Published: December 17, 2008-- FRENCH Vogue wants your old issues -- the ones that have been gathering dust on a some shelf like bottles of Bordeaux -- and preferably in a vintage older than 1975.
The magazine has taken the unusual step of placing a want ad in its December/January issue to invite readers to send in old copies to rebuild its archives in time for its 90th anniversary next year. The request has generated some curious reactions among fashion insiders, who have long regarded the French edition of Vogue as the more artistic sibling of the usually safe-dressing American flagship.
For one thing, it comes at a time when the industry is suffering severe losses and questioning the value of print, though old fashion magazines are still considered valuable to collectors. A few copies of French Vogue are on eBay this week for $20 to $40. Last week, Swann Auction Galleries in New York auctioned a lot made up of the first 50 issues of Visionaire; it sold for $20,000.
But for another thing, the ad promised to compensate readers with an exclusive gift. Lunch with its editor, Carine Roitfeld, perhaps? Tickets to a couture show?
"I hope it's a lot of money," said Vince Aletti, a photography critic for The New Yorker and an adjunct curator at the International Center of Photography.
Mr. Aletti said that some of the rarest issues are worth hundreds of dollars. The holy grail is perhaps its Liberation issue, the first published in 1945, after a suspension during the war years, which included haunting illustrations by Christian Bérard. Also valuable are issues that show important photographs of the 20th century.
"Fashion photography is what made me start collecting Vogue," Mr. Aletti said. "I was interested in Penn and Avedon, so I started collecting their work in a way I could afford."
The payoff from French Vogue, however, may not provide much incentive for collectors to part with their magazines. Its archivists, reached at Condé Nast in Paris, offered a choice of a French Vogue beauty book or "Vogue à la Mer," a compilation of beachside images from the magazine.
Then again, it could be considered a small sacrifice to play a part in fashion history.