Published: September 9, 2021
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
HARTFORD, CONN. – Advertising, photography and antique paper lovers again made a beeline to the XL Center as the Papermania Plus summer edition returned for a one-day show on August 28. Hillcrest Promotions has been running paper and antiques shows continuously since 1975, and Papermania Plus is one of the top shows for paper and memorabilia in the United States. The August event marked the 80th show, and although it seemed a shadow of itself with just 42 exhibitors, dealers gave show manager Gary Gipstein much credit for bravely hosting an event at the same time Covid-19 was again on the rise across the United States.
“I applaud promoter Gary Gipstein for fine work on a live show in parlous times,” said book dealer Peter L. Masi, Montague, Mass. “His mask mandate was largely observed. The show had fewer dealers; no surprise there, the dedicated diehards. The crowd seemed ‘healthy,’ and the buyers happy to have an opportunity to shop at a live event, with more time for each exhibitor. I went with no expectations and was very pleased with the event. I’ve been an exhibitor at Papermania since the second show and happy to continue at future events.”
“The show went well,” said Gipstein. “Expectations across the board, including my own, were low, but it turned out better than anticipated with an average gate in face of the uncertainty of what to expect, and we still had a significant amount of vendors. I’m grateful for that support – both from customers and exhibitors. Without them, I’d be sitting by myself in an empty hall.”
Greg Gibson, owner of Gloucester, Mass.-based Ten Pound Island Book Company, can always be counted upon to share his thoughts on the show and the state of the trade in his Bookman’s Blog, and a day after the show he posted a few thoughts on Papermania: “Gary is to be congratulated for going where other promoters feared to tread, and taking the risks and undergoing the hoop-jumping necessary to stage 2021’s live, in-person version of Papermania. Yes, there were a few things left to be desired. At the Hartford Civic Center, there are always things to be desired. Lights, for example. Edible food. Some security cop to ban the Charlie Chaplin lookalike who rolls his suitcase around the show trying to sell his crummy scraps of paper…all part of the spectacle.
“This show, despite being only about half its normal size, packed a full-sized punch. Plenty of good stuff to buy and, after a scary preshow attendance line, customers came through at a steady pace all morning.”
Observed Brian Caplan, a New York City lawyer/collector who was exhibiting at the show, “It is hard to do a show in the middle of a pandemic, especially when people are getting mixed signals as to whether it is safe to be in public or not. Despite this background, the attendees at the August 28 Papermania show at the Hartford Civic Center were excited to pursue their collecting passions and were quite interactive. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of attendees and their enthusiasm.”
Stacy Waldman of House of Mirth Photos, Easthampton, Mass., was set up with her usual interesting selection of vernacular photography, highlighted by a large group of 1970s Polaroids of an unidentified female trying on clothes and posing for her husband. “It was my first show since early March 2020,” said Waldman, “and I had no expectations, as I knew it was going to be a smaller than usual show. There were fewer dealers, but there was still a decent crowd that was in the mood to buy. I look forward to the next show in early January.”
Ann and Richard Thorner, Resser-Thorner Antiques, Manchester, N.H., were still feeling the buzz from a successful outing at the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association show earlier in the month. They brought some Hasty Pudding class photos from 1885 and 1886, a Dartmouth College photo of the 1902 baseball team and a portrait of John Adams, among other items. “Exhibiting at Papermania resulted in an excellent show for us,” said Richard Thorner afterwards. “We sold approximately 40 items which, for a one-day show, is better than what we had expected. Items ranged from a single document to an archive of material.
“While the gate was less than what has been a traditional strong turnout, the buyers you always hope to see were in attendance. The number of exhibitors was also significantly fewer than prior shows, but given the onset of the delta Covid-19 variant, many dealers apparently decided to stay home.
“I credit Gary and the Hillcrest Promotions team for supporting the trade and the collecting community in hosting the show. There have been too many other shows that have been cancelled for several reasons (not enough dealers, other methods of selling etc.), but, quite frankly, live shows are the backbone of dealer, collector and institutional business. Dealers and collectors should take every opportunity to both exhibit (in the case of dealers) and attend any show that moves forward.”
José L. Rodriguez, a Cheshire, Conn., dealer who does business as the Cartophilians, was in the catbird seat, being the only postcards dealer at a show that usually hosts several. His booth hummed with activity throughout the day. He observed that while the number of participating dealers was significantly down from previous shows at the XL Center, impacted no doubt by the pandemic, “the variety of ephemera materials offered by the dealers there was quite good and interesting,” he said.
“We had a good selling show. Several highlights were the sale of a 1792 book relating to the American Revolution, an 1812 Washington Society book with original member’s certificate and accompanying bookmark, a group of suffragette postcards and several Civil War carte de visite photographs by Matthew Brady. Also, we had quite a few sales of Connecticut postcards, including some of the big cities like Hartford and Bridgeport.”
Similarly, Sheryl Jaeger, Eclectibles, Tolland, Conn., found that although a smaller fair, “I found this one-day event a fine start to returning to in-person fairs. The atmosphere was festive – greeting long-missed colleagues, sellers and customers alike, with masked faces, smiling eyes and elbow bumps. The space was commodious and well laid out by the promoter. Those exhibitors I queried were pleased with sales, and customers left with parcels – what more could we ask for!”
“Part of the push to have the show this August was that it was our 80th show and we wanted to show that we support the industry,” concluded Gipstein.
The winter show is January 15-16. For more information, www.papermaniaplus.com or 860-280-8339.
September 9, 2021
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