Buying, Selling, and Collecting Car Magazines

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Magazines are central to car culture. I have worked in the industry as a freelance writer. More importantly as part of my PhD research I used eBay to create an archive of enthusiast magazines from the 1970s until present. My perspective of the magazine trade on eBay was quite different compared to most people who buy magazines. For example, one very nice seller assumed I was buying magazines as an enthusiast so he asked, "What cars are you interested in?" I was more interested in final issues by certain editors, or coverage of particular events, and so on.

As yet, the magazine collecting scene in Australia has not yet matured. There are still bargains to be had, and magazines to buy to add to collections.

Tips for sellers:

  1. Know your product. Know when the magazine was published, who published the magazine, who was the editor, what events were covered, which cars had feature articles and everything else including quirky details like comic strips, funny ads, or naked women posters.
  2. Put this information in the item description. However...
  3. If you follow eBay and what magazines are sold for what prices, then... 
  4. You will be able to cut and paste generic information relating to the specifics of the particular magazine issue(s) you are trying to sell! (Create a database in excel or some other program, and paste information in there. See below.) At a minimum do a search for the title and issue before posting an item.
  5. Selling individual issues will net sellers the most money, however this takes a lot time and is very resource instensive. If time is money, then you may be losing out in the long run.

Unfortunately the bulk of magazine issues did not really have anything too exciting in them, so it is sometimes best to start auctions at 99c and work to create excitement in the sale. I have found it easier to find and buy magazines that have had the magazine title, date and issue number in the item's title field.

Database

The same advice about the database goes for buyers, except create two databases. One complete database of all the magazines you want, and a second database of the titles you actually own. A database should include the following, listed in decreasing importance from essential to good if you can include it:

  1. Title
  2. Date
  3. Volume and/or issue (if relevant)
  4. Number of pages
  5. Publisher
  6. Editor
  7. Cover text and image (description of the front cover including 'headlines')
  8. Feature content (features cars, write-ups, event reports, product tests, etc)
  9. Other info (here include quirky advertisements, comic strips, posters,editorials, etc)

This information should be included in the item description for magazines being auctioned, but use your imagination. The only exception are groups of magazines (known as lots) or entire magazine collections.

Notes for buyers:

  1. There will always be another copy that comes up. However, some particular issues consistently go for quite a lot of money, such as early Street Machines, Van Wheels, and so on, or issues that cover particular issues, such as 1970s Wheels magazines on Panel Vans. In five or so years time it will be the Zoom and HPI mags of the mid-1990s and 2000s that are incredibly popular. Therefore to tell the difference between something that is just really expensive for one auction and something that is valued on the collector's market, you need to...
  2. Get a feel for the market by following how much magazines are sold. The best way to do this is to use the 'My eBay' function EVERY TIME and follow the prices of completed auctions on items related to your interests. (Include prices in your database.)
  3. Find out about the history of the car enthusiast scene, and which cars and events are popular. The easiest way to do this is to actually read the magazines, they contain a lot of information!
  4. The best way to buy magazines is to purchase complete collections. They only come up every now and then, but the aggregate price per magazine is cheaper than purchasing individual issues. However, be wary of shipping costs as magazines are quite heavy. Sometimes it is best to get collections sent by courier rather than through the post.

At present the magazine collector market is organised around the popularity of particular cars, events, and magazines; that is, it is determined by the enthusiasm. However, the collector scene will eventually mature and the focus shall shift to include meta-level concerns, such as the reign of particular editors (for example, Geoff Paradise at Street Machine and then Performance Street Car), or particular publishing houses (such as Murray Publishers or Graffiti).

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