For more than 25 years, twice a year, collectors, dealers, dreamers and the merely curious have been coming to the show affectionately and accurately called Papermania Plus. The August 25 and 26 weekend marked the 50th consecutive show that Arlene Shea and Gary Gipstein (and earlier Paul Gipstein), have been organizing, promoting and producing. The summer edition of Papermania is the more recent addition to the winter show, which really began in 1975 as a traditional antiques show.
There are many dealers who, if they have not been at every show, have been at most. Finding a 30-year veteran among the 155 dealers proved to be relatively easy. Papermania consistently offers collectors and dealers a large, comfortable and easily accessible spot to meet at the Hartford Civic Center. And those dealers bring everything from trading cards, Civil War items, games and botanicals, to commemorative items, fine art prints, antique coins and books.
The booth of Tom Clemens’ Gargoyle Gallery, Boston, was filled with fine prints, artists signed etchings and lithographs. He had sold, by 10:30 am, his “L’estampe moderne,” an Art Nouveau lithograph, as well as an Eighteenth Century musical instruction book and some Nineteenth Century sheet music. He said, “This show is always good, fun — I have collectors who come to every show knowing I will be here. They look for me and then they go on and search the whole show.”
John Brooks Dodge said he thought he had been at every show since the beginning — but at 83 he said he was not completely sure. Shea confirmed Dodge has been there from Bedford, Mass., with his venerable collection of valentines, antique photographs, art work and his own art work as well as his original Graflex camera that he used for years. Dodge said that he once sold a valentine to Martha Stewart and that the most expensive valentine he had ever bought was $9,000, purchased at the Pier show in New York City. “I didn’t sell anything like that this year,” but he also said he is planning to continue with his paper collection, especially the selling part, but he is beginning a new venture — “I don’t think playing golf is enough.”
Eric Caren, Caren Archives, Katonah, N.Y., was at the first Papermania show and says he has “done hundreds of shows and always come back to Papermania twice a year. Its my favorite show — I buy, I sell, I see old friends. I can’t say enough about Arlene and Gary; they care about how the dealers are doing, they protect and promote us. On Friday night, to celebrate this being the 50th show, they gave a cocktail party for the dealers, which was great.”
Caren’s booth, as always, was filled with documents and items relating to American history —whether it was a broadside on the capture of Jefferson Davis or the first sex manual printed in the United States in 1793 (both items he purchased on Saturday, he said). He sold several items including one large, roughly 11 by 14 inches, photograph of Arizona Territory taken in the 1880s and a contemporary printing of the complete text of the United States Constitution from a Rhode Island newspaper printed in 1787. The price tag on that item was $20,000. He said he had also bought “the biggest photograph of the smallest person: a huge photograph of Mrs Tom Thumb.”
Also selling early prints and antique books was Dan Gaeta, Waterbury, Conn. His booth was lined with shelves of books, which were less common at this mostly paper and ephemera show. One booklet in particular was a very early American almanac: Freebetter’s New England Almanac, printed in New London, Conn., in 1776. It had on its cover “The Able Doctor, or America Swallowing the bitter Draught,” which was a cartoon by Paul Revere, maybe the first cartoon published in America. Working with John Hendsey of New Hampshire, Gaeta’s offerings were extensive.
Not to be outdone with antiquities, Stephan Roodveldt, Holden, Mass., had a 1652 Italian book handwritten written and embellished by a student. What made the book unique were the ink drawings on each opening chapter page that were clearly images of his life in Seventeenth Century Italy, as well as some later notations added in at the end. The student, some 13 years after he copied the book, reused this volume as a diary/journal where he recorded the birth of his son in 1666 and then his daughter in 1668. Roodveldt found the manuscript in Italy and would part with it for $2,800.
But at Papermania it is not just about antiquities. Marc Chabot, Southbury, Conn., had fine art prints, including a John Leslie Powell watercolor of a tugboat signed “Powell ’42.” Powell was a well known illustrator in the 1930s–40s.
Larry Shapiro, another 25- or 30-year veteran of the show, brought a New London train station sign with wooden letters and rings for hanging it on the station platform from his Glastonbury, Conn., home. He had a long buggy whip with a carved ivory handle as well as an embossed bronze plaque stating “Argentine Embassy” that he thought must have come off the outside of a building.
Frank Oppel came up from Stamford, Conn., with prints: prints of fish, birds, game birds, boats and landscapes and maps. He was not content with his collection, as he was off shopping as the doors opened to the traditional crush of runners. This year, however, many dealers noted that while people did rush from booth to booth, shouting out what they were looking for, “Got anything with …?” they also came back a second time, slowly looking for themselves for that perfect item for their collection.
Shea and Gipstein noted that the crowds were steady, especially on Sunday when they offer free appraisals by expert dealers from 11 am to 2 pm. “People came in the morning, went out for lunch at some of the great restaurants around here, and then came back again in the afternoon,” said Shea. “Many dealers commented this year that they had customers who came back for a second time, just making sure they hadn’t missed anything.”
It would be easy to overlook that hidden treasure as most dealers seemed to bring an eclectic and enormous assortment of items with them. One dealer said he “always brings things I like that just might not fit into a more traditional show. Here you have people looking for just about everything.” Caren summed it up: “You’d have to be brain dead to not find something of interest here.”
For example, Peter Luke brought a large variety of posters from his New Baltimore, N.Y., home. Offerings ranged from World War II posters that urged people to “Carry On! Buy Liberty Bonds to your Utmost” to a poster with a fireworks figure offering “Standard Fireworks” to Norman Rockwell posters. Dick Thompson, Orleans, Mass., had post cards, paper dolls, maps and coins. Nearby, Estelle Rosen from Doylestown, Penn., was selling “vernacular photography,” which she described as “photographs of everyday things with an artistic look.”
Edward J. Cohen, Bristol, Conn., also sells photographs, especially Civil War daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. To this show he brought an original, historically significant, print of the Colt Firearms Factory parade wagon, all ready to march in some unknown parade. The wagon was loaded with every type of weapon that Colt made, from Gatling-type guns to revolvers and the horses were also decorated. It might have come from someone’s office at Colt; Cohen said several collectors and museums were coming to the show to see the photograph, but it was recently found and he was still doing research on it.
From West Reading, Penn., Larry Ward came with World War I and II posters and also reference books about the graphics he had. He also had some Kilburn chromolithographs of fish, one that was a particularly beautiful orange had already been sold.
Holly Segar’s Yesterday’s Gallery, Woodstock, and Bob Seymour, Colebrook Books, both from Connecticut, were sharing a booth. They had a map of the United States printed in 1856 that stopped well east of the Mississippi River and a bust of a woman advertising the “Women’s Channel Crossing Tournament, 1935.”
The next Papermania show is scheduled for January 6 and 7 at the Hartford Civic Center. For information, Hillcrest Promotions, 860-563-9975 or 860-529-2234 or www.papermaniaplus.com.