I once sold a stack of old National Geographic magazines at a rummage sale for a few bucks. Now I wonder if I gave up a bigger profit.
Why? I’ve since learned that there are better ways to make money with old magazines. And one of the most profitable plans starts with a pair of scissors — but we’ll get to that in a moment.
People get nostalgic when they see old magazines, especially ones featuring specific events (like a royal wedding) or from meaningful dates (like birthdays and anniversaries). Because of this nostalgia, they’re willing to pay for them. In fact, searching “old magazines” on eBay produces over 30,000 results! Sorted by bidding action, the following three listings topped the page:
- 11 Good Old Days 1965 Magazines in Newspaper Form. Highest of 27 bids: $50.36
- Sports Afield Jan 1939 and Field & Stream 1940 With Article on Clark Gable. Highest of 4 bids: $11.00
- 1955 Modern Man Magazine (Nude Betty Page & Marilyn Monroe Photos). Highest of 2 bids: $20.49
Okay, so you won’t get rich with most old magazines, but if you find a big stash in your grandpa’s attic, you might make a nice chunk of cash. If you want to earn even more from your old reading material, though, read on.
Get Out Your Scissors
It turns out that you might make a lot more money cutting up those magazines than selling them whole. The old advertisements inside are sometimes more valuable than the magazine itself.
Michael Franco of Pick4Profit.com says he makes money with old ads by putting them in plastic sheet covers or dollar-store frames and selling them online and at flea markets. He explains:
…there are thousands of different ads or articles to choose from and even though some of these take time to sell, there is a buyer looking for them. My overall experience with this type of stuff is if you are doing an antique booth or flea market to have these out — people will drop $5-$10 for one ad and if you have something that really stands out you can purchase 8?x10? photo frames at the dollar store and sell those for $15-$20.
He says these types of advertisements are easiest to sell:
- Old cars
- Sports-related items
- Mid-century modern furniture
The magazines don’t even have to be that old, nor the ads flashy. On his website, Franco displays a Nike ad with Michael Jordan & Spike Lee from a 1990?s Chicago newspaper that he sold on eBay for $23, and one he sold at his antique booth for $12, which featured a Paul McCobb chair and was cut from an old grocery store magazine.
Franco certainly isn’t the only one doing this. A British “picker” says he made $480 from one magazine. It was a 1957 copy of UK Vogue he bought for about $27, and which had over 150 advertisements in it. He suggests that you buy famous magazines from the 1980s or older on eBay, and then start clipping.
Other places to find old magazines include:
- Used book stores
- Library sales
- Rummage sales
- Thrift stores
- Flea markets
- Antique shops
Are Ads Really Bringing in the Cash?
To see whether these pickers’ experiences are easily replicable, I went to eBay again and searched “vintage ads.” I narrowed the 200,000 results down to 8,400 by clicking “Auction,” and then I sorted by “Number of bids: Most first.” I found these:
- Monarch Coffee ad (1924 Ladies Home Journal). Highest of 5 bids: $3.01
- Lucille Ball RC Crown Cola ad. Highest of 5 bids: $7.50
- Farrah Fawcett Wella Balsam Shampoo ad (1977). Highest of 3 bids: $11.50
Other ads had some bidding action, and tomorrow there will probably be more. Making a $3 or $11 sale may not sound like much, but keep in mind that these are single pages torn from a magazine, and none of them were framed. The $4 to $6 the sellers were getting for shipping is probably an additional profit center, since it doesn’t cost that much to send a piece of paper.
Selling Your Old Ads
It’s easy enough to open an account on eBay if you don’t already have one. Good photos of your ads are also easy with just about any digital camera. Check current auctions to get an idea of pricing before setting your price or minimum bid. You might want to experiment with selling just the ads or framing them first to see if they bring in more cash.
If you sell at flea markets, a frame is probably a good idea. A guy buying an old car ad for his man cave probably wants to be able to hang it on the wall as soon as he gets home.
If you know an antique store that accepts consignments, the owner may be interested in your ads as well. However, you’ll probably pay half of each sale as a commission.
Your Turn: Will you try selling old magazine ads?