Published: April 2, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
OLD GREENWICH, CONN. – The Ephemera Society of America presented its 39th annual paper fair and conference March 15-17 at the Hyatt Regency. Eighty-three dealers turned out in force for the two-day show, which was reported to sell more than 10,000 items valued between less than $10 and more than $1 million.
Mary Beth Malmsheimer, the administrative director of the Ephemera Society, was on hand Saturday morning. After the show, Malmsheimer said she had sold approximately ten memberships, which she said was pretty standard for the show. Some people bought memberships to qualify for early access to the floor and many members took advantage of the show to renew their memberships. She said more than 100 people had attended the conference presentations, while 60 people attended the Saturday evening banquet, which she said was a good number. In a final comment, she said, “Overall our members told me they were very pleased with the events of Ephemera 39, and I received numerous positive comments about the speakers, fair and exhibits.”
Marvin Getman, the show’s organizer, said he has been managing the fair for four years. When discussing the show after it closed, Getman said the gate was up about 15 percent from last year, a phenomenon he attributed to a PR campaign centering around the Hamilton exhibit that brought in many local people who had never been to the fair before.
For the 2020 edition of this fair, Getman plans to schedule it a week later to put some distance between this fair and the ABAA NY Fair, which he said will make it easier for dealers who participate in both shows.
Getman uses Facebook and Instagram to promote his shows on social media and is encouraged that dealers are increasingly using Instagram. He thinks that the more dealers who use Instagram effectively, the better it is for the future of the business, as it will attract young people to collect books and ephemera, the visual nature of which lends themselves perfectly to Instagram.
In the show’s adjacent annex, Seth Kaller, Inc, and University Archives set up a special exhibition of important documents that featured highlights from the Alexander Hamilton Collection, George Washington’s clarion call to give “to Bigotry no Sanction,” and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, to name a few. While some of the documents in the exhibition were on special loan, several were available for purchase. When reached for comment after the show, Kaller said he had never had a warmer reception and he has reason to think that a couple of conversations at the show will lead to sales. He particularly enjoyed seeing how people were moved by the documents he had brought.
Just before the show opened, Jack Davis, age 5½, was helping set up with his father, Adam Davis of Division Leap, New York City. Jack was sorting stacks of Little Blue Books, which were published in Gerard, Kan., as very cheap “how-to” guides that were small enough to fit into a pocket. In his first-ever press interview, Jack, who his father said has been coming to Book fairs since he was 1½ years old, said he liked the ends of fairs better than the beginning of shows. When asked if he collected anything, he said he “collects everything expensive…or free.”
John M. Leger, Le Bookiniste, Hopewell, N.J., reported having a great show, the best show of the three he has already done this year. He sold a World War II Belgian Girl Guides scrapbook and a 1931 mechanical dial card that claimed to tell you your personality type based on your handwriting. He also sold strongly visual items related to 1960s theatre productions; a poster showing the poet Pablo Neruda, and an album of press photos about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He commented that people seemed to be looking specifically for manuscript material.
Stephen Resnick is one of the dealers doing the show who has been doing it since its inception, when his late wife, Carol, was president of the Ephemera Society. The Cazenovia, N.Y., dealer got his start collecting stamps. Resnick said that the best part of the business is meeting good, bright people and always learning something new. Some of his sales included a collection of Civil War photographs.
Stuart Lutz, Stuart Lutz Historic Documents, Inc, had an unusual letter signed by John F. Kennedy in which he thanks a Congresswoman for bringing him a crucifix. Lutz said Kennedy downplayed his Catholicism during the race so this letter was unusual. The Short Hills, N.J., dealer had priced the letter at $7,500. When asked, Lutz said Kennedy is among the top five most desirable presidents for collectors, in the company of Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. Lutz reported selling a Truman letter for $250.
Many exhibitors are collectors as well as dealers, and they use the opportunity of shows to scout for finds. David Lilburne of Antipodean Books, Garrison, N.Y., collects tea ephemera and said he bought an antique Chinese tea chest that had a printed date of April 8, 1800 on the side that had been imported to New York by a John Lasher. Lilburne said that in more than 40 years of collecting items related to tea, he had never seen anything like it and aside from early tea receipts dating from the Revolutionary War, it is the oldest American related tea item he’d ever seen.
A challenge facing many dealers in any category these days is attracting younger buyers, and this reporter asked exhibitors if they saw an increase in sales to younger buyers. Diane DeBlois, of aGatherin’ in West Sand Lake, N.Y., said she had sold a photograph to a Winterthur program student. Nancy Craig, NCC Antiques, Dover, N.H., reported a great exchange with a college student from Rhode Island who came to the show late Sunday afternoon. After speaking at length with Craig, the young woman, who had never been to an ephemera show before, got her start as an ephemera and paper collector when she purchased from Craig a vintage pamphlet titled “Philosophy of Style” and a handwritten notebook of stories.
Other sales reported included a collection of old Greenwich maps to a local resident who bought them for his daughter for $3,000 from Frank Oppel, Paper Duck Antiques, Stamford, Conn. Glenn Mason of Cultural Images, Portland, Ore., reported good sales both days, doubling sales from the previous year. They sold to society members and dealers as well as the general public, many of whom had never attended the show before. Mason also commented that new customers seemed to be attracted to the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century graphics and typography of the ephemera they exhibited.
Jose Rodriguez of Cartophilians, Cheshire, Conn., also said he had a great show, selling an important archive of African American pamphlets, Civil Rights Movement publications, show cards, exhibition programs, broadsides, magazines, and more dating from 1903 to the early 1950s that had been rescued from a home in New Jersey that was undergoing a “house clearance.” Rodriguez sold the archive to a foundation that had never before purchased ephemera of that kind. He also sold an important group of California Gold Rush letters, lots of trade cards, illustrated billheads and better postcards and a few rare books as well.
Dealers often make sales after the show closes; an Eighteenth Century print of Edward Savage’s “Liberty in the form of the Goddess of Youth giving Support to the Bald Eagle,” which Carol Spack, Original Antique Maps, Framingham, Mass., said was “on reserve.”
Ephemera 40 will take place March 28-29, 2020. For information, www.bookandpaperfairs.com.
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