National Geographic's Collectors Corner

Collaborative site for collectors, dealers, & anyone interested in our history.

To bind or not to bind? Considering converting my loose single National Geographics into bound copies. Your thoughts/comments plus some general questions.

Hey everyone. I have been thinking it over, and have been strongly considering turning my copy of national geographics (1974-2015) into bound books.

Now before you tell me to stop and not do it, I will let you know that my brother has an intact (and more pristine) copy between 1974-present (as he is still a subscriber) and we have made a general agreement that we (and kids/grandchildren in the future) will have equal access to all our possessions, as we feel that that is the right thing to do.

I feel if I didn't have my brother with his extra copy I probably wouldn't want to bind them up either, but as we essentially have two copies of the same thing, we thought my copy can go down the binding path.

Now my plan is, to have it bound in the way that Melvin has guided to be the best method of binding (i.e. Chronological order, cover intact, no ads removed, index, supplements, back cover, etc. all present) and done in 6 month intervals due to size constraints (Jan-Jun and July-Dec per year).

The reason I am strongly thinking of doing this is:
1. Longevity, if I want the magazines to be read and enjoyed instead of looked at from the shelf, this will prevent them from deteriorating so quickly.
2. Being able to bind them in the style I want them (as of course bound copies in the past would be without covers or ads, and it is beleived to generally have less value).
3. Easier to transport when moving houses. As you may imagine, one book is far less cumbersome than 6 seperate delicate magazines.

Due to cost, I am considering doing it in cloth instead of leather (and the person I contacted for a binding quote assured me that the premium cloth that he uses will ensure the books last forever), although if I am going all out, should I reconsider it in leather?

Further, due to the pricyness of this procedure ($60 AUD per 6 months but he said he will arrange it slightly cheaper after making a deal) this would be a long term project that I would undertake. Maybe over 10 years.

My question to you all then is:

1. Has anyone here bound their recent copies of National Geographic? I feel a lot of people buy bound copies that were bound in their era, but don't do it nowadays, especially with the newer issues.
2. Am I crazy? Should I back off and just buy plastic covers to preserve the magazines?
3. Cloth vs. leather? Will a cloth book last 100 years, while leather will last 500? Should I consider the upgrade?
4. Will the value of my collection deteriorate? I feel that since my copy is from mid 70s to present, that it doesn't really have much value to begin with, as compared to the earlier issues. But will this plummet its value even further? Not that I plan to sell, but moreso out of curiosity. Even if I am injecting $60 per 6 months, will the value go from $6 (let's say $6 for 12 issues in one year for magazines after mid 1970s) to $126 (i.e. cost of binding for the year plus its initial value) or will the two books from that year be lucky to sell for $1 each, and hence me figurativly flushing money down the toilet? Would anyone actually buy a 1975 bound copy of Jan-Jun for $63 dollars excluding shipping? ($48~ approx in USD). Looking at Melvin's guide, this appears not to be the case.
5. A little bit out there, but would it be crazy for me to try to bind the magazines myself? I.e. buy all the materials, cloth, leather, instruments, ingredients, and have a go myself? Or is that a recipe for disaster?
6. There is the issue of the spine that has the main stories along the issues (with the red highlight indicating a supplement is included). Would I want to preserve these somehow? Add them to the books spine?

Any thoughts or comments or suggestions are quite welcome.

Thank you all for your time.

Views: 1164

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion


Binding 1974 to the present will not add monetary value to your collection. Single issues are always more valuable and these years have no real value because of the many millions of copies for each year printed. But... bound volumes are a beautiful way to preserve your collection. I have 1888 to 1978 that was bound in my collection back in the early 1980's. They are still in new condition. Bound in red cloth. They had only 1 prior owner who did the binding. See above 2 pics that show the bound red volumes along with single issues in and out of slip cases. All single issues are in archival grade plastic as well. The binders contain the complete map collection.. I hope this shows you the value of bound volumes...


Hey Phil,

That is an incredible collection! I am so glad it is up on a shelf for all to see.

Yeah I imagined the value would not be added especially to issues so new. Glad to see the red cloth is holding its own after almost 40 years though!

I am curious as to why the map collections are in separate binders? Does it make more sense to keep them separate from the magazines in terms of preservation and the bound copies as well? I imagined in placing the maps in little pockets at the back of the bound copies. Though some of the maps I have noticed bulge quite a bit when placed in the magazine.

And in terms of your collection, if I may ask, would you allow people to flick through the bound volumes and not the magazines that are in the archival grade plastic? What about those in the slip case? Which would be for viewing, and which would be for reading?

Kind regards,



Each map is stored individually on a page of archival sheet protector and archival cardboard.  A pic of the map and month and year of issue are on the sheet protector. This method really preserves the maps. The entire map collection takes 31 large binders. I keep only 3 copies of each map

I do read the bound volumes. The slip cases contain 6 issues in archival plastic also. I usually don't touch the individual issues in plastic. I have many extra issues as well as a digital version of all issues .

Best in collecting,


I love your binder-for-maps method Phil. I remember when you first showed us some years back -- it's one of those things now on my wish-to do-lists...

Beautiful collection, Phil !!!   :-)

Very interesting, thanks for all the pictures and information Phil. Definitely life goals! :)


They're your NatGeos, so its your choice how you want to preserve and present them.  That being said, since you will be keeping the covers and the advertisements, the only things you will loose are the spines.  I see no way of displaying them short of a transparent binding.  As for the maps and supplements, unless they are attached to the magazine in some way (tipped-in, perforated, etc.), I would store them separately, especially if decide to bind the collection.

Good Luck,


Hey Tom thank you for your comment.
Yeah I considered maybe having the spine of the book be written with what is on the spine of the 6 month issues - though not sure if that will look messy or over the top. If it is possible might cost extra as the person would need to write more than just National Geographic, years and months.

Pece,, not quite the usual way Mel De Vilbiss or I would offer a response on your post requesting feedback but in this instance I am Mel's authorized spokesperson. Reason being, I had run your ideas and questions by him in a chit-chat email and he did share detailed comments, so I am going to just insert__paste below (per his suggestion).

I have a few comments though I'll keep them separate from this reply, for today.


here's Mel:

[sic., RE:  your quoted estimate of $60-ish per vol.]  ---> Are you willing (& able)  to pay out this kind of money for binding? The resale of such magazines (bound) is minimal, i.e. maybe $10 (U.S.) per year (two books). However, if what you want is a different style of collection than your brother’s, this will do it!

I would add the “annual index” to the binding (not sure if that’s what you meant by index above, or was just considering the magazine’s own Table of Contents).


Up to 1993 there shouldn’t be a problem as the “annual index” was published by volume (one every six magazines, two per year) and is also an excellent table of contents per bound volume, i.e. it really makes it into a useful book.


From 1993 through 2010 the annual indices were combined with all other NGS monthly publications and produced as one issue per year. You have three choices here: purchase two indices per year and bind one each per volume (six magazines); purchase one per year and bind it only in the first (Jan-Jun) volume; purchase one per year and pay to have the bindery copy it to bind the copy into the second volume while binding the original in the first volume. Note: most binderies have high quality reproduction machines just for this purpose – but you’ll pay for it!


The annual index publication was discontinued beginning 2011, i.e. the 2010 annual index was the last.


Note for pages larger than the printed page (usually foldouts bound within): If the bindery does NOT identify and refold these pages prior to binding, when the bindery trims the package just prior to placing the boards on the book, the foldouts will be trimmed such that a folded edge will be cut off leaving a loose paper within the magazine where once there was a foldout. You’d think this was obvious – but I’ve seen it done so many times it’s unbelievable. Instruct the bindery to refold all “larger than the printed page” foldouts – or do it yourself before sending it in. You must adjust (refold) the fold at least 1/8 to ¼ inch to avoid this problem.


Note for supplements: Binderies forming a pocket in the back tend to use the item that will be stored in the pocket to “make the pocket.” The problem here, whether the pocket is made of binding material or sturdy paper is that the process uses glue and heat (sometimes steam). This process will “warp” the supplement paper! You should provide the bindery with specific instructions to fabricate supplement material to simulate the supplement sizes per volume (each volume pocket is different due to varying size of supplements) or to provide some sort of heat/moisture protection for your supplements.

Binding does tend to “cover up” blemished magazines.

The problem with removing covers and ads with the newer years, say late ‘90’s to date, is that a good portion of readable material was mixed in with a lot of advertising, especially at the beginning of the magazine. It really is best to bind the magazine complete – and it tends to make them “very slightly” more valuable.

The spine is lost – not a cost effective item to try and salvage, especially since the first part of the magazine usually damaged is the spine. If you do have poorer quality magazines, I would bet their spines are where most of the damage exists. Again – not worth the cost/effort in my opinion.


Mel D., personal email exchange,

2/28/17 - 3/01/2017.

Hey Scott (and Mel!),

Thank you so much for the very valuable information. These are the kinds of things I would not have figured out on my own (such as the refolding of the foldouts! and the supplementary pocket at the back!)

And yes, I am willing to pay the amount, but currently not able, or at least not able with all of my magazines. I was thinking of doing it over a period of time, and starting off with the newer collection and slowly working my way back. I keep saying to myself that as long as I never sell, then there wont be any money lost, but well, I might be kidding myself haha!

Ah and sorry I mean't the table of contents. Thank you for the index advice though, I will keep it in mind.

I agree, the spine I have noticed in my older magazines is the one that has deteriorated the most, whereas the covers and back covers, even on the very oldest ones, tend to hold their own.

I feel this would apply to only those magazines published after the 1950s (correct me if I am wrong but pre 1950 there was no further information on the spine apart from name of magazine, year, volume, and issue) but do you think it would be worth getting the binder to add what is on the spine of the 6 month magazines and placing them on the spine of the book? Or would that look too messy? Perhaps not vertically along the book spine but perhaps horizontally, under each month. I am thinking it over as what to put on the spine, and whether it would be too messy if all the information that is on the spine for each magazine would be too much.

Example 1:

National Geographic Magazine (or is it technically: The National Geographic Magazine)

Volume 385

Issue 1 - 6

January - June

Year 2532

Example 2:

The National Geographic Magazine

Volume 387

Issue 1-6


Mexico * The Inca * Amazon * Flying Monkeys * Jaguar Claws


The Forbidden City * African Sweets * Silk Road * Jaws of Steel

etc till June


Babies * Dogs * Chickens * Worms * Pigs

Year 2533

Maybe I can take the spines out of each issues that I bind and do a collage of them or something like that for fun?

Oh and PS. Would I add anything to the front cover of the bound book? I imagine definitely not for the back, but the front (I am sure it would cost extra but good to keep in mind).

...a quick confirmation on one point you mention, the info. on spine:

  • 1st appearance of Date, name, Vol. # , + issue # on spine:    February 1914
  • 1st appearance of article titles on spine:   Jan. 1960
  • 1st use of red-colored text on spines (to indicate supplement maps):   April 1960

Thank you Scott, I will keep a note of that as its very handy.

Sorry if silly question but pre Feb 1914, spine was left blank?



Legal notice about this site

Note: Any sales or trade arrangements are solely between users of this site; The National Geographic Society is not a party to and does not endorse or promote any particular sales or trade arrangements between collectors, dealers, or others. Due to the immediate nature of this medium, National Geographic Online also does not review, censor, approve, edit or endorse information placed on this forum. Discussion boards on National Geographic Online are intended to be appropriate for family members of all ages. Posting of indecent material is strictly prohibited. The placement of advertisements or solicitations unrelated to National Geographic also is prohibited. National Geographic Online shall review information placed on this forum from time to time and delete inappropriate material that comes to its attention as soon as it is practicable, but cannot guarantee that such material will not be found on the forum. By posting material on this discussion board you agree to adhere to this policy prohibiting indecent, offensive or extraneous advertising material, and to legally assume full and sole responsibility for your posting.

© 2024   Created by Cathy Hunter.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service