Steve HEN­DRIX

The Prince George Citizen - - Extra -

Mike Storms was walk­ing among the crowded shelves of the New Jersey Good­will fa­cil­ity where he works when some­thing yel­low and faded caught his eye.

He paused and pulled from the thrift-store jumble a framed sheet of newsprint, dense col­umns of tiny text topped by a small en­grav­ing of a dis­mem­bered snake.

The Penn­syl­va­nia Jour­nal and Weekly Ad­ver­tiser, it read. The date? Dec. 28, 1774.

It had been sit­ting there for months, ig­nored or dis­missed as a worth­less re­pro­duc­tion. But Storms, a vin­tage watch col­lec­tor and self-de­scribed “lover of old things,” was in­trigued.

If it re­ally was an 18th cen­tury news­pa­per, he loved think­ing of the crafts­man­ship that went into hand set­ting all that type, the clunky screw press that would have pro­duced it, one inky broad­sheet at a time.

And the three holes he saw punched in the cen­ter fold made him think the pa­per had once been bound with other edi­tions, some­thing not likely with a cheap copy.

“I went to my boss and said ‘Look, do you mind if I re­search this a lit­tle more,” Storms said.

The boss said yes and was glad she did. It took Storms only a few min­utes of Googling “Unite or Die mast­head” to learn that such an edi­tion of the pa­per, if gen­uine, could fetch up­wards $18,000 on the col­lec­tor’s market. And it took only few weeks to con­firm that Good­will had in­deed lucked into one of only four known ex­ist­ing copies of that day’s edi­tion of the pa­per, still per­fectly read­able 244 years af­ter it rolled-or rather, was peeled-off the press.

“The fact that it sur­vived is just amaz­ing” said Storms.

How and when the pa­per – which is bound on both sides by glass – ar­rived at a Good­will col­lec­tion point in Woodbury, N.J., is un­known.

Storms con­tacted Ti­mothy Hughes, a rare news­pa­per dealer in Wil­liamsport, Pa., who has two edi­tions of the same pa­per for sale, for $15,500 and $18,500 re­spec­tively. He was sur­prised to re­al­ize that the Good­will was on to some­thing sim­i­lar.

“We get a lot of calls about his­toric news­pa­pers, and I’m usu­ally skep­ti­cal,” Hughes said. “I’ve been deal­ing news­pa­pers for 42 years, and we’ve prob­a­bly had five or six pop up with that par­tic­u­lar snake en­grav­ing. But this was the real thing.”

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