Published: September 11, 2018
Review And Photos By W.A. Demers
HARTFORD, CONN. – Papermania Plus co-producers Gary Gipstein and Arlene Shea assembled about 80 exhibitors for the August 25 edition of the antique paper show Papermania Plus at the XL Center, marking the biannual event’s 74th show. Acknowledging that it is difficult to corral both dealers and the buying public on one of the remaining fine summer weekends, the promoters trimmed the event by a day, hoping that a Saturday-only event would concentrate the minds of both paperchasers and traders.
One day or two, knowledgeable folks know that this show is one of the best opportunities on the East Coast to find choice additions for their collections. This show, which is considered to be one of the most important in the Northeast, offers the full gamut of rare books, ephemera and collectibles – movie star posters, postcards, vernacular and fine photography, first editions, stamps, sheet music, tins, vintage valentines, world war ephemera and zodiac signs, to name a few.
“The energy of the show was good,” said Hillcrest Promotions’ Gary Gipstein. “It was fast-paced, with people looking for what they wanted. The change to a one-day format worked out well in that it attracted more vendors in attending the show. We will be returning to the two-day format for winter edition in January, however.”
Richard Resser and Ann Thorner, Manchester, N.H., fresh from a successful show during Antiques Week in New Hampshire, sold a 1767 Pownall view of Boston, a group of Robert Frost material, a 1779 Massachusetts coroner’s commission and a 1783 Massachusetts privateering commission.
“She’s a beauty, eh?” wrote Greg Gibson in his Bookman’s Log blog, referring to a hand-painted canvas banner advertising a packet ship called the Morning Star, which sailed between Portland, Maine, and New York. The owner of Ten Pound Island Book Company said he’s never seen anything quite like it. “Probably dates from after the Civil War, but I haven’t yet been able to find anything out about the ship, the master or the agent, so it’s going to be a fun week. Think that’s Portland Head lighthouse in the background? If you want to have the fun of researching it for yourself, just send me $5,500.”
Arrosic, Maine, dealer James Arsenault said he tends to leave the high-value material that he is known for back home for this show, opting instead to feature material that is “appealing to people who have other things.” On view here, among other items, was an advertising photograph of the exterior of a liquor wholesaler in Albany, N.Y., circa 1860-70s, showing workers and horse-drawn wagons with their high-octane cargo, and an Edward Curtis (1868-1952) photograph titled “Aphrodite,” one of the photographer’s large body of cyanotypes.
Among the rarest of the vintage posters being shown by Bolton Landing, N.Y., dealer Bob Veder was one of a finely dressed Victorian woman at the “Cecilian,” dubbed the “Perfect Piano Player.” The “Cecilian” was a line of high-quality pianos and player pianos built and sold by the Farrand Piano Company of Detroit, Mich. This particular poster had been made for the Arthur P. Curtin Music House in Helena, Mont., which is where Veder found it. He said the registration crossmarks on the piece identified it as a printer’s proof.
Eclectibles, a Tolland, Conn., dealer, is the business of Ralph Gallo and Sheryl Jaeger, who have more than 50 years experience in trading in ephemera. They are active members of the Ephemera Society of America and the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) and Jaeger serves on the Ephemera Society’s board of directors. Their collecting philosophy is reflected in their firm’s name – diverse pieces of ephemera and related items, some geared toward children’s ephemera and books, visual culture and Americana. On view for this show was a Columbian Exposition silk souvenir scarf with scenes from the exposition, a photograph showing the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake and a curious automobile medallion from the 1930s decrying the state of Connecticut’s roads.
Opinions on the change to a one-day format were mixed, as one might expect. For fine art specialist Marc Chabot, relatively local as he lives in Southbury, Conn., the one day proved to be less of a time commitment. “Frankly, though, I only had one sale, 3/5th of which went to booth rent, so for two days work – add booth setup the day before – I made practically nothing after gas, food and cost of inventory are figured in. The show is still a great place to buy, but those who experience visual culture on tablets and phones have less appreciation of the physical artifact, it’s rarity and the passionate search that consumed earlier generations, and this threatens the stewardship of our cultural legacy going forward.”
Chabot said he sold a large abstract midcentury color woodcut wittily titled “Celestial Swine” by Evelynne Swetlow, an artist who studied with Louis Schanker, an important printmaker and member of the American Abstract Artists group. “‘Celestial Swine’ had been shown in a 1949 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, and the original label from the exhibit came with the print!,” said the dealer. “You won’t find another like it anytime soon, and my young collectors luckily appreciate this fact and snapped it up! Papermania is and always will be a place where you never know what significant historic artifacts, beautiful works of art or landmarks of popular culture you will see have been gathered under one roof by dedicated, knowledgeable dealers. The good news is you can take them home with you, and many dealers will work with you to acquire what you desire on terms tailored to make it possible!”
“I am okay with the one-day format,” said Ken Farrell of Just Kids Nostalgia, Huntington, N.Y., “Sunday, though, does sometimes make the show for some dealers. When you have borderline sales, Sunday might make all the difference. Dealers do not mind paying more for a booth or selling for an extra day if they are making money. Not everyone at Hartford makes enough money.”
Farrell observed that for Papermania, both the crowd and the dealers are getting older. “If you do the math, most of us will not be there in ten years. Get more pop culture from the 1930s through the 1980s. Business for me has always been great at Hartford. I try to bring fresh stuff all the time. The same old stuff doesn’t sell because there is little new blood.”
Papermania Plus will mark its 75th anniversary with its show scheduled for January 5-6. For more information, www.papermaniaplus.com or 860-563-9975.
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