Published: September 2, 2015
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
HARTFORD, CONN. — Papermania Plus co-producers Gary Gipstein and Arlene Shea welcomed paper-chasers to the August 22–23 edition of the antique paper show Papermania Plus at the XL Center, marking the event’s 40th year and the 68th show. Outside the weather lured adults and schoolchildren to one of the last late summer weekends with cookouts and pool parties, but inside the lower level of the XL Center the lighting was pure fluorescent and folks were working on their collections instead of their tans.
This show is considered to be the largest of its kind in the Northeast, and it attracts dealers from throughout the East Coast and Canada with 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 show had shed some of its dealer headcount compared to the January edition, for a variety of reasons, but some due to “health issues,” according to show management. Recent renovations in the lower level of the center also gave the event a more compact footprint, so with the exception of two dealers set up in the lobby — Carl Candel’s booth devoted mainly to Marilyn Monroe memorabilia and Christopher Bronson from Springfield, Mass., everyone else was set up in the large exhibit hall, some with extra elbow room.
A show regular, Kuenzig Books, Topsfield, Mass., brought a good number of the scientific antiques and posters for which it is known. A graphically strong early Paris travel poster, circa 1957, presented a stunning image and robust colors, indicating that it had been protected from bright light for the past nearly five decades.
Owner John Kuenzig also pointed out some interesting early artist’s aids on display. Two camera lucida instruments, one in brass accompanied by a full set of prisms and case, and another example in nickel. Patented in 1807 by William Hyde Wollaston, the optical device superimposes the subject being viewed upon a surface. This allows the artist to see both scene and drawing surface simultaneously so he or she can duplicate the subject and achieve an accurate rendering of perspective. Another aid was called a Claude Lorrain mirror, circa late 1800s, named after the Seventeenth Century landscape painter. Featuring a cased mirror with dark tinted surface installed in a carrying case, the device was used by artists to abstract a subject reflected in it from its surroundings.
“The fair went well for us,” commented Kuenzig, contacted after the show. “Although the dealer and customer numbers seemed down, those who attended were serious and bought their usual eclectic mix from our booth. At least one dealer sold out his entire booth. Gary and Arlene’s staff as usual ran a great show.” Sales for the dealer ranged from 50 cents to $1,750 — photographs, cameras, an 1871 Paris lithograph and an early American document signed by the first secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, among many others. “As our industry deals with a cyclic downturn. Papermania Plus remains one of the few paper shows where treasures can still be found,” added Kuenzig.
Fred Baron’s dad Howard exhibited at the first Papermania show and Fred himself has been dealing for 32 years. The South Deerfield, Mass., exhibitor, whose business is called High Ridge Books, was showing a large-format campaign advertisement for Winfield Scott Hancock, the Civil War Union major general who was wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg and later ran for president of the United States on the Democratic ticket in 1880. The rare piece was notable for its accurate historical detail right down to indicating the insignia of the Irish Brigade, according to Baron, although the heroics of the battle scene itself may have been enhanced by the artist.
Baron said he had seen a reference to a similar image of “Hancock At Gettysburg” but had not yet found another example. The dealer also brought several maps of Connecticut towns, including Danbury and Bethel, circa 1850s. These maps, a precursor to advertising posters later used by banks, law offices and schools, presented street plans with names of land owners and factories, surrounded by idealized images of key houses and civic institutions.
“The show went well,” said Baron afterward. “Sales were a little above expectations and I met some new people. Sunday attendance was disappointing, but I made a few sales anyway.”
For more than 20 years, Just For Kids Nostalgia, Huntington, N.Y., has been a source for pop-culture collectibles, with inventory both online and at shows. A booth stocked with movie and rock ‘n’ roll posters, as well as TV, comic character, World’s Fair, advertising and sports memorabilia, greeted showgoers over the two days.
A 40-year collection of Big Little Books from the 1930s–40s had recently been obtained by Gary and Linda Welker of Elmira, Ontario, Canada. “We bought them because of their great condition,” said Linda. “Each one had been individually wrapped.” There were about 45 of the books on display in a glass case. The Welkers brought mostly books and paper to the show, including a lot of early bibles and religious books from the Sixteenth–Seventeenth Centuries, but they also had a small collection of tramp art pieces.
“Pop culture, which I define as beginning with P.T. Barnum and Mark Twain, is my focus,” said Hudson, Mass., dealer Gary Sohmers, who most folks know as Wex Rex from his appearances on the Antiques Roadshow. “I sell you back your youth.” Sure enough, Sohmers’ booth was filled with a lot of 1960s–70s nostalgia, including signed publicity photos of Jerry Garcia, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters and Pearl Jam and others — all on offer to satisfy what Sohmers sees as a huge demand for original rock’ n’ roll material. That and comic books. “Thank you for throwing away all your old comic books back in the day,” he said. “You helped make mine more valuable.” On Sunday, Sohmers provided free verbal appraisals from 11 am to 2 pm of pop culture items collectibles and toys.
“Everything seemed to go well,” observed Hillcrest Promotions’ Arlene Shea. “More than half of the dealers signed up for the August 2016 show.” The next Papermania Plus is scheduled for January 9–10, and the summer edition, which will mark the 70th such event, is set for August 27-–28. For more information, www.papermaniaplus.com or 860-563-9975.
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