|By Brett Weiss
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The National Geographic, that most ubiquitous of magazines, turns 125 this year. To celebrate the momentous occasion, the National Geographic Society is making the October issue a special commemorative edition, showcasing the talents of such photographers as Marcus Bleasdale of VII Photo and David Guttenfelder of the Associated Press.
Further, beginning Oct. 6 and continuing through April 27, 2014, the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles will host The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years, a visual retrospective of the respected publication.
More than 400 traditional images from the archives of National Geographic will adorn the walls of the facility; but according to event organizers, the highlight of the exhibit will be an expansive digital presentation displayed on 30 large-format LED monitors.
“National Geographic’s photographic archive spans 125 years and includes more than 11.5 million images,” said Sarah Leen, Director of Photography for National Geographic. “In order to truly capture the breadth and depth of the collection we decided to create a show with 501 images alternating on screens. The result not only reflects the general move in photography and the magazine toward digital imagery, but allows for a dynamic, immersive, and richer experience of our archive of photographs.”
National Geographic means different things to different people. For scholars and researchers, the magazine is a wealth of information on history, culture, science, current events, the environment; and of course, geography. For armchair explorers, the publication is a page-turning portal to exotic adventures around the world.
When National Geographic began publication in October 1888, the National Geographic Society only had 165 members. At the end of the second year, there were only 228 members. Since the Society only published a few extra copies beyond its membership numbers, early editions are extremely rare. As such, issue No. 1 is worth $5,000 to $10,000 in Very Good condition. Subsequent issues from the next seven years typically sell for around $300 to $800 each.
By 1896, the print run had grown to more than 1,200 copies per issue, but copies from this time are still worth more than $200. Circulation numbers escalated to more than 10,000 in 1905, more than 285,000 in 1914, more than 990,000 in 1925, 1.1 million in 1940, 1.9 million in 1950, 2.5 million in 1960, 6.8 million in1970 and more than 10 million in 1980.
Today, U.S. circulation of National Geographic is more than 4 million copies per issue, making it the one of the top 10 selling magazines in the country. For the collector on a budget, stacks of back issues from the past few decades are a frequent sight at garage sales, thrift stores, and second-hand book shops, often priced at a dollar or less per issue.