How to Identify the Age of Rand McNally Maps & Globes

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Rand McNally is one of the world's foremost publishers of maps, atlases and globes. The company was founded by Chicago printers William Rand and Andrew McNally and produced its first map in 1872 for its Railroad Guide. The Business Atlas followed four years later. Rand McNally made its first globe in 1880 and first road map in 1904. Early maps and globes are prized by collectors.

  • Rand McNally maps
  • Rand McNally globes
  • Magnifying glass or reading glasses

1 Read the article Interpreting Rand Codes

Read the article "Interpreting Rand Codes," by Jeff Koenker, on the Road Map Collectors Association website.

2 Look

Look at the very bottom of the map for either a letter or an alpha-numeric code. It is generally found in either the bottom left or bottom right corner, and is sometimes hidden in the map itself, rather than in the border. On globes, it is generally found with the Rand McNally name and copyright notice.

3 Interpret the code

Interpret the code, and double-check by referring to the "Dating Rand and Gousha Maps" table on the Road Map Collectors Association website.

4 For extra verification

For extra verification, visit the Virtual Antique Map Fair website at and consult a dealer who specializes in antique maps and globes.

5 Contact a dealer

Contact a dealer and send him a photo of your Rand McNally map or globe. Most dealers are happy to help.

  • Keep in mind that while Rand McNally produced its first map in 1872, the company didn't make its first globe until nearly a decade later. Beware of reproductions. If a map looks too neat and crisp to be 100 years old, it probably isn't. And if a globe is made of plastic, it couldn't be from the late 1800s or early 1900s, when Rand McNally used paper and cardboard.
  • If you contact a dealer and he offers to buy your vintage Rand McNally map or globe, don't say yes right away. Search eBay or other online auction sites for similar items so you can get a good idea of the street value of your map or globe.

Thomas K. Arnold is publisher and editorial director of "Home Media Magazine" and a regular contributor to "Variety." He is a former editorial writer for U-T San Diego. He also has written for "San Diego Magazine," "USA Today" and the Copley News Service. Arnold attended San Diego State University.