How to grade magazines for sale: Tips and Hints

Views 566 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful

You can sometimes make a small profit by selling used magazines on eBay. Often times, the toughest part is giving the potential buyer a good clear representation of your product. When you are dealing in used magazines it is of great importance that your buyer is fully aware of the condition of your item. Magazines, like other collectibles, have their value greatly established by their condition. If you have an easily understandable grading standard you will avoid misunderstandings and disappointments.

There are no hard and fast rules on how to grade magazines for sale. No commercial standards are established anywhere. Many magazine sellers use the term "good condition" as a catch-all for a very wide variety of actual conditions. I have established my own scale of condition which seems to have pleased my customers. I'll describe to you my grades and standards simply as a suggestion. Each of you will quickly find what works best for you. My standards are as follows:

This is the highest grade I use. The term -mint- as used by coin collectors who originated it, means untouched by human hands. You will never find a magazine in true mint condition. My grade of near mint to mint means that the magazine APPEARS to have never been touched by human hands. I refer to magazines of this grade as being in absolute collector condition.

I use this grade for magazines that appear to have never been opened to read but you can tell they have been handled. There may be some finger prints visible on them, or the edges may show slight marks which reveal that the magazine was handled, but the magazine looks absolutely excellent. I refer to magazines of this grade as excellent collector condition.

This grade refers to magazines that show they have been owned and read by someone but they are free of any defects that the average collector would consider note worthy. The cover is free of any scratches, bends or marks of any kind. The cover gloss appears uninjured. The magazine may actually appear unread but close inspection will reveal it's been fully opened. I refer to magazines of this grade as good collector condition.

Magazines of this grade are still acceptable to most collectors. The cover may have some light scratches and the edges may be softened, showing obvious wear. The original cover gloss is probably injured in slight ways. There may be some tiny dog ears on front or back covers but the magazine is solid with all pages and with no writing on the front cover. Most used magazines will fall into this grade. Most magazine collectors will accept copies in this condition, if it's an item they really want, but be careful to clearly describe any flaws worth consideration. Even a magazine that has lost some of it's original cover gloss can be graded as good used condition if it is solid and in generally good shape. I also refer to this grade as okay collector condition.

Magazines of this grade are usually of no interest to collectors. These magazines really look like they have been around awhile but they're still solid, in one piece and worth viewing. The cover is worn. The edges are soft. Dog ears are obvious. Writing may appear anywhere in or on the issue. Pages may have small tears. However, as magazines become quite old (20 years or more) the poorer conditions can actually become more acceptable to collectors because some buyers are interested more in the magazine contents than the cover image or condition. Older magazines will attract people who are interested in vintage advertising and fashions, as well as people researching various political happenings and other noteworthy events. I refer to magazines in this grade as not in collectors condition, but some collectors will occasionally surprise you..

This is the lowest grade magazine that I will sell. Magazines in this grade are not useful to most collectors but they are useful to those who do clipping. If you have a magazine that you just don't feel comfortable selling because it's beat up and maybe missing a page or two go ahead and list it in clipping condition. If you make it clear that's what you're selling it for, then you won't offend anyone. I myself have sold several magazines in clipping condition without any negative result.


If the magazines you are selling exhibit an odor of any kind you should disclose this to your potential buyers. Most magazines will give off a smell of some kind simply due to the papers and inks that are used but as paper ages it is also subject to changes in humidity, condensation, skin oils, and contact with a wide variety of surfaces and materials. Some people are highly sensitive to the molds and mildews that can be associated with paper products, even when the contaminants cannot be seen. Give your merchandise a good sniff and decide if there are odors you should make your clients aware of.  Remember also that one magazine that exhibits a musty smell can, and probably will, transfer that smell to magazines it is stored with.  (My thanks to the associate that brought this issue to my attention.)

Always give consideration to mailing labels and addresses in your magazine listings. Most buyers want to know about the status of these things. There are a few types to consider:

The magazine shows no signs of ever having a mailing label on a news stand copy or a subscription copy which arrived in a plastic bag. These are the most desirable issues for collectors and will command the highest prices.


If you can successfully remove a label, you may represent the magazine as no mailing label attached. Be careful, if the magazine shows that there was a label on it you will want to state that there are mailing label remainders. Remainders are anything which is left on the cover after the label is removed. If you can tell in any way that there was a label on your magazine please declare that for your potential buyers.

This means exactly what it says, there's a mailing label on the cover.  Additionally, if the label has been blackened or covered in any way then you will want to state that in your listing. Some buyers are picky, they would rather have a mailing label untouched than to have it blacked out. It becomes a personal decision for both the buyer and the seller.

This is a fairly new process in which the publisher has left a blank area for the mailing address to be printed in by the fulfillment processor. It's a nice concept because it's done in such a way that it does not interfere with the cover image. However, to black out this kind of address label constitutes damage to the cover and injures the value of the magazine. Unfortunately some well meaning sellers will clip this type of mailing address out, thus injuring the collectible value of the magazine considerably.

You can successfully remove most mailing labels!
A hair dryer held very close to the label will soften the adhesive enough to carefully peel off the label. You must be very patient, it's a slow process. Heat slowly because you can scorch the cover if you're not careful. Paper burns at 451 degrees, so your hair dryer shouldn't start a fire if you're careful. Do be cautious not to burn your fingers. After removing the label, a bit of Goo Gone will remove any excess adhesive but only use it on magazines with a very high gloss cover in good condition. Low grade covers will not withstand the Goo Gone cleaner. You can do a small test on the rear cover of the magazine to see if the cleaner will injure the printing. You may still want to declare that there was a mailing label successfully removed when you list the magazine. If you view the magazine at an angle with the light reflecting off the cover, you will quickly see if there are any remainders of the adhesive.

In Conclusion:

     There are many things to consider when attempting to sell used magazines on eBay. In addition to a quality picture, I have found that for the greatest success and the least trouble, a clear declaration of condition is probably the single most important thing your buyer needs from your listing. I suggest that if you're not sure about a magazine's grade then the best policy is to grade it down a bit. This almost always results in a buyer who is excited and happy with their purchase because they got something a bit better than they expected. Magazines that are sold in lots are usually held to a slightly lesser standard than magazines sold individually. It is best to assign an overall grade to the lot and then state any individual exceptions. My system is not standardized or flawless but it has served my needs well. If you find it a beneficial tool then please feel free to use it and adapt it to your own style.

Thank you for taking the time to read this guide. We hope it will help you have an enjoyable and profitable eBay experience.

Grand Avenue Treasures LTD

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides