Published: September 20, 2011
Papermania Plus, perhaps the best-known ephemera and collectibles event on the East Coast, turned 35 years old this year, and by virtue of its twice-a-year run, marked its 60th show on August 20 and 21 at the XL Center. Conceived by the late Paul Gipstein and managed by his wife, Arlene Shea, and son, Gary Gipstein, the show began in 1976 as a yearly marketplace and quickly evolved into its twice-a-year format. This most recent event drew nearly 100 exhibitors bringing their memorable items and documents, nostalgia, postcards, photography, movie star posters, rare books and old collectibles.
Shea explained that the “Plus” was added two or three years into the show’s inception to accommodate dealer and collector interest in items that, while “ephemeral” in the broadest sense of the word, were not strictly in the form of paper. Think two- and three-dimensional advertising, logos, tins, cartoon cels †even early soaps whose packaging conveyed images that were both timely and timeless.
For example, hardly anything evokes a sense of time and place more than items that were made to advertise and promote World’s Fairs. The 1940 World’s Fair in New York City was well represented at the booth of Gerald and Carol Newman of New Milford, Conn., who were displaying a colorful plate and a souvenir pen from the event, among other items. In business for 30 years, the couple specializes in advertising and collectibles, and their display included colorful ocean liner posters and pennants †even a souvenir pennant from the Danbury (Conn.) Fair, circa 1930s.
Also on the “Plus” side of things were some of the items assembled by Scott Pioli of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., who was participating in the show for the first time. In addition to a great store display oversized Everlast boxing glove that was 30‴0 years old, he brought a cardboard standup display, circa 1920, featuring the number one golf champ of the time, Bobby Jones.
Still, paper, whether in the form of books, comics, prints, maps, magazines, stamps, sheet music or vintage valentines, rules the roost at this show.
One of the most interesting items seen on the show floor was a Seventeenth Century indenture being shown by bookseller Wilfred M. de Freitas of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The large handwritten vellum indenture dated 1684 was a kind of early prenuptial contract, setting the bulk of the family’s wealth †land in Nottingham, England †in trust for the next generation. Interestingly, the penned and signed settlement, scalloped at the top with three seals, also reveals a generational shift occurring then, according to the dealer. The document is signed by the groom and bride and the groom’s father, while the groom’s mother, perhaps illiterate, only made her mark.
Also on view was a copy of what the dealer described as the third appearance of Thomas Clarkson’s (1760‱846) 1808 “History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by British Parliament.” Containing three plates, two folding, the document included the plan of the hold of the slave ship Brookes , which illustrated the inhumane conditions aboard slave ships.
Attending the show and anticipating the first sale devoted to his collection at Swann Galleries was Eric C. Caren, the Lincolndale, N.Y., dealer of Americana, Western and rare newspapers. Encompassing a broad range of material but always with a focus on “reportage,” i.e., documenting every important event in modern history, Caren’s collection of autographs, books, manuscripts, photographs, broadsides and ephemera spans the Sixteenth Century through the 1970s.
Caren has been an avid collector since early childhood and, believe it or not, succeeded in his original goal to own a representative document from every milestone event from the country’s founding to present day, and the material that is being offered at Swann in three planned sales comprises just some of the duplicate and earlier acquisitions.
Among the rarities the dealer brought to this show were an original account book for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, showing payments to the likes of Annie Oakley and other performers, and an autograph letter signed by Colonel Stephan Moylan (1737‱811), who had several positions in the Continental Army, including muster-master general, secretary and aide to General George Washington. The letter was written to Robert Morris, a Declaration of Independence signer and the famous “Financier of the Revolution,” commending him and reporting on the glorious victory in the Battle of Princeton.
For Michael and Benita Shor of Wolf Creek Paper Antiques, Madison, N.J., “customers showed strong interest in postcards of French cabaret dancers, multi-babies, auto racing, veterinary medicine, baseball, women’s suffrage and Connecticut and Massachusetts views.
There was interest in snapshots, photo albums and larger format images, according to Doylestown, Penn., dealer Estelle Rosen, who specializes in what she describes as “vernacular” photography. “I noticed there was more interest in photography this year,” she said.
John F. Kuenzig of Kuenzig Books Topsfield, Mass., reported individual sales from $25 to $4,500 at the show. “We were overall pleased with the show,” he said. “While the number of dealers and attendees seemed down, those who attended seemed willing to buy if we had the goods. The feeling that no one is buying because of the economy may be true in some quarters, but we saw quite the opposite at the show. As usual, the show was professionally managed and we were pleased with the promoters. We signed up for next year already.”
That show is scheduled to return to the XL Center on January 7 and 8. For information, 860-563-9975 or www.Papermaniaplus.com .
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