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I am a novice collector and am looking to learn more about the basics of collecting - condition, value, ect.

My father bought an old car at an auction when I was a child and there were several for the early 1900's in the truck. We were avid readers of Nat Geo, so the older issues really sparked an interest.

Just recently aquired 312 additional issues. 

I now own the full years 1896,1898,1899,1906-1909,1911.

Individual Issues:
1889 May

1895 Oct & April
1900 Jan-May, Aug, Nov& Dec
1901 Jan, Sept-Dec

And a few others from early 1900s.

Any information you can share or other sites you can recommend to learn more about their value, how purchasing and selling is usually handled, ect... would be appreciated.

Caroline S.

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Hi Caroline, Welcome!

Old National Geographics vary widely in price, depending on the issue and condition. A search of past sales on eBay is probably your best source of price information. The following site has compiled some of this info, but I don't know how updated it is, and it does not include all issues: XYZCollectibles

Here's eBay's condition guidelines for books and magazines:

Brand New

A new, unread, unused book in perfect condition with no missing or damaged pages. See the seller's listing for full details.

Like New

A book that looks new but has been read. Cover has no visible wear, and the dust jacket (if applicable) is included for hard covers. No missing or damaged pages, no creases or tears, and no underlining/highlighting of text or writing in the margins. May have very minimal identifying marks on the inside cover. Very minimal wear and tear. See the seller’s listing for full details and description of any imperfections.

Very Good

A book that does not look new and has been read but is in excellent condition. No obvious damage to the cover, with the dust jacket (if applicable) included for hard covers. No missing or damaged pages, no creases or tears, and no underlining/highlighting of text or writing in the margins. May have very minimal identifying marks on the inside cover. Very minimal wear and tear. See the seller’s listing for full details and description of any imperfections.


A book that has been read but is in good condition. Very minimal damage to the cover including scuff marks, but no holes or tears. The dust jacket for hard covers may not be included. Binding has minimal wear. The majority of pages are undamaged with minimal creasing or tearing, minimal pencil underlining of text, no highlighting of text, no writing in margins. No missing pages. See the seller’s listing for full details and description of any imperfections.


A book with obvious wear. May have some damage to the cover but integrity still intact. The binding may be slightly damaged but integrity is still intact. Possible writing in margins, possible underlining and highlighting of text, but no missing pages or anything that would compromise the legibility or understanding of the text. See the seller’s listing for full details and description of any imperfections.

I would add that a magazine that's missing the cover or pages is probably not worth anything. National Geographics are often missing their map supplements, so if they are included, this usually increases the value.

I sell my magazines on eBay and Etsy. Right now all of my magazines (even the ones before 1950) are on sale for $1 each, with many of my sales on eBay ending today (June 24). I've also tried CraigsList in the past but have never sold anything there.

Good luck!


Thanks for the info Keith. I mistyped when I said I had 312 issues, I meant 132 issues!

I was hoping to find out a value on the May 1889 issue. It is in perfect condition and is numbered Vol. 1 No, 4.

It seems to be amoung the rarest. To be honest I have no idea what I have! I obviously have quite a bit more research to do.  


Thanks again for the tips!



The value of something is whatever people are willing to pay for it. You may be able to get an antiquarian book seller to appraise your issue for you. Here are a few more links I found:

Guide to Selling National Geographic Magazines

National Geographics 1888-1919

I'm no expert, but the most important thing to establish in terms of value is whether you have original editions or 1964 reprints (sadly, the latter is much more likely). Reprint editions will have the word 'reprint' at the bottom of the cover, in a rather small typeface. Here's an example.

You have good money there if they are originals...


When I received your message, I reviewed the link you provided and checked very closely.

I was surprised to learn that none of the editions are reprints.They are all originals.


Thank you for sharing the information. Otherwise, I would not have even known to verify.





Wow, that's rather nice. :-) Looks like you may have a few thousand dollars there - see the second link yesterday provided by Keith Riggle. 

If you're considering selling them (ebay?) probably best to provide as many pictures as possible to give people a chance to make up their mind about the condition. 

If you'd sell them, people will probably ask whether the supplements are present. See

My own collection only starts in 1910, snif. ;-)


Earlier, you posted the date of your Vol 1 No. 4 issue as May 1889. The actual Vol. 1 No. 4 issue was dated Oct 1989 (there was no May issue for Volume 1).

Also, in 1922, the National Geographic Society issued reprints for Vol 1 No. 2 and Vol 1 No. 4, in response to demands from collectors who were missing these two rare issues. Unfortunately the NGS did not mark them as reprints. They were however issued with darker covers than the original terracotta coloured issues. The colour of the 1922 reprints was more of a brown. Some of the older terracotta coloured issues (or 'red bricks') darken with age and moisture absorption, which makes it even more difficult to differentiate the 1922 reprints. The only other way of differentiating the 1922 reprints is that other collectors say the reprints have very faint vertical lines running down the cover, but I have never found this a compelling differentiator. Perhaps you could scan the cover and post the image here. The fact that your issue is in 'perfect' condition, as you say, leads me to suspect it is a reprint since one reason this issue is so rare is that the covers are so fragile (not to mention a smaller print run). Hope for your sake I am wrong.

If you do have a Vol 1 No 4 original issue, its value would be between $1,000 to $6,000, depending on its condition and presence of the Asheville map. 



Actually Dale, there exist known "originals" dated May 1889, according to Buxbaum.

I have not personally observed one - just citing to old guru.

Good to hear from you!


Quick follow-up:

Page 15, fourth paragraph down, of Roger Nathan's book also reveals that known originals dated May 1889 exist.



Hi Mel

I currently do not have access to my Buxbaum or Nathan books (or anything else as they are all in storage during renovations). What you are saying is even more exciting for Caroline. It's probably safe to say that these were produced from an erroneous/aborted early print run, and would be extremely rare. If Caroline has one of these, I would estimate the value to be much higher, potentially $8,000 to $15,000. It also increases the likelihood that what she has is an original copy (i.e. not a reprint as I suggested). 

Caroline, please post a photo of this item for us all to drool over.

Mel, do you know which actual Volume 1 issue # this is a duplicate of? I assume it's a duplicate of Vol 1 No 4,  and not just a small print run of a 'special' limited edition.




It is, according to both Buxbaum and Nathan, the Volume I, No. 4 issue dated October 1889 that was observed to have originals also dated May 1889.

I'm trying to determine when Buxbaum first described this tidbit of information about "known original publications of Vol I, No. 4 being dated 'May' 1889".

So far, I can find no reference to it in his 1938 pamphlet nor his 1956 first edition of the collector's guide.

I know it exists in his 1971 third edition because it was part of a larger discussion about the 1964 reprint of Vol I, No. 4 being a "reprint of the 1922 reprint" - I know, I'm really trying to confuse people ...

Buxbaum had to go into such detail about smudged page numbers and ink type to prove his point, but relative to this discussion, both the 1922 reprint and the 1964 reprint of the 1922 reprint are dated "MAY" 1889. His research uncovered "original" Vol I, No. 4's dated 'May' 1889 which, he speculated, is how and why the 1922 reprints of this same issue ended up with the May 1889 date and not the October 1889 date that should have been on their cover.

It was the National Geographic's complete collection that had the 1922 reprints in it, instead of the one with "only/all originals," that was used (torn apart) for the production/copying of the 1964 reprints.

Off to Buxbaum's 2nd edition....(this is your fault you know?)


Buxbaum's third edition is in-fact the first time he identifies the May 1889 version of Vol. I, No. 4.



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