Victoria's Secret was founded as a single lingerie boutique near San Francisco California by Roy Raymond in 1977. The Stanford graduate came up with the idea after his awkward experiences shopping for lingerie for his wife.
The very first Victoria's Secret Catalog (see image above) was created in 1978. This was also the only catalog published in that year. In 1979 three catalogs were published and in 1980 six. (This progression continued until the late 90's when there were over 150 different catalogs printed a year.)
Over the course of five years, from 1977 to 1982, Roy Raymond expanded operations from one store to six in addition to his small catalog business. Then in 1982 Roy sold Victoria's Secret to Les Wexner, founder and CEO of The Limited Corporation, for 4 million dollars.
Victoria's Secret was later spun off with several other companies from "The Limited Inc." in October 1995 as "Intimate Brands." In March 2002 "The Limited" bought back controlling interest in Intimate Brands and therefore Victoria's Secret. Victoria's Secret remains a subsidiary of Limited Brands Corporation (renamed from The Limited Inc).
Victoria's Secret Catalog is the No 1 catalog of intimate apparel. Victoria's Secret Catalog sales makeup about 5% of the 9 billion domestic women's apparel market.
In 1993, after several failed attempts to start a new business, Victoria's Secret founder Roy Raymond committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.
The rise of the Victoria's Secret Catalog as an icon in American Culture paralleled the rise of the "Supermodel". The Victoria's Secret Catalog could even be said to have contributed to the increased celebrity status of models. As Victoria's Secret models such as Jill Goodacre, Frederique Van der Wal were becoming names unto themselves the catalog also became more that just a means of selling underwear.
During the late 80's and early 90's, supermodels Stephanie Seymour, Karen Mulder, Helena Christiansen and a few others presided over what might be considered the Golden Age of the Catalog. It was during this time that catalog production values greatly increased. With new money infused from its wealthy parent company Victoria's Secret upscaled the look and feel of the catalog. Victoria's Secret hired only the world's most beautiful and famous models and paid the world's best photographers to take their pictures. The result were catalogs with photography that was often indistinguishable from the images in expensive art books.
Some supermodels such as Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Cambell, Valaria Mazza, and Josie Maran have made only relatively brief appearances in Victoria's Secret Catalogs. The appearance of some models such as Josie Maran has even been referred to as a myth. The appearance of models like those above in a Victoria's Secret Catalog makes a catalog more collectable and more valuable. An interesting note is that even actresses Gena Davis and Uma Thurman have made appearances in old versions of the catalog.
Given the importance of the Supermodel in the history, success and popularity of the Victoria's Secret Catalog it is also understandable that the particular supermodel on the cover has a direct correlation to the collectable value of that particular issue.