We collectors are a strange breed. For some reason, we expect that everyone will understand what we collect and why we collect without any explanation. We can not understand people who do not collect items, while feeling that our item of interest is the absolute pinnacle of collecting.
Whenever I let people know that I am a collector, the first two questions are always the same. First, I will be asked what I collect. When I answer that I collect pulp magazines, the second question is, “What are pulp magazines?”
Pulp magazines are short story magazines that saw their hay day from 1932-1947. By the early Fifties they were stating to be forgotten. These magazines were known for not only their short stories, but many of them had beautifully painted covers. Inside the covers of these magazines, you will find such authors as Lovecraft, Bradbury, Asimov, Munn, and Bloch. These magazines gave hundreds of well known writers their starts.
They were called, “pulps,” because of the cheap pulp paper that they were printed on. Over time, pulp paper becomes very dry, fragile, and will discolor. Simply touching the pages with your bare will cause the pages to begin to flake off, and brown.
I am often asked about why I collect pulps, and what caused me to start collecting them. I started off as a fan of the short story. I grew up reading Poe and Bradbury. When I entered college, I began to read Lovecraft, Bloch, and the works of Phillip K. Dick. I decided that I wanted to find where the works that I enjoyed so much were originally printed. That is when I became interested in the pulps.
My collection started off very small. I only had a matter of two or three for months. I then found that I could find pulps at great prices at small used book stores. Pulp collecting is such a specialized field, that many used book stores will try to get rid of them as soon as possible. A few years ago, I picked up a pulp for three dollars, and sold it two days later to another collector for three hundred.
I have picked a few pulps up from Ebay, but this is not my preferred way to shop for pulps. I have also seen catalogs that simply list the name of the magazine, the date, and a condition rating, but I do not trust these. I would prefer to be able to see the condition of the magazine first hand to make sure that what I am paying for is what I am getting.
Many of the most expensive pulps are the ones that predate WWII. During the war, people were asked to turn in thier old papers, magazines, and comic books to be used for the war effort. If you look at the prices of pulps that came out before or during WWII, you will find that they cost at least two to three times as much as the ones that came out after the war.
Some pulps are more collectable then others. Guntel’s book, The Guide to Pulps lists over five hundred different pulp magazine titles. Of course, many of these had multiple issues. The most popular pulps are titles such as Weird Tales, The Shadow, and AmazingStories. I have seen some issues of Weird Tales go for as high as twenty thousand dollars.
There are also people that will collect pulps that have stories from their favorite authors. There are people that will hunt out those that contain stories by H.P. Lovecraft (which is the most popular), Robert E. Howard (who wrote the Conan the Barbarian stories, or many others. My collection fits into both categories. I collect mainly Weird Tales, but I will watch out for the stories that were written by my favorite authors.
Many of my friends will laugh about the care that I take with my collection, but they forget how fragile these magazines are. All of my issues are in plastic sleeves. My more expensive ones are in a glass display case that is in a room in which I can monitor the temperature and humidity. I never tough them with my bare hands, only with gloves. I do not want the oil on my hands to damage them.
We collectors are a strange breed. Now you know what I collect, and why. If you collect pulps, or are interested in more tips on pulp collecting, drop me an email and I will help you in any way I can.