Collectors corner: rediscover the pleasure of old catalogs

Ok we have to admit that the first week of the Covid-19 quarantine we did nothing but read, eat, watch TV and run around trying to find toilet paper, Kleenex and hand sanitizer. hands. (Oh, and cat food and litter.)

The second week of our “vacation” we changed things up a bit by reading, eating, napping, watching TV and running around trying to find toilet paper, Kleenex and hand sanitizer . (And more food and litter for cats: they are very special for both.)

As soon as we realized the shutdown wasn’t going to end anytime soon, we took action and have now set about cleaning and rearranging every closet, cabinet, drawer and shelf in the entire house.

Any items we have decided to keep are returned to their newly cleaned and dusted spaces, while anything cracked, stained, chipped or broken goes to the landfill.

Items that we no longer want but are still usable and in good condition are boxed. We haven’t decided whether we’ll hold another yard sale or donate everything to a local charity, but we won’t have to make that decision until health restrictions are lifted and everything is back to normal. operational again. (By the way, we held a huge yard sale just two years ago to dispose of items like these, so where in the world does all this stuff come from?)

A relatively small number of items – a print from a local photographer, a vintage glass ornament, a selection of 1950s and 1960s Valentines – were shelved after research revealed they had more minimal secondary market value – that is, they are collectible. We will sell them through different sites.

During the whole process, we came across several department store and outdated furniture catalogs. We were tempted, at first, to just get rid of it, but had written about mail order catalogs in the past and decided to take a second look at the pile.

A review of online sales proved to us that the majority of catalogs were indeed worthy of recycling, but a few were of more than occasional interest to buyers, and we intend to monitor more of these in the future. “free” batteries. at garage sales and garage sales, once they resume:

IKEA Catalogs

Founded in 1943, this Swedish company (now based in the Netherlands) has become a favorite resource for interior designers around the world. They published their first catalog (catalogue if you’re British et al.) in 1951.

Predictably, the first editions of the catalog are considered collectors’ items: a 1967 Swedish copy, not in mint condition, recently sold for $59 at an online auction, and a lot of three catalogs from 1985, 1986 and 1987 brought in $37.62. But we were surprised to find that the current 2020 edition was also selling online for $5 on average (excluding shipping). Of course, this may have something to do with the Covid-19 shutdown since catalogs can normally be picked up free of charge from stores, but IKEA also appears to have (temporarily?) eliminated the ability for customers to only request copies free are sent by email.

Sure, IKEA’s catalog can be viewed online, but there’s nothing quite like browsing through the item itself.

History of IKEA (IKEA website) – Illustrated timeline.

United States Philatelic Catalogs

You don’t have to be a philatelist to benefit from USA Philatelic. Published quarterly, it describes, accompanied by color illustrations, all the current offers of the United States Postal Service (USPS). If you collect stamps, you can use this as a checklist, so you don’t miss any items, but if your only goal is to avoid a trip to the local post office, you can order directly from the catalog using the attached link. order form or go to the USPS website to view the digitized catalog and order online. Subscription to the print version is free, although there is a small charge for the stamps themselves to be shipped to your doorstep.

So how much are back issues of USA Philatelic worth? It usually depends on the subject of the cover. Many publications are sold in bundles, averaging about fifty cents to a dollar per individual issue, but desirable covers may fetch more. Examples include a 2013 issue featuring music legend Johnny Cash ($5), a 2018 issue celebrating Air Mail’s centenary ($5.99), and a 2013 issue honoring civil rights activist Rosa Parks ($6.50).

USA Philatelic (USPS Store) – Current issue in PDF format.

USA Philatelic (USPS sign-up page) – You can sign up here to receive USA Philatelic.

Hammacher Schlemmer catalogs

Let’s recognize from the start that many Hammacher Schlemmer catalogs have little or no collectible value – and there have certainly been MANY catalogs in the company’s long history.

Founded in 1848 as a hardware store in New York, Hammacher Schlemmer didn’t publish its first print catalog until 1881, but it outlasted retail giants such as Sears and Montgomery Wards, earning it its title of “oldest American catalog”.

Initially devoted to hardware and tools—the company’s 1,112-page catalog from 1912 was considered one of the most comprehensive in the country—Hammacher Schlemmer began introducing innovative consumer products, such as the grill- retractable bread in 1930, the steam iron in 1948 and the microwave oven in 1968. The company’s continued commitment to seeking “the unexpected” is the main reason why so many people today look forward to receiving their catalogs. (We’ve always wanted our own forty-foot-long Tyrannosaurus skeleton, but it doesn’t fit in the living room.)

In terms of collectible values, catalogs dating from the 19th to mid-20th century are the most sought after, with final bids ranging from $20 to $50+ for the majority of specimens, although rarity, particularly for hardcover first editions, could drive prices up to $150 or more. As for recent issues, their value lies in the pleasure they give us.

The Oldest American Catalog: Hammacher Schlemmer ( – An Illustrated Introduction to the History of the Catalog.

Hammacher Schlemmer – The Unexpected Gifts (Hammacher website) – Official website.

Good hunt!

Michele Alice

Michele Alice

Michele Alice is the editor of EcommerceBytes Update. Michele is a freelance writer in the mountains of Berkshire, Massachusetts. She collects books, sci-fi memorabilia and more!