Vintage magazines appeal to people who have a particular interest in old paper, to be sure, but they are also collected for the specific content on and between their covers. For example, those who have fond memories of JFK may seek out copies of the November 29, 1963, issue of “Life,” with its formal portrait of the recently assassinated 35th president on its somber cover. Serious Beatles fans almost certainly want a copy of the January 9, 1968, issue of “Look,” which included a quartet of full-page, psychedelic photos of John, Paul, George, and Ringo by Richard Avedon. And military historians may collect copies of “Colliers” printed during World War II for its articles by Martha Gellhorn, who famously stowed away on a hospital ship so she could report on the D-Day landing at Normandy.
Not all magazine collectors are so high-minded. Year in and year out, one of the most popular vintage-magazine titles has been “Playboy,” especially its undated first issue from December of 1953, which featured a Marilyn Monroe centerfold. For those who claim that they only read “Playboy” for the articles, there are numerous more literary issues to choose from, including the March, April, and May editions from 1954, in which Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” was serialized in its entirety.
For art lovers, there are old copies of “The Saturday Evening Post,” which were famous for its covers by Norman Rockwell, and “Harper’s Weekly,” which occasionally had covers by Maxfield Parrish. More recently, copies of “Oz,” a London music, fashion, and culture magazine from the late 1960s, have been in demand for the artwork created for it by Martin Sharp, who silkscreened posters of Bob Dylan on foil and made album covers for Cream.
Other magazines fall somewhere between comic books and science-fiction novels, such as issues of “Amazing Stories,” which, in the 1940s, reprinted a number of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tales of earthman John Carter’s adventures on Mars, or, as it was named by Burroughs, Barsoom. “Argosy” was also an outlet for Burroughs, serializing his “Tarzan” adventures in the 1920s and ’30s.
Finally, there are magazines that are infamous for being spot-on parodies of other magazines. In 1972, the “Harvard Lampoon” produced its version of “Cosmopolitan,” which featured a nude centerfold of Henry Kissinger, which was as disgusting as you might imagine it would be. Not to be outdone, in 1980, “New West” produced a slim but brilliant five-page parody of “Sunset” which it called “Sunsect,” featuring a family picnicking in the shadow of a nuclear power plant on the cover and articles such as “Mule trips into East Los Angeles--a guide" and "Tulips so big they eat meat" inside.