I tried looking something up on my end per your query. I was unable to come up with a fast, reliable figure for you as of yet.
In the early years, the NGS would publish membership numbers, and would make a report to the society indicating publication status. These reports were most often provided in the preamble of the first issue in the succeeding year - but sometimes in the last issue of the year in question.
I am not at home with my collection, so I am unable to check the "Annual Report to the Society." I'm not even certain when the society stopped publishing the report in the magazine, but by 1910 it was no longer regularly published.
A small percentage of issues over the member numbers were published (10 to 20%). In 1896, membership was about 1250. By April 1905, it had jumped to 10,000. This implies the publication run for the year 1902 was probably less than 3000, by my guess.
Thank you for that information, Mr. Vilbiss. One has to wonder how many copies survived as well. I guess it will take years to complete a full set from these early years. Thanks again for your reply.
It took me 45 years to collect the full set; though I was down to just two original issues needed for the last nine years, and only one issue for the last five years.
Two caveats: First, in the early years of my collecting I was not as well versed as I should have been and allowed many opportunities to escape me. Second, in the early years I didn't have the finances available to collect the truly rare issues.
To me - it was worth the learning curve. It became a passion that gave me a purpose in my retirement.
I looked up the December 1902 issue and there is no tidy sum total member qty. indicated, though the alphabetized listing by state) is there . . . one would have to manually count the names.
Have fun Scott ;)