‘Dewey defeats Truman’: A $2,000 mistake?

(MCT) — CHICAGO — A discovery inside a Texas storage locker has placed renewed attention on an infamous Chicago Tribune edition and its potential value. The original copy of the “Dewey defeats Truman” Tribune from Nov. 3, 1948, was estimated to be worth $2,000 on a recent episode of A&E’s “Storage Wars: Texas.”

Mary Padian and Moe Prigoff, of Dallas, found the newspaper in an abandoned storage locker in Garland, Texas, the contents of which they bought for $800. The find was featured last weekend on the cable show, where scavengers reveal such discoveries and try to determine their worth.

“It’s pretty much digging through crap,” Mary Padian said about her role on the reality TV show. “No one’s really going to leave something valuable in the majority of these lockers. It’s just finding a gem in the middle of a haystack.”

Of course, incumbent Harry Truman actually defeated Republican New York Gov. Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election, despite what the headline on an early edition of the Tribune said — a headline Truman later made famous by holding it up at a train stop in St. Louis.

Once Tribune editors learned of their flub, they sent reporters out to find and destroy the roughly 150,000 copies of the paper printed with the erroneous headline. Eleven editions of the Tribune were printed that night, few with the infamous headline.

Sixty-four years later, at least six copies of that edition were listed for sale on eBay Wednesday evening. The most expensive one seeks $2,500, plus shipping. The papers were sold for four cents in 1948.

Steve Ferber is co-owner of Lori Ferber Collectibles in Scottsdale, Ariz., which operates the site deweydefeatstruman.com, specializing in sales of that edition and related memorabilia. He said he’s bought and sold 22 of the editions and is currently listing two — one for $2,495, the other for $1,995 — and but that he’s seen other sellers fetch as much as $4,000 for theirs at auction.

“Condition means a lot and so does completeness of the papers, when it comes to value,” said Ferber, who calls the editions scarce, but not rare. “Collectors would prefer to have all the editions and then in very good condition, which when it comes to old newspapers is always a challenge.”

Separate searches of the Tribune archives by Senior Vice President and Editor Gerry Kern and other staffers indicate the Tribune likely does not have an original copy of the edition. When Kern realized this, he bought his own copy from Lori Ferber Collectibles for $2,000 after he was named editor in 2008. The complete paper, in a custom frame with a picture of Truman, hangs in his office.

“I think it’s such an amazing piece of our history and of American history,” Kern said. “In fact, I think it’s the most famous single edition of a newspaper that maybe has ever been published that is identified with a publication and an event.”

Padian, who studied journalism at the University of Texas, Austin, said she plans to sell her “Dewey defeats Truman” to a collector.