Sunday, May 23, 2010

LIFE Magazine Rare Editions

Since LIFE is the pre-eminent magazine of photo journalism and was a staple of my childhood, I've always been on the lookout for special issues to collect. Six times, the magazine was sent to press and either a better cover story or, in one case, a better photo of the same cover story came to light, resulting in two different magazines with the same cover date.
Of course, the most famous and highly collected is the Roger Staubach cover for November 29, 1963 that was pulled for a JFK memorial edition.
This is by far the rarest of the bunch. The story goes that the vast majority of the issues were destroyed but a few dozen perhaps were saved as souvenirs by the editorial staff. The magazine was never circulated and sells for around $1000 when it rarelt shows up on eBay. A few years ago I got a call from Staubach's agent who asked if I had any extra copies so that each of the QB's children could have one. I've since acquired one other copy.
The first time this happened was for the October 29, 1956 issue when Anne Boleyn was axed (again!) for a photo of a rescue at sea. This magazine, as all the others beside Staubach, had a limited distribution prior to being pulled. Most issues have west coast mailing labels, suggesting that they were send out first so that readers throughout the country would get their issues simultaneously. The rarer editions, scarce but obtainable, sell between $20 and $50.

February 3, 1967, the Bahamas rolled snake-eyes due to the tragic death of the Apollo 1 Astronauts.
June 30th 1967, a stark photo of the Soviet leader was replaced by one including LBJ.
April 12, 1968, a kinescope photo of the important story reporting LBJ's decision not to run for re-election was pulled for the even more important nightmare of Martin Luther King's assassination.

and finally, on November 8, 1968, an photo of an Orangutan was switched to a dramatic photo of a one-legged Vietnamese child.

There are other rare regular issues. The European edition produced some collectible covers, most notably the one featuring Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe in a scene from "The Prince and the Schoolgirl" (rare, $200 or so)

A interesting 1962 newsstand edition was circulated locally to keep New York City reader apprised of the current events during a newspaper strike. (Oh, how times have changed, can you even think of a newspaper strike today?)

Two special 1969 issues are highly collected. The Woodstock issue usually sells for $50-$100.

And then there are a few oddballs I have gotten over the years.
A 1940 edition in conjuction with a fund raising event

A 1940's advertising vehicle (advertising vehicles!)

and a curious edition with a different cover and a few extra inside pages included for Kodak.

So. "asi es la vida", "c'est la vie" and as Frank Sinatra so ably belted out "That's Life" !

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