Monday, April 6, 2009


Ephemera are items that were originally produced for an immediately purpose, with the expectation being that they would be discarded after use. This would include items like posters, tickets, invoices, broadsides, and so forth. Those that have a graphic aspect can be called "prints," so antique ephemera would fall within the scope of this blog. However, the way I am using "prints" implies that the graphic aspect is of principal significance for the object. So, a ticket, even one with a small vignette, would generally not be something that I would be concerned with, whereas an advertising poster which includes a substantial view of, e.g., an exhibition site, is something I would include in this blog. The distinction between ephemera that fits this blog and that which doesn't really fall within its scope is vague, however without question the subject of ephemera is relevant to this blog and so I have asked Marty Weil, from Asheville, NC, to write a guest blog on the topic....

Marty Weil, Ephemera blog

I'm interested in ephemera from the standpoint of its value to researchers, writers, artists, historians, genealogists, collectors, and others; therefore, the mission of my blog, ephemera, is designed to primarily showcase the world-class ephemera collections of others. Although I have a few pieces of ephemera, my personal collection is extremely limited. Rather, I'm interested in seeing what exists in the collection of others, and the contest was one means of tapping into the extraordinary wealth of ephemera that is held in public and private hands throughout the world.

The ephemera I cover is solely based on what I personally like and think my readers would find interesting. The items didn't necessarily have to be G-rated; however, I seldom feature anything on the site that wouldn't be appropriate for a general audience. Nonetheless, the site is not intended for children, as the nature of ephemera often broaches decidedly adult topics.

To me ephemera means items made of paper that were not necessarily intended to last beyond a short period. There are many definitions of ephemera. Of all the definitions of ephemera that I've seen, my favorite is "raw, unedited history."

There are a variety of reasons why certain old paper has survived to the present day. In some cases, it's just a fluke or luck or happenstance. More often, people save old paper deliberately for a variety of reasons, such as sentimental value, nostalgia, reference, and/or for collecting purposes. As opposed to offering excuses, most people take pride in the items they've saved or collected, especially those people that consider themselves to be true ephemera collectors.

While I'm not planning to write a Covey-esque book, after interviewing so many established and successful collectors on the subject of creating world-class ephemera collections, I've distilled the seven habits of highly successful ephemera collectors:
    1. Patience. Effective collectors know the value of patience, and may, if need be, wait months or even years before acquiring a particularly rare and important specimen for their collection.
    2. Persistence. Effective collectors have the fortitude to continually search and scour until they unearth (sometimes literally) an item to add to their collection.
    3. Scholarship. Effective collectors know that knowledge is power in the world of collecting. It provides an edge that separates the expert collector from the rest of the field. Effective collectors become, in effect, experts on the subject of their collectible.
    4. Understanding. Effective collectors understand that their collection may never be perfect or complete. The joy of collecting is in the gathering and studying of whatever it is they find fascinating and worthwhile.
    5. Preservation. Effective collectors know that it is not what they have, but how well they take care of it that matters. Effective collectors think like archivists, and care for their treasures like a Brinks guard protects the cash coming out of a Vegas counting cage.
    6. Internet Search Savvy. Effective collectors know the value of the Internet, and they have learned how to bend search engines to their will. Like Major Nelson summoning Barbara Eden from the bottle, they know how to use search engines to bring forth items they seeks.
    7. Fraternity. Effective collectors reach out to others in the collecting community, and share their wisdom and knowledge freely. They understand that sharing their expertise is its own reward, and that by contributing to the knowledge base, they expand the availability of collectibles and increase the value of their collection.

This is what I've learned at the feet of the masters.

If ephemera is your passion, visit the ephemera blog and explore the world of old paper.

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