1.04.2008

Remembering: Martha by Mail (Catalog For Living)

Imagine being able to buy some of the delightful crafts, dishes, vases and storage units shown in the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine. That was the thinking behind a mail-order catalog business that the company launched in 1996 to help supply the demand from consumers. Everything from furniture to craft supplies, preserves and confections to gardening clogs, wreaths and cookie-cutters were on offer. The business started off small. Several issues of the magazine that year were accompanied by mail-order inserts called "Martha By Mail." The demand was so high that Martha soon realized she would have to develop an in-house merchandising team to design and create new products for this special division of the company. When marthastewart.com launched the following year, the Martha by Mail component was added to the online fold, which not only facilitated the ordering process, but also widened the market.
In 1998, "Martha by Mail" was strong enough to become an official catalog business; consumers could subscribe to the catalog and order any number of goods featured on its pages or online at marthabymail.com. While the business was successful for several years, its greatest challenge was maintaining a profit. It was an expensive project to run and it proved difficult for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to oversee not only the rapid design of products, with the promise of new offerings in each month's catalog, but also to manage its delivery processes. The catalog business was closed in the summer of 2004.

For collectors of the Martha Stewart brand, there is nothing more valuable than the products that were featured in the pages of the "Martha by Mail" catalogs. If the products are sealed in their original packaging, the items can fetch two or three times what they originally sold for. (Of particular interest to collectors are the cookie-cutter sets, the unique cake molds and baking pans, the jadeite collections and some of the dinnerware and serveware sets.)

The catalogs themselves are highly collectible. At online auction sites, such as eBay, a single copy of the catalog can generate between $8 and $30, depending on rarity and condition, which is quite astonishing considering the catalogs were originally free! A complete catalog set, like the one shown below, could fetch as much as $1,000, perhaps more. Each of the catalogs that were issued by the company are shown below, in order of appearance. I wanted to put this up on Martha Moments as a collectors' resource. A very special thank-you to my friend Kenn for these scans!

EARLY INSERTS



 
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MARTHA BY MAIL: 1997

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MARTHA BY MAIL: 1998
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MARTHA BY MAIL: 1999
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MARTHA BY MAIL: 2000
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MARTHA BY MAIL: 2001
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MARTHA BY MAIL: 2002
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CATALOG FOR LIVING: 2003
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CATALOG FOR LIVING: 2004
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3 comments:

David said...

I have many of these catalogs and I cherish them immensely. You know Andrew, I take a lot of inspiration from them & they're a great resource for me as a collector of Martha by Mail items. I vow to have some of these items as future Good Things on my blog! Thank you for posting this! I absolutely LOVE it!

Marion's Kid said...

David.. Thank you soooooo much for this information. I have saved, no on purpose,but dumb luck, most of these catalogs. My husband tossed some of these on a spree of "helping" clear out stuff. Let us never speak of this again...mistakes were made.
Now seeing this I went through my old Martha's and found a few of the first ones.
I love them. And it is nice to see how creative a period it was in Martha's company.
Wish I had had more expendable income and then all of those great products would now be in my home!

Kristin said...

Wow! Thanks for preserving all those covers. Even though I was fresh from college I still managed to by a few MBM items. I cherish all those items today!