Published: September 12, 2017
Review by W.A. Demers
HARTFORD, CONN. – Papermania Plus co-producers Gary Gipstein and Arlene Shea welcomed paper-chasers to the August 26-27 edition of the antique paper show Papermania Plus at the XL Center, marking the biannual event’s 72nd show. Occurring on one of the remaining fine summer weekends, the two-day show had to compete with last hikes, cookouts and pool parties; nonetheless, faithful paper hounds and knowledgeable traders know that this show is one of the best opportunities on the East Coast to find choice additions to their collections.
“There was a lot of business being done with out-of-state dealers coming to shop the show,” observed Shea. “The gate was okay on Saturday. There were still buyers on Sunday, although the gate was not as great – due to the beautiful weather, I believe.”
This show, which is considered to be the largest of its kind in the Northeast, attracts approximately 120 dealers from throughout the East Coast and Canada offering 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.
Dealer head count was down compared to the show’s January edition, for a variety of reasons. One of the show’s regulars, Kuenzig Books, Topsfield, Mass., a reliable source of scientific antiques, books and posters, was MIA. John Kuenzig cited “the press of work, home repairs and a wedding – first time since we started,” he said.
Other show stalwarts like Rex Stark were also noticeably absent. “My associate John Kashmanian and I decided to drop out of the show after more than 30 years,” said the Americana and ephemera dealer. “Both of us went there more to buy than to sell, and the amount of really good stuff has significantly declined in recent years. My half of the booth was typically high-end material – the majority of pieces over $1,000 – and sales were always unpredictable. We both decided we didn’t need the aggravation if we weren’t able to buy great things.”
Eric Caren might disagree. “I bought fast and furiously!” he reported, enumerating a 64-year run of diaries of a New Hampshire man who chronicled voting for Lincoln, as well as the Titanic and Lusitania episodes (1850s to 1918), a circa 1850 daguerreotype photo of a gay couple in embrace, an 1870s trade card for the first robot and a mezzotint of John Paul Jones fighting the Serapis printed in 1780. “Most fun though was the original divorce document between Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio,” said the Westchester, N.Y., master ephemera collector whose prodigious inventory of material has been whittled down somewhat by five sales to date at Swann, Bonhams and Christie’s. Christie’s single-owner sale in June totaled $1.5 million, a new record for an ephemera auction. “Much of my time was spent promoting my next auction at Cowan’s on September 8,” said Caren. “Both Christie’s and Cowan’s have been exceptional to work with!”
“Saturday had a decent crowd at the show and was good for me, much better than usual due to three significant sales to loyal and very much appreciated clients who are passionate about prints,” said Marc Chabot from Southbury, Conn. Himself a draftsman, printmaker and curator, Chabot founded his company, Marc Chabot Fine Arts, in 1990, specializing in original prints and other works on paper. The dealer was showcasing works by master woodcarver, stonecutter and artist William Kent. “I had one new collector as well, the rest was only nickel-and-dime ephemera,” said Chabot. “Sunday was quite slow, due no doubt to being a beautiful, sunny weekend late summer day, so people chose to be outside instead.
Bookseller Peter Masi of Montague, Mass., has exhibited at Papermania since about the second show, he said. “The winter show has always been more robust than the summer show,” he observed. “Summer can be a challenging time for a show, and Hartford seems a bit deserted – people are on vacation and there are many shows in more vacation-oriented locations.
“So, yes, I’ve watched the gradual attrition of exhibitors and public, and it was certainly evident this weekend. I’m involved in running several two shows in Massachusetts, and it takes greater effort every year to assemble a roster of exhibitors and attract public attendance.
“That said, as sometimes happens, when the pie is smaller and fewer to serve, the portions might be larger. My sales were better than many years, and some other dealers reported similar results. There was plenty of intra-trade activity,” said Masi, who added that he plans to continue to exhibit at the show.
“Our biggest challenge is creating ‘customer awareness,'” said co-producer Gipstein, who added that he and Shea continue to look at new ways to enhance the event’s visibility among millennials and baby boomers via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “My parents [Arlene Shea and the late Paul Gipstein] laid a great foundation, insisting on professionalism and great quality,” said Gipstein.
“Our dealers did very well,” concluded Hillcrest Promotions’ Shea. “They signed up not only for the January show but for next August as well.”
The next Papermania Plus is scheduled for January 6-7, and the 2018 summer show will be August 25-26. For additional information, 860-563-9975 or www.papermaniaplus.com.
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