The usual is the means of exchange by which one acquires fanzines in lieu of sticky quarters or other forms of filthy lucre.
It is a rare faned who dreams of a vast publishing empire and a fanzine that sustains itself financially. Few fanzines can depend on subscriptions to bring in enough money to pay for printing. Typically, faneds announce that copies are available for the usual, that is, a letter of comment, a fanzine in trade or a contribution of an article or artwork.
The way it's generally phrased in the colophon is along the lines of "This fanzine is available for $1 or the usual." (When asked as alternative to the usual, the cash typically amounts to just enough to cover printing and mailing of the issue. Consequently, fanzines available for the usual are not considered have been offered for sale and, in spite of money occasionally changing hands, are considered to be entirely amateur and entirely fannish.)
U.K. fan Derek Pickles and his brother-in-law, Stan Thomas, were the first to spell out, in the June 1954 issue of Phantasmagoria, the three ways of getting their fanzine without paying cash:
1. No subscriptions are requested, if you send money we won't refuse it, but there is no sub rate. 2. You can make sure of receiving future issues, which will appear when we feel like it, by a. Writing a letter of comment. b. A contribution. c. Your magazines.
This formula quickly spread. It's unknown, however, who was the first to sum these up in the useful phrase the usual.
Source: Stet 9 lexicon by Leah Zeldes Smith
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