This story will take you back to 1993 and 1994. As you read it you will come to appreciate the vast changes that have occurred in the last 12 years.
Amy, in college at the University of North Texas at the time, had heard my tale of being an Olympic Champion toilet paper unroller (all true — see yesterday’s post for proof!) and determined that she would obtain for me a copy of the magazine that I had neglected to keep for posterity. Her plan was to present it to me as a birthday gift.
Unsure of the exact issue of Newsweek, she went to her college library microfiche files and searched all issues from 1963 through 1964. Remember, this is a weekly magazine! That was a lot of microfiche viewing, looking for an article that wasn’t even listed in the contents page.
(First point: The internet was in its infancy, and Google had not been invented yet. There were search engines, but very primitive by today’s standards.)
Amy found the article, learned that it was in the February 24, 1964 issue, and thought she had all the information she would need. She went to a local Denton, TX bookstore that specialized in old and collectible publications. No luck, but they referred her to another place that might have it. Nope. But try this place. Naw, we don’t have it, but I know a guy whose uncle has every issue of Newsweek ever published up in his attic. Call him.
She called the uncle. He said sure, he’d have it, but she’d have to come over and find it. She spent several hours one Saturday rummaging through this stranger’s attic. The really curious part was that he had every issue for 1964 (and many, many OTHER years) except that particular issue.
Now this had become a challenge. She ranged farther afield, driving down to Dallas on weekends to search stores that sold copies of old magazines. One of these places referred her to a publication that specialized in collectible magazines, and contained ads from dealers all over the country.
She found an issue, and began running up a huge long distance phone bill calling both coasts and cities in between. The more she called, the more curious she became about why dealers seemed to have every issue but that particular one. She just chalked it up to Murphy’s law until one dealer in New Jersey heard the date of the one she wanted and said, “Ahhhh, the Beatles issue!”
Her reply was, “Huh?”
Turns out this issue, because of the picture on the cover and the story about the Beatles’ first trip to the U.S. and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, was a highly sought-after piece of Beatlemania memorabilia. (Try saying THAT three times quickly!)
Well, this particular New Jersey dealer sometimes went to auctions where collectibles like this issue could be obtained. He took Amy’s phone number and offered to call her if he came across one. He asked her how much she was willing to pay for it. She admitted she had no idea what the going price was. He said, OK, he’d call her.
(Second point: eBay hadn’t been invented yet, either. Think about how eBay has changed the whole landscape of “collecting.” People used to plan trips around searches for certain collectibles that they just had to have. The search itself was at least half the fun of collecting. Now you just go online and type in the item you want. Or browse. Also, think about what eBay has done to pricing collectibles, and bargaining for them. Now you can find out immediately what the last ten of those suckers you’ve been craving sold for, and have a good idea of what it’s going to cost you to get one.)
Time had been passing already. My birthday had long since gone by. Christmas came and went. More time passed.
Then one day Amy’s phone rang. It was the guy in New Jersey, and he had found a copy of the magazine — did she still want it? Yes she did. A bargain was struck and a few weeks later she held the magazine in her hands, finally. Just in time for Fathers’ Day.
(Tomorrow: The presentation... And the irony!)