First issue of Playboy - featuring Marilyn Monroe - set to sell for $2,700

The Palms of Great Canary. Audience Alfredo Kraus. Exhibition `Marilyn the Dream `of personal objects of the actress Marilyn Mon

The first issue of Playboy ever published is up for auction in Los Angeles. The magazine, produced in December 1953, had Marilyn Monroe as its first ever naked centrefold, and declared it was intended to "give the American male a few extra laughs and a little diversion from the anxieties of the Atomic Age."
The Auction house estimates this copy (not the one pictured) will fetch $2,700 (£1,800).

This incredible price is partly due to the fact that there were only around 54,000 of this issue printed, and so few of them remain. At the time, there was no notion that Playboy would become a publishing phenomenon. The short print run - and the fact that there was no date on the cover - reflected the fact that Hugh Hefner wasn't even confident there would be a second issue. However, he needn't have worried, the first issue sold out almost as soon as it hit the shelves.

Many of the images in this copy reflect the fact that this was the age of the slightly more clothed pin up. The text, meanwhile, reflects the nature of the inequality of the sexes in the 1950s. The opening page read: "We want to make clear from the very start, we aren't a 'family magazine'. If you're somebody's sister, wife or mother-in-law and picked us up by mistake, please pass us along to the man in your life and get back to your Ladies Home Companion."

Playboy collectors

It seems like a lot to pay for an old magazine, especially one with some damage to the cover, but copies of this issue have fetched incredible sums. In 2007, one in far better condition (described as 'mint') fetched $5,000 at auction. In 2011 another went under the hammer with an estimate of $1,500 and sold for $7,040. And later the same year, one in immaculate condition created a bidding frenzy on eBay and sold for $39,000.

The prices this issue has fetched over the years reflect a perfect storm of desirability. Not only is there a shortage of the issue - so that owning one offers more status - but there's also the draw of an iconic celebrity. Marilyn Monroe's legion of fans are always willing to pay incredible prices for her memorabilia. In 1999, for example, the dress she wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John F Kennedy in 1962 sold for a jaw-dropping $1,267,500.

Meanwhile, an equally dedicated number of Playboy fans will pay the earth to get their hands on desirable memorabilia. In 2010, for example, a Mercedes limousine owned by Hugh Hefner was auctioned - which came with an invitation to a New Year's Eve party at the Playboy mansion. It eventually fetched $77,675.

But what do you think? Can any magazine be worth this much? Can any copy of Playboy? Let us know in the comments.

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