Strong opinions, weakly held

What to do with ten years of National Geographic?

National Geographic is my favorite magazine. There are other magazines I like, but the only one I subscribe to is National Geographic, and I’ve been getting it for about ten years. I’ve kept every issue I’ve received, and even have them all in the slipcases you can order to keep them organized.

The thing is, I never go back and look at old issues, and my archive is already up to a good 80 or 90 pounds. Assuming I continue to subscribe for the next twenty years, I’ll have shelves and shelves of National Geographic magazines. I think it’s time to cut and run from my magazine collection. The question is, what should I do with them? I can’t imagine throwing them away.

I could offer them on Craigslist to anyone who’s willing to haul them off, but I’d prefer to donate them to some worthy institution. Anyone have any ideas on who I should contact?

Interestingly, National Geographic has a time capsule of web design of sorts on its Web site. Going back to July 1996, they have preserved the individual home pages for each issue of the magazine they’ve published since then with its original design. The archive is a good illustration of how web design has changed since then. Unfortunately, they don’t have the full content from each magazine available online. Maybe someday.


  1. The first thing that comes to mind is that you might contact your local non-profit literacy council to find out if they’d like to take them to use as instructional material. My wife, who was on the board of one such council back in Missouri, said it probably depends on their storage and inventory situation, but that they might be a good place to start anyway.

  2. I think Nation Geographic magazine is the poster child for such things. Besides the decades of National Geographic I have (yes, in slipcases!) -as an example- every single frigging issue of Wired and Mac Addict. Like I’m ever going to do something with them. They’re not alone.

    That doesn’t even begin to count the shelf space occupied by professional journals I am constitutionally incapable of discarding or selling.

  3. See if you can donate them to a local prison or jail. We sent some NGs to our friend in prison; he told us that he enjoyed them, and that they were surprisingly popular among other inmates.

  4. My mom is a librarian in a small, rural town library. They get someone coming in about once a month offering to donate the complete set of the last 50 years or so of NG that they’ve saved.

    Basically, you’re not the only National Geographic pack rat out there. If you know someone that wants them, great, but most obvious places will probably have already got them.

  5. When I find myself in that situation, I donate to the local library’s book sale, which they use for literacy programs. They’re used to people donating a book or two; the first time I gave them something I had seven boxes worth.

  6. yeah, I agree that virtually every NG subscriber has this problem at some point. another option is to see if your local school system could use them — not, sadly, in the library, but possibly in either art class or as a teacher resource for specific projects. sometimes people appreciate that.

    I feel your pain…

  7. I cut off the covers and throw out the rest.

    I know it’s kind of wasteful but it lets me overcome my packrat nature.

  8. One of our local supermarkets has extensive recycling, including a dumpster just for magazines. I often find teachers INSIDE the dumpster, looking for suitable magazines for school projects. Donate them to a local elementary or middle school.

  9. We gave our collection to a school. Do you know how much of write off that could be on taxes as a charitable contribution?

  10. Ian Nigel Staveacre

    April 30, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    I am clutching at straws here…I have an original NatGeoMag dated October 1909. Features a “Burma Update” and has Commodore (then Commander) Robert Peary’s report on his locating of the North Pole. Alexander Graham Bell is listed as Associate Editor. I hope it is worth about $40,000 USD but it may only bring $20,000. Now if I can only locate the suck– I mean “collector” who is missing that particular issue and has lots of money. Don’t everybody e-mail at once, now.

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