The massive demand for the new edition of Charlie Hebdo prompted its editors to announce Wednesday that the French satirical magazine would increase its print run to 5 million. With copies of the weekly selling out within minutes in France and bids increasing on online auction sites like eBay, it appeared that the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo was on its way to becoming a collectors' item.
Dubbed the “survivor’s edition,” the first issue of the magazine published since gunmen massacred 12 in its Paris offices brought out long lines of customers who waited outside newsstands to get their hands on the highly coveted copies. The issue, which features on its cover a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad holding a placard that says “Je Suis Charlie,” will have more than 80 times the circulation of the magazine’s regular editions, which usually sees 60,000 copies printed.
But even the massively boosted circulation was not enough to meet the demand for copies, which were selling for as much as 100,000 euros ($117,839) on eBay’s French website on Wednesday, according to CNBC. Though eBay’s U.S. and U.K. sites saw far lower bids, some copies were still going for thousands of dollars, a significant mark-up on the magazine’s usual 3 euro ($3.50) price tag.
The auction market was already frenzied for earlier Charlie Hebdo issues before Wednesday’s edition was published. The 60,000 print run of the previous issue sold out nearly instantly following the assault on the magazine and was drawing bids of up to 70,000 euros ($82,400) on online auction sites, reported Agence France-Presse. Some of the magazine’s most notorious editions, including the one dubbed “Charia Hebdo” published after the satirical paper’s office was firebombed in November 2011, were also going for thousands of dollars online.
The commercial frenzy around copies of the magazine have led some to decry the opportunism of sellers for taking advantage of the killings, reported Artnet. However, the phenomenon is hardly unique to the Paris attacks as other major events throughout history have inspired a similar rush to collect artifacts, including newspapers and magazines.
Events like the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor and the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy have significant collectors' markets for artifacts associated with them, as do artifacts from more recent events like the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The historic election of President Barack Obama in 2008 prompted many to hoard special-edition newspapers proclaiming his victory on the front page, in hopes that the papers would be valuable in the future.
Because of the collector-centric culture we live in, the value of papers and magazines from recent history probably won't increase significantly in the future, said Timothy Hughes, an expert and consultant on rare newspapers, in an interview with an auction site. “Fifty years from now, the collector market will still be flooded with thousands of issues being offered by those who hoarded for many years. Although the historic nature of the event cannot be denied, I suspect the quantity of available issues will always exceed demand,” he said.
Scarcity is the key factor in determining the future value of an artifact like a newspaper or magazine associated with historic events, according to Hughes. There is no denying the historic nature of the events surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attack. Paris saw its largest rallies in history in the aftermath of the attacks, with people also pouring out into the streets of cities around the world to show solidarity.