I try to keep my catalog collection to a minimum as they can take up too much shelf space. Some of those old Sears books were as thick as a phone-book.
I have used some of the damaged books in scrap-booking and they can make pretty cool milestone birthday gifts. I gave a pile of 1950's department store catalogs to a friend who works in a nursing home. She uses them for all sorts of different activities with the residents and and I have been told the books always bring out memories. She does activation with Alzheimer patients and the catalogs have always been a positive tool.
I recently discovered a few online catalog archives.
Update : This site seems to be temporarily offline. I will leave the link up in case it reappears Wishbook Web - Before you visit this site, get comfy and make yourself a drink because you will be sitting for a while. This site has a ton of old Christmas catalogs. Sears, JC Penny, Eaton's,Ward's. They are scanned from front to back and date back to 1933. Great resource if you are looking for some vintage holiday inspiration. The site is the work of Jason Liebig whose Flickr page is a treasure on its own with pages of vintage advertising and scans of products of the past
Love Radio Shack? There is an archive of past catalogs at www.radioshackcatalogs.com starting with the first one from 1939.
This site is really nicely done and the books can be viewed in several different formats. The site also has the Radio Shack computer catalogs going back to '77