By Christina VanGinkel
I love paper. When I say that, I know many of my friends would assume I am referring to my extensive collection of scrapbook supplies and they would not be totally wrong, as much of it is paper and I do covet each and very piece, and I am always in search of more. When I say I love paper though, I am most likely referring to any old postcard, or letter, advertisement, or photo that I possess, or possibly one of the many old documents that I have collected throughout the years. Two of my favorites are the title to an old Model A, crafted at a time when style meant a lot, even for such mundane papers as a vehicle title, and an old wedding certificate that I found stuffed in the bottom of a box of old postcards that I picked up at a rummage sale decades ago.
The term Ephemera actually pertains to not only the items I have just listed, but also to many other items too. Just about anything made of paper falls under the heading of ephemera when categorizing collectibles, from bank checks to sheet music, from baseball cards to valentines, even newspapers, maps, die-cuts, and business cards.
What I enjoy most about the items of ephemera that I have collected through the years is the history that is captured within each piece. Postcards often have tidbits of history written right on them, and items such as the title for the car detail who owned the vehicle. I have even come across receipts for tractors and other farm equipment that when I read the prices, I am just amazed at what things cost not all that far back into the past. Kids often can gain much from browsing through ephemera collectibles such as these, and can come away with a much better accounting of what the past was like than what they could ever learn from a history book.
To see first hand how different paper was decorated is another reason I enjoy collecting paper items. The wedding certificate, from the year 1925, is so elegant in comparison to the simple sheet of paper that my husband and I received when we were married a quarter of a century ago. Also with the certificate that I found, was a simple book, with the names of the wedding party participants, and a note from each in their own handwriting, all together with some gorgeous illustrations, and tied and assembled with a silken cord. This was surely a keepsake for the bride and groom that they probably reminisced over many a time throughout the years. When I realized what I had, I actually looked up the address of the sale and phoned the owners, asking them if the certificate and book had been accidentally placed with the postcards. They responded that they knew it was in there, and hoped whoever bought the box would appreciate it, as they had no desire to keep it.
If you decide to make collecting ephemera a hobby, always look for pieces to add to your collection is some of the most unusual places. Rummage and estate sales are common places to uncover finds, and be sure to look further than just the most obvious places. Papers and such were often tucked into pages of books, folded into clothing, stuck into crates, even folded and dropped into old cookie jars. Ephemera often pops up in some of the most unlikely places, so when you are browsing through a sale or second hand shop, be sure to check out any item that catches your attention.
Condition of ephemera is not always as good as we would like it to be, and you will have to learn to sue your own judgment on whether pieces are worth trying to salvage or not. I have an affinity myself for some of the roughest looking items, as they are often the most interesting. If you have similar tastes, just be sure to try to protect the item from further damage once it is in your possession. Fire, mold, and water damage can ruin a piece of ephemera beyond repair faster than you can blink, so be sure to take care. Happy collecting!