Top Five Collectible Magazines - from Life to Playboy

It's the anniversary of the first publication of Life magazine today, November 23. It was back in 1936 that the best known version of Life Magazine (there have been three) was first sent to the newsstands with a pioneering take on photojournalism, letting the pictures lead the stories.

Magazines are sometimes overlooked as collectibles compared to, for example, comic books. They can be very valuable however, especially if signed.

5. F N Souza's nightmarish Life

Although it established its identity with photojournalism, Life magazine was not limited by this throughout its years of publication and in 1970 it used an untitled contemporary artwork by an Indian painter to grab its readers' attention.

Francis Newton Souza Untitled Life magazine
Attention-grabbing: Francis Newton Souza's Life magazine

Generally regarded as the first post-independence Indian artist to achieve high recognition in the West, F N Souza created a startling vision for an issue, which was sold by the artist's family in June 2011 at Christie's for £6,250 ($10,263 at the time), beating its estimate.

4. Marilyn Monroe introduces Playboy

Thanks to her appearance on cover of the magazine's first-ever issue, Marilyn Monroe will forever be associated with Playboy. The magazine's debut issue was published in 1953 and would forever revolutionise the men's magazines genre.

Marilyn Monroe Playboy
Hello Boys... The Marilyn Monroe issue of Playboy

The first issue also contained some writings from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A copy sold for $6,500 - surely a bargain given that few of the 50,000 issued survive - at Heritage Auctions in 2010.

3. James Joyce's work has a try-out

Needless to say, Playboy wasn't the only magazine to publish celebrated fiction, in fact some magazines introduced an author's work before it became a book.

An excellent example of this sold at Christie's in December 2004, being a selection of issues from the magazine originally known The New Freewoman, then later as The Egoist. These included both A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Joyce's groundbreaking work Ulysses.

The set brought £5,378($10,438 at the time), easily in excess of the £2,500 - £3,500 listing.

2.  We're ready for the Moon - Neil Armstrong's signed Life

Neil Armstrong's signature has increased in value by 900% since 2000 according to the PFC40 Autograph Index, due to his consistent refusal to sign autographs combined with an ongoing fascination with the first moonwalker.

Magazine page signed by Neil Armstrong
Ready for the journey: The magazine page signed by Neil Armstrong

We've previously sold an issue of Time magazine signed by the Apollo 11 astronaut, but we have an even better example in stock now:  A complete special issue of Life magazine from 4 July 1969, signed by Armstrong. The issue is entitled 'Off to the Moon', as Armstrong would take off just over two weeks later.

1. John 'C' Lennon being bigger than Jesus

John Lennon didn't mince his words, even when he was with the Beatles. In 1966, the magazine Datebook published some comments on the popularity of the Beatles - and organised religion.

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now" he opined.

Lennon's signed Datebook
C what I mean? Lennon's signed Datebook

The comments were actually re-printed from an interview with London's Evening Standard. But whilst such views didn't little more than raise the odd eyebrow in the UK, they caused a storm in America's Bible belt. There were death-threats and Beatles records were burned.

A copy of the magazine, signed by Lennon, sold in 2009 for $12,713. The magazine is signed "To Art, with love from John C Lennon". Art is Arthur Unger, publisher of Datebook, who joined the tour after the magazine was published.

Lennon's middle name was Winston, so the 'C' supposedly stands for 'Christ' - another example of Lennon's irreverence.

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