Wrongheaded news isn’t valued

Cox News Service

WASHINGTON — No matter who winds up as president, don’t count on cashing in big on a newspaper with a premature "Bush Wins" headline.

A well-preserved copy of the 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune with the infamous "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" headline will fetch only $700 to $800 today, said Rick Brown, founder of the Newspaper Collectors Society of America in Lansing, Mich.

The online auction house ebay.com is already posting scores of would-be sellers hawking early Nov. 8 issues: The New York Post screaming "BUSH WINS!" in huge red type. The Miami Herald proclaiming "BUSH WINS IT." And the unintentionally historic handiwork of other embarrassed editors from Pennsylvania to California.

An enterprising Texan wants $1,000 for one of the relatively few copies of the Austin American-Statesman with the dramatically premature "Bush!" banner headline.

These newspapers in the 2000 election between Democratic Vice President Al Gore and GOP Texas Gov. George W. Bush are unlikely to increase significantly in value over the decades, cautions Brown, a dealer in historic papers.

For starters, the marketplace is not that big.

"There are two categories of collectors," said Brown. "The hard-core collector routinely pays a premium for a newspaper. There are probably under 2,000 people like that. The others are casual collectors. As historic events happen in their lives, they set that day’s paper aside. This country’s got millions of them."

For just that reason, he said, copies of newspapers reporting the assassination of President Kennedy are worth only a couple of dollars. "Everyone has a couple in their attic," he said. Copies of the Dallas newspapers from that day can be sold for a bit more — $5 or so, he added.

Brown warned that a newspaper can be rare and old but still not valuable — even when headlines are wrong on presidential elections.

In 1916, several newspapers proclaimed "Hughes Wins" when Woodrow Wilson actually defeated Charles Evans Hughes. These papers are scarce but few collectors are interested because the election itself is obscure.

Likewise, a few papers in 1876 wrongly printed that Samuel Tilden defeated Rutherford Hayes, but "that’s a $36 paper no one ever heard of it," said Brown.

Brown, who operates an Internet Web site called historybuff.com, encouraged people to save "Bush Wins" newspapers for their descendents, if not for dollars. To enhance their future value, he said, store them in an open position rather than folded in the middle.

His own collection concentrates on newspapers dealing with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A newspaper reporting the event on April 15, 1865, will sell for $200 to $1,200, he said.

Brown said he "got hooked" on collecting old papers as a high school junior in 1965.

While doing research for a history project, he came across an ad for a newspaper reporting the death of John Wilkes Booth, the man who shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington. He bought the paper for $3.50 (it’s worth about $100 now) and was fascinated by the detailed reporting of the event.

The writing was considerably more colorful then. Wilkes was described as a "dastardly scoundrel" and eyewitness accounts would run for pages. Reading the next day’s paper — just like Americans were doing at the time — made history come alive for him, he said.

Your great-grandchildren might appreciate the reading about the journalistic confusion around the election of 2000 even if the newspapers themselves haven’t appreciated that much in value, he said.

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