National Geographic's Collectors Corner

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"Only a small number of people can hope to have a set of originals."

~ Edwin Buxbaum

...Feeling a little nostalgic here, and in this week and season of expressing gratitude, I thought perhaps worth mentioning. 

Due to prior discussion threads about these, the genesis of the 1964 reprinting of the first 20 years of the National Geographic Magazine likely does not require any big rehash here, but I wanted to give it a nod. 

I just can't believe it's been 50 years, and the reprints themselves are highly prized and sought after. Ever since I obtained my set, I have been ever thankful that the Society endeavored to take on this then-mammoth, intensive project. To think that originally, the mere price tag was $2 per issue (x the 179 total issues), or one could proffer $100 for the 1888-1897 period, and $215 for 1898- 1907 . . . a "staggering" total of $315 !!! Who wouldn't be thrilled to pay that now?

To wit: 59 individual issues comprised 1888-1897, and 120 more issues entailed the 1898-1907 period. Those already well familiar with the inconsistent publication schedule will understand why the first decade only has 59 issues, where as the next 10 years' ran through 120 issues.

The first indication of a reprinting was the front section membership page (scan of page attached). Note that the announcement states that more in-depth information will be forthcoming in the October ('64) issue, yet in reality it was that November 1964's NGM that boasted the 2-page spread, presented by Melvin M. Payne (pgs. 688-689; photo of actual spread attached).

This article makes no mention of the bound editions of course, and it's long been presumed that the claimed 1,000 copies per issue limit does not apply to any bound copies/sets extant. 

The pricing for these latter bound sets was similarly broke down into two, 10-year sets (or, both if desired) -- e.g., you could obtain the first 10 years (8 bound volumes) for a token $90 , and the 2nd 10-yr. stretch for a mere $260!!  This means that the premium price paid for the "upgrade" to bound volume's, for all 18 volumes, was only $35 increase than if buying individual issues!!

Indeed, Edwin Buxbaum even makes mention that the $2/copy cost was actually reduced later on, to a pittance of $1.50/copy. Wow. 


I've never shared a photo of my own set of the 1964 bound set before, so I thought now was a good chance to do so. These are my babies and one of my happiest collection items. I actually do read these too! Maybe some other time I'll chit-chat about my unhappy experience trying to start collecting the 1964 Reprints individually, which met with bad chance numerous times, such that I re-evaluated my plans and chose to go with the bound set volumes instead. A wise choice . . . that I have not once ever regretted either. 

Unrealized at the time I made that decision, I did not know the side benefit: by obtaining the bound set, I enjoyed the best way to maintain the loose map supplements; i.e., that they were all placed into sturdy pocket-pouches fastened to the inside rear cover boards of the volume/number they were issued with. Further, all of the volumes (except 1900) included as extra material bound ahead of, or following the individual issues, a Table of Contents, Index, title/cover page sheets, and the like. Those only having the individual copies would not have this very useful extra resource material. Their best option would be to ensure they also had the actual original annual volume Index pamphlets.

On a final note, for those somewhat new to the official NGM reprints, there was one further re-(reprinting) of Vol. 1, No. 1 only -- in 1975. Those essentially were identical to the individual 1964 copy, except that the 1975 run copies bore a very small "75" printed on the lower right corner of the inside, back cover. 

The 1964's all had a discreet "REPRINT" printed within the lower section of the front covers. 

I think it is interesting to note as well, that Dr. Payne made a point of declaring that the Reprint initiative would not deflate the value of the early original numbers of The National Geographic Magazine. 

     ~ Scott S. 

Relevant references:

  • Roger Nathan - "Collectibles of the National Geographic Society" (c. 1982) ;  pg. 15
  • Edwin Buxbaum - "Collector's Guide to the National Geographic Magazine" (c. 1971) ;  pgs. 77-83
  • Don Smith - "N.G.M. - For Collectors" {1888-1996} ; (c. 1996; v. II, no. 1) ;  pg. 21

* on my shelf, I keep the 1896-1907 volumes upside down, in order to counteract the 45+ years of gravity "sagging" of the body pages. 

Views: 224


Replies to This Discussion


I never would have hoped to finish my collection without these reprints; especially the "red bricks" from 1888 to 1895.


BTW: I love your thoroughness and attention to detail in this and all your posts.


I knoooww ... I've felt emotion at times when I think about having my reprints, and what a wonderful thing they were. They never would have been done if not for the caring, enthusiasm and dedication of both Melville B. Grosvenor and Melvin M. Payne.

I would never have been able to have a complete set w/o them, too. In many functional ways, they are in fact superior anyway, in terms of my habit of reading/browsing them.

Thanks for the nice comment, too!

  ~ Scott 

You and Tom are major contributors to this corner. There are others (such as Phil) that also consistently contribute excellent food for thought.

I thoroughly enjoy your contributions and especially your attention to detail. You delve into areas I have little time to go, but very much appreciate.

Keep up the good work!


So are you Mel !

Thanks for the nice feedback. I just thought of you earlier today too, before I saw this. I let our last email drop and never got back to you. Also, I was going to send you a message to tell you about the new groups -- I've figured you're otherwise occupied of late (as have been I, except for this week. As Tom said: I've 'been busy' on here). 

We all have to keep up the good work, 

   - Scott 



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