How to List Magazine Back Issues for Sale

How to Sell Look Magazine

Written in 2006 and based on eBay listings. A lot on eBay has changed since then, but many of the details of this essay still hold true.

Just like anything else the answer to how to list magazine back issues for sale begins with hard work. Details. I scanned all of my covers and then while I was pulling info for the contents would also scan anything else inside that I found especially intriguing. Those pics are also included on this page below. When I sat down to actually compose my listings, I first turned to the contents page of each issue of Look. Besides the titles of each article, Look also prints the name of the cover image and the photographer/illustrator on their contents page. This info is always helpful. Then I copied every item listed on the contents page. These titles can be vague, so the next step is to page through the entire magazine.

While time consuming, paging through the entire issue is beneficial in a number of ways. First and foremost it helps with grading the magazine. By paging through the entire issue you can state the magazine is complete with no cut-outs and even more importantly you can mean it. Also you can check for any major page tears or stains inside, which is also important.

Next, and I’ve been admittedly lazy in this regard, you can include a listing of the advertisements inside a particular issue. There are a lot of sellers out there who are getting as much as $5 and up for single pages taken from these vintage magazines, just for the advertisements. To be honest, this blows my mind. These are customers that you can grab, because even if a collector is going to hack up the complete magazine that you sell to them (wow, that sounds awful!), maybe you can help their collection on multiple fronts with multiple ads. What I did, since I’m honestly not familiar with which ads are collected, is name every full page ad in the issue from the inside-front-cover to the back cover with all full-page ads included that came in between. Then I’ll also name any smaller ads when they are from a familiar company, have a star pitchman, or are interesting to me in some other way. Finally, by paging through the entire magazine, you will find some surprising and marketable contents. I know for sure of two issues included below where I either doubled or tripled the final bid based on contents.

When composing item titles for eBay I used to always list the cover image or some other description of the cover. Not anymore. I’ll use the cover if it’s worthy of being mentioned, but more often than not it’s the articles inside that are going to carry weight with your potential bidder or buyer. In the title I will always try to include the date of issue along with the magazine title–and in this case I will use “Look Magazine” rather than just “Look” because of the search consequences. How many eBay listings do you think you’ll return on a search for “Look”? Quite a few, “Look Magazine” is much more targeted. In a perfect world, our customers would be savvy enough to search for “Look” in the magazine category, which would omit quite a few of those unrelated LOOK!!!! listings (ie “LOOK L@@K L00K at my special junk!”). Anyway, I find it worthwhile to spend the ten spaces on the extra word “Magazine” (counting the space before and after). I use the full date only abbreviating the month into a three-letter word (ie: Jul 14 1942). People that know what they’re looking for really don’t want to sift through fifteen different listings for “1942 Look Magazine”, you’re best to include the entire date.

In fact, a search on eBay containing no items for the term Look Magazine without any quotes returned 706 items on January 15, 2006. A search for just the term Look returned an astonishing 76,344 items! If you’re selling Look Magazine, then state Look Magazine!

By my count that leaves us just 28 spaces left to work with (29 if the date was a single numeral). Out of the issues appearing below only twice did I spend that valuable space describing the cover image and that was for Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig and for the United We Stand issue. Unless you’re dealing with a personality cover, more often than not you’re going to want to use that space for a personality covered inside. Now for these issues I did experiment a little and often included the term “WWII” or even “WWII issue” in the title, but I honestly did not do so at the expense of anything more interesting. More often than not you’re looking for a nice photo-essay inside an issue about a sports or movie star. These names will resonate with the largest amount of potential customers. On the surface it is surprising that FDR, Hitler, Mussolini do not have the same effect, but this is simply because the major war characters tend to crop up just about every week in a World War II era news magazine. You are going to want recognizable names in your title though, because…

…generally the niche collectors know how to perform a deep search. If you personally find the article about dieting in 1942 of interest (I don’t know, maybe you’re a health buff with a history degree), and you’re tempted to include it in your title over potential keywords from more generally interesting articles inside the same issue, such as one about Carmen Miranda or the movie review with Gary Cooper and Bette Davis pics, don’t–anyone who collects information about diets throughout time has likely been forced to become skilled enough at an eBay search to dig a little deeper and find this info in your listing anyway…because you’ve listed all of your contents. Or maybe it’s a really neat cigarette ad, but the pitchman is Jack Oakie and not Babe Ruth–mention it in your listing not your title. There has to be something more interesting than Jack Oakie or a Camel ad, but if that’s what someone else collects they’ve been forced to learn how to find it.

Finally, put a grade on the magazine and enhance that potentially meaningless number with a detailed description of all of the items faults. You want your customers to come back, right? Don’t tell them the magazine is Very Fine, or EX-MT, or 8/10 if it has a three-inch split in the spine and a stain on the back cover. Tell them what it really is, based on whatever grading system that you use, and furthermore tell them about the split and the stain. If you don’t they won’t be happy. If they’re not happy at best they don’t come back, at worst you have a return on your hands plus some negative feedback on eBay. Do the right thing. I don’t do a lot of returns on my own buys, not because I’m always satisfied, but because it’s not cost effective when you’re reselling an item. On the other hand, I do keep a list of sellers names tacked over my desk that I won’t buy from again.

I won’t get into shipping and other terms here, as these should be standardized throughout your listings. Needless to say, you want to spell out all of your terms as carefully as possible. Just as you want the details of your listing to be as detailed as possible. I don’t mind answering e-mail inquiries from potential customers at all, but at the same time it does take time to pull out an issue, page through it, and answer a specific question. The time you spend working on the details of your listing is time saved answering potential e-mail inquiries.

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