Saturday, June 12, 2010

Collecting Vintage Magazines: Ten Favorite LIFE Covers, 1936 to 1949

I've mentioned before how much I love paging through old magazines.  Well, I hit the jackpot at an estate sale this past week.   I found piles of Life, Look, McCall's and Ladies Home Journal magazines from 1959 through the 1970's - for 25 cents a piece!   There were so many magazines that even at that price I could have spent a small fortune if I had grabbed the whole lot.  So I decided to limit myself to 1969 and older - and  just 100 magazines.   Total cost: $25.00.

That was the best $25 I've spent in a long time.  I'm in vintage magazine heaven...

Here are a couple of piles from that sale, and a few samples of my favorites.

In case you're wondering who is on the cover of the top magazines on the two piles...  On the right:  Tipi Hedren, in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."  And on the left, the lovely Grace Kelly.  Who but Ms. Kelly could pull off the spectacled look with such....well, with such grace!

At this sale, I found mostly Look and Ladies Home Journal.  But my favorite magazine to collect is LIFE - because of its long history, gorgeous photographs, wonderful stories and fabulous ads. 

This was my lucky weekend for magazine finds because I happened upon this May 1988 magazine at another sale:

May 1988 was Life's 2000th issue, and they included an incredible resource inside:  photographs of every single cover, beginning with the first issue, Nov. 23, 1936.

This is great! Now I can easily find all twelve Elizabeth Taylor covers, or all nineteen of Jackie's.  Sometimes online sellers will sell Life Magazine in large lots, and they will mention the magazine dates but don't go into detail about what's on the cover, or inside.  But with my handy-dandy little guide here, I'll know that 6/28/37 was the first beach fashions issue...and that 10/5/42 featured "eye-catcher hats."  Knowledge is power.

I spent some time today going through all the covers from 1936 to 1949 and making lists of my favorites.  There were 684 issues during those years, and 122 made it into my first cut.  Somehow I managed to narrow that down to 20.....and then finally, my favorite 10.  Here they are, listed by year.

My Ten Favorite LIFE Covers, 1936 to 1949:

11/23/36: First Issue of Life. Unfortunately, a dull cover - but I still want it!  1/4/37: President Franklin D. Roosevelt - one of my fave presidents.
1/23/39: Bette Davis;  5/1/39: Joe DiMaggio - I love his smile and boy-next-door looks!
7/15/40: Rita Hayworth - the first of several Life covers during the 40's; 10/13/41: Lana Turner and Clark Gable, taken on set of "Honky Tonk."  Be sure to catch Gable in the 1934 film "It Happened One Night" - it's wonderful!
10/16/44: Lauren Bacall - she and Humphrey Bogart made a great team; 12/11/44: Judy Garland - she'll always be Dorothy in Wizard of Oz for me.
7/9/45: Thirty years of swimsuits! I had to pick one fashion spread for my Top Ten.  And finally, 7/14/47: The beautiful Elizabeth Taylor - this is her first of twelve (as of 1988) Life covers. I seem a little obsessed?  It's a pretty healthy obsession, I think.  And if, by chance, I've inspired you to do a bit of magazine collecting yourself, here are a few great resources:

1. has a great series of videos on collecting Life magazine, presented by a qualified appraiser.
2. Google Books has the complete archives of Life magazine from 1936 to 1972.  Not just the covers - but you can open it up and read what's inside!

I hope this has been helpful for you.  As for me, I've got to get back to my reading.  Three magazines read, 97 more to go!


  1. What a great find! I just love old magazines, especially the ads- I sometimes scan them to use in mixed media projects like collages.
    Thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving a nice comment. I really like meeting new blog friends... I look forward to reading your past posts!

  2. Thanks for visiting, Stacey. I agree - it's the ads that are especially fascinating to me too. I'll be sharing some of my vintage ads "research" in future posts.

    I spent some more time this evening exploring your blog. Lots of good stuff! Best wishes to you...

  3. I'm overdosing on nostalgia and humming "Bye, Bye Blackbird" and loving it. This is really a wonderful collection reminding me of my mother and me! So excited to have found your blog.

  4. Dear Front Range Stitcher,
    Glad you stopped by! So you've been humming Bye, Bye Blackbird? Me too. My grandfather & father used to play ukeleles & sing these old 20's, 30's songs all the time when I was a kid.

    I took a peek at your blog. You are a very talented woman! And I love your quilt collection.


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