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1953 Playboy Magazine Vol. 1 No. 1 First Issue Rare Red Star Version with Marilyn Monroe

Lot Number 1469

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There’s an old adage that sex sells. Hugh Hefner proved his genius by adhering to the wisdom of this simple philosophy when he launched his Playboy magazine in December of 1953. The master stroke was struck by placing ultimate sex symbol Marilyn Monroe on the inaugural issue cover, resulting in sales far beyond Hef’s expectations. Show your collecting genius by taking possession of this rare “red star” version of the first Playboy issue. Detailed description on our website.

Three distinct versions of the 12/53 Playboy first issue exist, which are the “standard plain” type, the “page 3” type numbered on the first interior page and the “red star” type which is printed with a small red star to the left of the title on the front cover. Based on the original distribution numbers and a recent grading census, this red star variety shines as the toughest type. Approximately 50,000 copies of all types were sold in 1953 when the magazine was introduced, with estimated totals of 2,500 red stars and 40,000+ plain covers. Leading comic book and magazine certification service CGC shows a census report of 198 total graded copies with 148 plain copies, 39 page 3 types and just 11 red star versions. These statistics reveal the red stars to be about fifteen times more scarce than standard plain issues and easily the rarest of the three varieties. Though recorded sales of star types are few, those noted exceed that of the other types, with top grade examples approaching the price of a luxury automobile.


Typical to the white background cover, the offered red star example shows minor soiling, however the Marilyn photograph and the various graphics remain sharp and the gloss level is well above average for magazines of the period. This complete and intact issue boasts a solid spine and decent corners, though the staples show moderate oxidation and there is a light vertical crease next to the spine that extends two-thirds of the way up. The interior pages are generally clean, supple and bright, with only light signs of aging encroaching on some of the page perimeters. These conditions add up to a totally respectable example that presents in the 4.0 VG range and possibly a bit better.


In addition to the front cover photo, this important inaugural issue features a three-page spread of sizzling sex symbol Monroe titled “What Makes Marilyn?”. The crown jewel of this spread is a now famous full-page color calendar art pin-up pose of Marilyn “au naturel”, taken by photographer Tom Kelly and credited in the magazine to the John Baumgarth Co. Also featured in this magazine are the first ever “Playboy’s Party Jokes” page, assorted nude photos, cartoons, works of fiction including “Introducing Sherlock Holmes” and articles on sports, music, food/drink and more.


When opening this classic fantastic first you will encounter the opening statements which read “If you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 80, Playboy is meant for you. If you like your entertainment served up with humor, sophistication and spice, Playboy will become a very special favorite”. More than sixty years later these words have proven prophetic, with the Playboy brand still going strong with its worldwide following.








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