’t tempting. It does have a space-aficionado article called “Telephone a Star: the Story of Communications Satellites.”
The article includes a picture of Telestar that would be launched that June. Teletar 2 would be launched the following year. At the time, this was BIG NEWS. Now, there are over a thousand operational satellites in orbit. The news media hardly even mention the launches any more.
They were still in orbit, though nonfunctional, as of last year. Big news at the time, there was even a hit song about it that reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 list. It was a catchy song then, but I doubt it would get much play today–unless you’re walking (or flying) down memory lane.
Memory Lane or Ancient History?
If you were there, going through a stack of National Geographic Magazines that came out during your lifetime is a trip down memory lane. I remember the events, the products and the global issues. Otherwise, this is all “ancient” history. Most of the stuff that ended up in these magazines probably isn’t on the RADAR in a high school history class. Perhaps the Berlin Wall will flit by in a footnote to the paragraph about Cold War–assuming the Cold War is even in the course. In a college’s “Recent U.S.” history course, perhaps the Cold War itself will make it into the course for a one-hour lecture. When Russia marched into the Crimea, a lot of people who didn’t know what the Cold War was started doing a lot of Google searches about it.
I saved these magazines, along with copies of noteworthy issues of Life, Look, Newsweek and the Saturday Evening Post because I though they would be important as keepsakes, as windows on the world as it was, and possibly (like old books) as antiques that might be worth money some day. The memories are wonderful, but I can no longer afford the space all these boxes take up. Plus, they’re heavy to move around.
Perhaps they’ll have monetary value in another hundred years–like original photographs of the Civil War have now–but not being a rich person with a Downton Abbey sized house, I don’t have the space for that kind of collecting. And, I doubt my daughter wants to see a U-Haul truck arrive with a garage full of dusty old magazines arrive. She’s been to the Middle East, but I think she’ll always prefer her own pictures to those in the January 1964 issue of National Geographic.
Plus, I’m one of many millions of people who seem to have saved these magazines with the idea in mind that one day they would be rare.