Kinkos Goes To College: University of Iowa Acquires Zine Collection

zines research

Last month, I met up with a local dealer to sell some Canadian first editions, along with most of my small press chapbooks: cheaply photocopied, limited edition poetry collections by Toronto writers I knew a quarter century ago.


It’s pretty strange, seeing slender little publications I paid a dollar or two for in the 1990s now listed for far more.

In the age of Tumblr, does anyone still hang out at Kinkos at 3 a.m. with a pocket full of dimes, running off “zines” — those homemade poetry chapbooks, comics and music mags decorated with crude collages and “ransom note” headlines?

Or are they now — literally — museum pieces?

I really felt my age when I heard that the University of Iowa purchased the “Joshua Glenn Zine Collection,” hundreds of ephemeral micropress offerings from the so-called “Zine Revolution” (1984 and 1993.)

Of course, zines date back much farther than that, as many were reminded after the recent death of Paul Williams, who started the music mag Crawdaddy in 1966, when he was seventeen.

But old hippie crap is one thing.

When did Gen-X stuffmy stuff — become Antiques Roadshow fodder?

(About the same time our music turned “retro,” I suppose…)



Joshua Glenn himself is writing a 25-part history of zines for


In his latest chapter, he covers the punk zine scene, which is the one I first became familiar with.

Punk’s cheap and dirty DIY ethos was the perfect match for the zine format.

In this pre-internet age, fans made zines, spread the word about their favorite punk bands, and tried their hand at being creators in their own right.

Some argue that the very name “punk” came from the eponymous NYC zine, first published in 1976.

Mick Jones probably has a copy or two in his “museum.”

The former Clash guitarist has collected rock and roll ephemera since his teens.

It’s now housed in his “Rock and Roll Public Library,” an occasional exhibit of some of his vast personal stash (which includes pizza boxes from his days on the road.)

(By the way: reproductions of the most famous Clash fanzine, Armagideon Times, will be included in the band’s forthcoming box set; fittingly for a bunch of former art school students, the set will also come with a “Special Edition” of AT, “curated and designed” by the band’s surviving members themselves.)


The first time Mick Jones put his stuff on public display in 2009, he, er, clashed with the gallery curator, who wanted to protect the priceless collection.

Instead, Jones demonstrated that he hadn’t lost his punk attitude:

[Jones] wants visitors to be able to “engage with” his exhibits, to take videos down from the shelves, to leaf through books, and so on.

“Am I worried that people will half-inch [Cockney rhyming slang: “half-inch” = “pinch,” i.e. “steal”] things? I don’t want that, obviously. I think, if you do that, shame on you. But if it ends up as a free-for-all, so be it.

The thing is, this stuff is not for sale. This is to look at and enjoy.”


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