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Q:My dad has a birthday coming up, and I want to give him a copy of Life from the week he was born. Where do I get such a thing?

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A: As long as the birthday boy is under 70 or so, you're in luck. "People recycled a lot of magazines during the Depression," says Kurt Westphal, owner of A&S Magazines (308 West 40th Street; 947-6313), so pre-1930 periodicals are comparatively scarce. Nevertheless, A&S still has them by the pile. His total stock, putting the Collyer brothers to shame, is about half a million magazines, "give or take 100,000." Specialties of the house include fashion and sports titles, as well as newsweeklies.

The owner of Jay Bee Magazines (150 West 28th Street, Room 601; 675-1600), Henry Greenbaum, claims an even larger back stock, in the millions. This 40-year-old business specializes in entertainment and weekly titles (TV Guide, Life, Time, Newsweek, People), and a typical mid-century issue goes for about $10. The only catch: You'd better hope that your dad wasn't born in his favorite magazine's inaugural week. Greenbaum just sold the highly collectible Sports Illustrated No. 1 for about $200; the first Playboy, with its famous Marilyn Monroe cover, goes for about $2,000. If, however, your gift recipient was born after 1968, both shops stock what we humbly declare to be the iconically, ultimately perfect present. Says Westphal: "New York Magazine? Sure -- we sell them all the time."


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