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Signed/"Autographed" Early Issues of the National Geographic Magazine

I would like to start a discussion regarding pre-1900 issues of the NG which bear the signature of the original owner on the magazine cover. In many cases these signatures ("autographs") are those of original members of the NG Society. I have always felt that such signatures serve as a type of value enhancement to those individual copies. The question I pose to you is whether you agree with me and if so how much do these signatures add to the value of a given issue? I have never seen this question addressed. I could not find anything addressing this question in any of the booklets I have by Edwin Buxbaum or Don Smith.

In my collection I have 2 such signatures: those of Frank Baker of the Smithsonian Institution (Vol 2 #2) and W.C. Hodgkins of the Coast and Geodetic Survey (Vol 7 #9). I have enclosed photos of both.

Very much looking forward to your opinions and responses,

Larry Moffett

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Dear Larry,

I agree with you (see my answers to J. Catlin posted earlier today) but believe that the signature provides added value if and when one can provide concrete information about the original owner corresponding to the signature. Such provenance explorations are invariably interesting, albeit sometimes quite difficult. In my case, George A. Fairfield was a surveyor, doing pioneer work, and the son of a governor of Maine (who also served as a member of the U.S. House and then Senate). How much is the adde value bonus: how about 50%?



A 50% extra valuation sounds quite generous. I like it!


Here is a photo of my Vol. I No. 1 issue signed by George Fairfield. I may have more signed issues in my collection but have never checked. If you, Larry and Thomas ...( and/or anyone else) ,... let me know what years to start looking. As shown in the second photo, I'll have to do a lot of "digging" .




I would suggest that the older the issue, the greater the value added to that issue, particularly in the case of original members of the NGS. That would make those issues from 1888-1895 the most valuable as membership increased gradually in the early years from 208 (1888), to 229 (1889), 392 (1890), 430 (1891), 693(1892), 955 (1894) to 1,178 in 1895. During the period 1896 - 1899 the membership further increased from 1200 to 1400. By 1900 there were 2,462 members and by 1905 10,000.

Your thoughts?


Larry, Jim,

Attached are images of my Vol 1 Issue 3 signed by George Fairfield, as well as as blowups of the signatures of Vol1/1 (Catlin) and Vol1/3 (Jovin). Good agreement. It seems that we both obtained these issues  from Bux(baum). Thus the questions is what he did (assuming he had them) with issues 2 and 4. He never offered me those although he was a prolific letter writer about holdings, offers, and background information. I will write up and distribute my findings about George Fairfield. As far as valuations are concerned, I believe that the 50% markup for authenticated signed early issues is quite reasonable. The only question is how to place a value on Vol1 issues, for example, at this point in time. Jim's copy is bound (but presumably could be "extracted"), mine is not.





That's a gorgeous Vol 1 #3 issue that you have!

With regard to valuation of original and wholly intact Vol 1 issues, the only recent information that I have is about Vol 1 #1. I was offered but declined to purchase an absolutely pristine/mint copy that is/was owned by former NG dealer Nick Koopman. His asking price was $10,000.



Do you have original Vol.I No.1 and No.3 issues? Are they bound or individual? I presume from the postings in this thread that you have nothing signed.

On a separate subject, my 1890, Vol. II, No.s 1,2,3 & 4 issues, are bound originals in one book (page numbers 1 thru 339). This includes: by-laws, rules, officers and index. There are no covers in this volume. The leather cover is in rough shape but the inside pages are fine and include several fold out pages.  I  saw nothing in this bound Vol. II that has any signatures or marking.

Similarily, my 1891, Vol. III, issues ??? (page 1thru 261) are bound in one book. Again there are no covers nor signatures or markings.

I think I've figured out how to include photos in replies like this one .... :-)





Oooops!  .... I saw in another Collector's Corner group where you already answered my question regarding your original Vol. I issues. Congratulations on capturing this "corner stone" of NGM collecting.

It is going to take me some more time to navigate this NING website. Thanks for tolerating my "newbie" mistakes ... let alone my old age bouts of CRS ;-o


" . . . the older the issue, the greater the value added to that issue, particularly in the case of original members of the NGS. That would make those issues from 1888-1895 the most valuable as membership increased gradually in the early years . . ."

I concur 1,000% !

- Scott


Thanks for sharing about your George Fairfield item. Alas, the earliest items (ie, NGS) I have w/ a signature on it, are from 1895? (or 1903...) : two of The Monographs (front covers), as shared below: 

Of course, Charlotte Elizabeth Deming is neither a Society founder, nor an /original/ member. I do not claim or suggest that this adds value to these copies. She shows up in the Society membership rolls in the January 1903 issue of NGM (scanned page below). All I can seem to verify about who Ms. Deming was is as follows: 

  • Deming, Charlotte E. , 1868-1963 ; 
  • Charolotte Deming was the daughter of William Deming and Mary Benton of Litchfield, Connecticut. She was a musician and music teacher who performed on the violin and piano. Her brother, William Champion Deming, was a physician. Her sister, Adelaide Deming was a noted artist.

NGM - January 1903; page 65 - 

                    ~ Scott 

Both were original members of the NGS.

I found another "autographed" NGS item. This time it's a covered single article from the 20APR1895, Vol. VI No. ? issue (pgs 239-284). Isn't Oregon your neck of the woods, Larry?




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