Exhibiting a near cultlike following, die hard collectors of ephemera descended upon the Hartford Civic Center August 25′6 for the twice-a-year Papermania Plus extravaganza.
Though the bulk of offerings comprise antique paper in a variety of forms and in all price points, some years ago the show promoters added advertising, photography and nonpaper items, including games, puzzles and cameras, to the delight of the audiences, for whom the show serves up a one-stop shopping experience.
The show seemed to boast everything but the kitchen sink, and while that may have been missing, dishes proved to be popular at collector-dealer/university professor Kenneth Florey’s booth, Steady Habits, Madison, Conn. The dealer noted his best sales at the show were with women’s suffrage memorabilia, led by a complete dinner service of suffrage china commissioned by Alva Belmont for a suffrage dinner she held at her Marble House mansion in Newport, R.I. At the end of the evening, guests received a place setting of the white ground “Votes for Women” china, made in England, to take home, Florey said.
Rare suffrage postcards, most of which were issued by American and English suffrage organizations, also sold well.
“Papermania is the best ephemera show going in terms of the number of dealers and the number of interesting things that show up,” Florey said.
Show promoters Arlene Shea and Gary Gipstein were pleased with the gate and the success of the dealers. Final figures are not in yet, but Shea believed the gate was up from the previous summer. “The show was wonderful, the dealers did well, and we’re happy that they did, for most of them have signed up; they’ll be back in January,” Shea said.
The show is known for attracting a dedicated, single-minded audience as well as a loyal group of dealers. About 60 to 70 percent of the dealers have been exhibitors for more than 30 years, Shea said.
“Most of the people come to the show, they know what they’re looking for and they know which dealers go to. They often come back on Sunday [and buy more],” she said. The show runs appraisals on Sunday and the feature has proved a popular addition to the show.
Rare books are the mainstay of Joe Maynard, Brooklyn, N.Y., but Papermania offers the dealer a chance to delve into another collecting area, and he has consignors who give him items especially for this show.
“My most significant sales were an 1873 Colton pocket folding map of New York City, hand colored and in a nice brown cloth cover stamped in gilt with a small vignette of Manhattan to the front cover,” Maynard said. Given the location of the Mark Twain House one mile away, a not-surprising sale was a first edition of Mark Twain Sketches , a fairly bright copy in publisher’s blue cloth stamped in black and gilt.
Other sales included an 1830s British book of political cartoons, some children’s pop-up books, some Raggedy Anns and Andys, and a number of literary books bound in leather, one of which was also illustrated in color aquatint, circa 1830s.
“We sold innumerable postcards and small ephemera items,” he said. He noted the bulk of the sales were on Saturday, and he and a friend, who helped staff his booth, took turns shopping on Sunday. “Overall, I was pleased with the outcome,” Maynard said.
Far and away, Massachusetts dealers were in abundance, with this state offering the most of any other state. The show mainly featured dealers from New York and the New England area, but attracted a surprising number of dealers who traveled quite a bit to participate in the show, including Colorado, Montreal, Canada, and Washington, D.C.
Henry Deeks, Ashburnham, Mass., said sales were decent and mostly comprised photographic offerings, particularly “real photo” postcards. Attracting attention in his booth was an “Ike” Eisenhower jacket once owned and worn by Thomas H. Green, major general, US Army, which was appreciated by both collectors and veterans.
Fans of pop culture flocked to the colorful booth of longtime exhibitor Wex Rex, Hudson, Mass., where a set of six Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey nine-sheet circus posters sold, as did several psychedelic concert posters from the San Francisco scene, comic books, autographs, World’s Fair memorabilia, ephemera and books.
Eveleigh Books & Stamps, Dover, Mass., held high praise for the show promoters for the “usual well-run and well-organized show from the dealer’s standpoint,” but noted big-ticket items were not selling well. The dealers were pleased, however, to sell several World War I posters and some pamphlets from the Guthman (book) collection.
Iconic Postcards, Berwick, Penn., made a stellar showing in its inaugural appearance at Papermania. “It ranked among our highest-grossing shows so far. Papermania customers are sophisticated and recognize quality,” said dealer Carol Moore.
Moore was pleased to see her efforts to build a collection of postcards and trade cards relating to coffee, chocolate and tea come to fruition. An attractive display of these themed items was eye-catching in her booth, but did little in sales until Sunday afternoon, when one customer snapped up more than $200 worth of these images.
Serious collectors can be found around the booth of Caren Archive, Lincolndale, N.Y., who always seems to have an intriguing collection of important Americana ephemera. “Although sales were off for me, overall I was quite satisfied with the show and there were memorable buying and selling moments that transcended monetary considerations,” said dealer Eric Caren.
Caren has been known to gift young attendees of shows he is at with an item from his collection to inspire a new generation of collectors. At this show, a man, whom he had given a 1793 newspaper some ten years ago, came to his booth and related how that gift had inspired him to collect Colonial Americana. To prove it, the customer bought from Caren two 1690s American military manuscripts in the low four-figure range.
Caren managed to find some time to do some shopping at the show himself, and found an early illustrated prospectus for a comic book, circa 1831, an area of keen personal interest. He was also happy to be on hand for a surprise birthday celebration Sunday for fellow dealer Rex Stark.
Caren’s childhood collection recently became part of the permanent collection of Newseum, “the interactive museum of news,” that is scheduled to open early next year in Washington, D.C.
Cartophilian Collectibles, Cheshire, Conn., has been a staple at Papermania since its inception and said this year’s summer show was better in sales than last August. Sales were strong both days, and included medical ephemera and quite a few Connecticut postcards.
Sales were robust all over the floor, according to promoter Shea. “Going out on the floor, everyone was busy, and a lot of bags were going out,” she said.
Look for the show at the Civic Center again next January. For information, www.papermaniaplus.com or 860-563-9975.