Magazines, something to hold on to?

By Valerie Maloney

One of my first memories of magazines is from my grandparents' house. They had stacks and stacks of old National Geographic, organized by year. Organized, that is, until I got my hands on them, gleefully tearing through the glossy pages of pictures of sharks and chimpanzees. These memories got me thinking, were my grandparents an anomaly? Did they live in a different time where magazines and the printed page had more worth? In today’s disposable culture, do magazines still mean as much to people as they did to my grandparents?

The answer is yes, according to Jocelyn Laurence, editor of Green Living magazine. “They (magazines) are more valuable than a newspaper,” she says. “They are a journal of record. They’re fact checked, unlike newspapers. Even books aren’t fact checked, so they (magazines) are more accurate than any other source. People always say ‘oh well, it’s in a book, it has to be true.’ But that is not always the case. Magazines are reliable.”

Jeff Hannaford, associate art director for Flare magazine agrees magazines are attractive to collectors. “I had an almost complete set for three or four years of Details magazine from the early to mid '90s," Hannaford says. "Eventually I only gave them up because they were just heavy, heavy boxes and they were just too much to move around.  But they (magazines) are like a time capsule in a way.”

Hannaford says Flare has a dedicated following of collectors. “I have definitely heard stories of people holding onto their issues,” he says. “Especially when we do special things, like anniversary issues, there is definitely a high collectibility factor. Certainly when I am designing stuff, I’m not thinking of it as a disposable medium.”

Laurence says readers of Green Living use it as a reference. "In the spring/summer 2007 issue, there is an article on bio-diesel, the pros and cons of it. They can keep the article.” Another reason people hold on to the magazine, she says, is its uniqueness.  “We are the only ‘green’ magazine in Canada, so we focus on Canadian issues.”

Brittany Eccles, assistant art director of Flare magazine says people collect for different reasons. “You go to something like Lucky, or LouLou when you just want a quick fix of what’s on the market right now and I am not looking for some huge artistic vision from them," Eccles says. "But I’ll go to Visionare magazine (a complete set of which was auctioned off at Sotheby’s for US$32,000 on May 16, 2006, according to its website) or a big beautiful glossy fashion magazine. I almost look for them to be cutting edge and pushing the envelope.”

How does a normal publication suddenly become collectible ‘art’? “When you look at some of the big magazines they can put gold foil on their cover,” Eccles says. “They don’t have to have the regular things, they have crazy budgets, crazy different format sizes so I definitely consider it an art form.”

For the writer, there is no greater reward than winding up on someone’s bookshelf. “If it was the kind of thing where it was laying in bird cages tomorrow you would be less inclined to pour everything into it,” Hannaford says. “We are really striving to create something that people want to hold on to.”