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Production Run Variants to National Geographic Covers and Maps

Production Run Variants to National Geographic Covers and Maps


While there are plenty of examples of alternate covers for newer National Geographic Magazines: different subscription and newsstand covers, the May 2013 “Baby” issue, and the April 2016 Photo Ark issue; there are several examples of cover variants, and map variants, in older issues of the magazine due to changes during the issues’ production runs.  Most of these variants are readily available for collectors to acquire since the changes occurred near the middle of the runs.

Here are a few of the multiple versions of covers and maps out there.




February 1915

In the article entitled “the Town of Many Gables”, the town listed is Hildesheim on the early issues of the production run and corrected to Munster on later issues.  The article itself is definitely about Munster.  There seems to be plenty of both versions out there.

January 1917

The original version lists only three articles on the cover;  there were in fact four.  Missing is the fourth article "100 British Seaports", an oversight that was partially corrected early in the production run.  While the later issues do indeed include this article, they do not list the number of illustrations associated with it.  There are eleven illustrations in the article, ten black-and-white photographs and a sketch map of the British Isles.


March 1927

In a header at the top of the contents the number of “ILLUSTRATIONS IN FULL COLOR” appears as EIGHTEEN on the early issues of the production run and is corrected to SEVENTEEN on the later ones.  Likewise, the subtitle for the second article “The Hills and Dales of Erin and Vermont” lists 18 or 17 “Natural Color Photographs”.  There also seems to be plenty of both available.


May 1928

Somewhere in the middle of this issue's production run, the oak leaf border was revised.  On the early issues, the acorns are scattered along the edges of the oak leaves while on the later issues the acorns are clustered in the middle of the leaves.  Likewise, on the early issues Antarctica is mostly “Terra Incognita” while on the later ones it is a continent.  As with the other variants, there seems to be plenty of both.




April 1938

On March 12, 1938, during the production run of the map “Europe and the Mediterranean”, Germany annexed Austria.  The later copies of this map reflect this fact while the earlier copies have Austria as an independent country.  There seems to be fewer of the later map so my guess is that the change occurred late in the run.


October 1939

Early in the production run of the map “Central Europe and the Mediterranean” World War II started as Germany invaded Poland.  The first few maps are subtitled “AS OF AUGUST 28, 1939” while all subsequent maps are subtitled “AS OF SEPTEMBER 1, 1939”.  The early versions, while rare, are still out there, especially overseas.


July 1989

During the production run of the dual sided map “France/Historical France”, a mistake was found and corrected.  On the map of France side in the upper left corner there is open ocean where Ireland should be.  The early version was mailed to Canada and the Pacific while the corrected version was mailed to the U.S. membership.  While less numerous than the with Ireland maps, the ones with the open ocean are still out there, especially from Canada.


This was not intended to be a complete list, but just some examples of the collectibles available for those who may be interested in augmenting their collections.  A special thanks to Jeff Persons who made me aware of three of the covers and one of the maps listed.


Tom Wilson

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Excellent work Tom!



Excellent, thanks for framing that so tidy. In this case, the points about the NGM copies interest me a bit more than the maps. I have loved in the past, sitting and leafing through the oak/laurel bordered years and gazing at the nuanced and discrete evolution of the framing. I loved that broader, more "wild" era from the latter 1910's - 1920's in particular. 

I recall a prior post of yours about the Hildesheim/Münster variant. I have the Hildesheim. I had then talked to a German pen-pal collector and asked if he knew of those towns at all (he did). I was also trying to confirm that they were indeed separate locales, and not some mix-up in dual names or whatnot.

I'm glad Jeff P. was of some interesting assistance !

 ~ Scott 

Note: I just added a citation for the January 1917 cover variants.



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