Review & Onsite Photos by Carly Timpson
HARTFORD, CONN. — Celebrating its 45th year, Papermania Plus returned to Hartford, on January 13. This year’s winter show marked the 85th Papermania event and was co-produced by Arlene Shea — who began Papermania Plus with her late husband in 1979 — and son Gary Gipstein.
Gary Gipstein remarked, “It’s always a wonderful experience to be with the vendors and the public who come to the Papermania Show. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we strive to honor the legacy of my father Paul Gipstein and the quality of shows that he put on.”
Despite an ongoing surge of Covid-19, there were 58 new and returning exhibitors sprawled across the XL Center with steady foot traffic through the fair all day. Following the show, Gipstein told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “People still like to get out and see the items. A collector might come to the show knowing exactly what they’re looking for, but when they get here they might see something they didn’t know they wanted. That’s the beauty of coming to the shows and hunting down a treasure. Attendance was well-received by vendors and buyers. Shoppers were prevalent and I actually noticed a lot of new faces.”
Paper-chasers lined up early, hoping to be among the first to find the best items. One of the earliest arrivals to the show was Mark Surowiecki from Meriden, Conn. Surowiecki runs Three Brown Dogs Antiques and has been attending the fair as a shopper since 2019. Following the fair, Surowiecki connected with Antiques and The Arts Weekly to share some of his favorite finds. These include a daguerreotype of an amputee, a circa 1852 photograph of a man missing a hand and a CDV of a funeral carriage. He remarked, “Most of what I bought was for business resale, as I have developed a bit of a following on Instagram specifically for antique photos. It’s fulfilling to be able to help (mostly) younger (under 30) collectors and photo enthusiasts add to their collections at a fair cost. I believe in making antiques and collectibles accessible and affordable without the air of financial intimidation you sometimes experience.”
Greg Gibson who owns Ten Pound Island Books did have a booth set up, but he noted that he attends Papermania with the main goal of buying rather than selling. The Gloucester, Mass., dealer has been exhibiting and buying at Papermania since the 1980s and finds the show a good place to network and keep his business running, as he mentioned, “I do a lot of business buying and selling manuscripts and archives. If they seem to tell a good story, I’m interested!” One such “good story” was a journal that he bought early in the day and cataloged for his store by the time the show was over. Journal of the Adventures of William Perry, at Sea and Ashore, 1866-1874 tells the story of a sailor’s troublesome journey to obtain and transport bird guano for fertilizer. Gibson was pleased with the purchase and said, “On the best of all days, you find a fun little surprise like this!”
At its core, Papermania is a celebration of all things paper — advertising, photography, manuscripts and other ephemera from yesteryear. The “Plus” welcomes other antique items such as pins, vinyl records, jewelry and flags.
One booth that appeared to have all the bases covered was that of John Grammer, Montgomery, N.Y. Grammer has been exhibiting at Papermania on and off for the last 20 years and shared “it’s good to be here.” He specializes in midcentury graphics and filled his booth with posters from the 60s-70s, advertising signs and display items, toy cars, puzzles, framed art and bumper stickers. The diversity of items in his booth meant a diversity in shoppers. However, Grammer noted, “People are still attracted to war-related items like recruitment posters and there has been a lot of interest in the Civil Defense exhibit I have displayed here.”
The booth of Kuenzig Books, Topsfield, Mass., primarily offered science, technology and engineering items, but John Kuenzig also brought along items he thought would have greater success at the show. Examples from his booth included an early aviation magazine, construction images and blueprints and an antique manuscript pharmacy ledger. While his company specializes in STEM materials, the most popular categories were manuscripts and highly visual items. Kuenzig has been exhibiting at Papermania Plus since 2004. In an email to Antiques and The Arts Weekly after the fair, Kuenzig commented, “The show is an institution and something we look forward to on the schedule…The best thing about Papermania is being around like-minded dealers and customers, being able to share items of interest, and remind ourselves why this business is so fun.”
While some vendors diversified their booths, expanding outside their typical specialties to appeal to the Papermania crowd, not all wanted to do that.
One such exhibitor who stood by his specialty was Stefan Baer of Complete Traveler, Westport, Conn. Baer shared, “This is my first time attending Papermania. I’m a specialty book dealer (rare travel books) and it is a bit risky to come to an ephemera show that has fewer book dealers, but it was still a great opportunity to showcase what we have.” As such, Baer correctly expected that more shoppers would be looking for literature and he did happen to have some on display.
Featuring historic documents, autographs, letters and manuscripts, Stuart Lutz of Stuart Lutz Historical Documents, South Orange, N.J., has been attending Papermania since the late 90s and his son Aidan kept him company for this show. Most of the documents Lutz offered had historic significance and are linked to US presidents, the Revolutionary War or the Civil War.
Someone else who had their child helping keep things fresh was William Macina, North Haven, Conn. Macina, the owner of Antique Assoc. of CT, filled his booth with brewing items such as advertisements, bar signs, tap handles and antique cans and bottles. He also had an assortment of framed art, postcards and a case of jewelry, which was expertly manned by his young daughter, Holly. Very early in the day, Holly was proud to tell us that she had already sold a few rings.
Bayo Ogunsanya, vice president of Brooklyn Rare Books, Brooklyn, N.Y., specializes in African Americana memorabilia. As such, the Brooklyn Rare Books booth was stocked with an assortment of books, art, photographs and magazines primarily by or about African Americans. As a testament to Papermania’s reputation, Ogunsanya shared, “I’ve been doing this show for about 10 years. The organizers are very nice and I like them a lot, so I keep coming back.”
The Eclectibles booth, run by Sheryl Jaeger, Tolland, Conn., had a prime location, situated right by the door, and consequently saw a lot of diverse interest throughout the day. Luckily for buyers, Jaeger, who has been a cornerstone of the fair and the ephemera community in Connecticut, for the past 30 years, was prepared for the traffic. She brought everything from trade catalogs, advertisements, paper dolls, postcards, books, menus and games. Jaeger shared that there was noted interest in items relating to gender and visual sciences. Like her buyers, Jaeger also proved to have diverse interests. During the day she visited other vendors and purchased items from both the 1970s and the 1850s.
Another familiar face at Papermania was Nancy Craig, Dover, N.H. Her booth, NCC Antiques offered a wide range of ephemera including advertisements, menus and recipes, newspapers, travel brochures, religious sermons and manuscripts. She also had an assortment of vintage board games, cookbooks, silver spoons, framed photographs, scrapbooks and various smalls. While many vendors shared that the morning was rather slow, Craig was pleased to say her booth was as busy as ever. “I’ve been very lucky and have been doing this for a long time. I try to sell nice things at reasonable prices, and it works.” Craig also differs from some other vendors because, as she put it: “I don’t do the internet!”
Peter Masi of Montague, Mass., who has been a vendor at Papermania since its inaugural year, also shared that his experience had been “great.” Masi, a book dealer, stocked his exceptionally organized shelves with a wide range of offerings, including travel, cooking and other nonfiction Americana; early American children’s books; magazines, newspapers and pamphlets; and even some books about books. According to Masi, the January Papermania, being one of the first shows after the winter holidays and the new year, “always comes with a certain edge and excitement.”
Marc Chabot, Southbury, Conn., has been selling at Papermania for around 30 years and expressed he has noticed collectors being “a little more thoughtful these days.” Some who were interested in his art offerings contacted him a few days later rather than purchasing at the show. In that regard, Chabot commends Papermania for being a place to make connections and meet future buyers. One potential purchase that is still in the works is that of an original charcoal preparatory drawing for Blanche Lazzell’s (1878-1956) 1931 woodblock print “The Red Scow.” The print was recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and a curator from the museum stopped by Chabot’s booth to inquire about the tracing. Optimistically, Chabot told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “Even to have that potential is a really great outcome of Papermania. The final chapter has not yet been written!”
Thanks to a premier location in the lobby, Kris VanDenBossche, Ashaway, R.I., may have made one of the first sales of the day. With a finely curated display of Americana and various smalls, the first item he sold was an “oddity,” but he believed it to be a drum mallet or a similar percussion tool. While VanDenBossche did not know exactly what the item would have been used for or where it came from, the sale exemplified his favor for the atmosphere of Papermania: “It is really nice to find people who have a similar taste as you do.”
The next Papermania Plus will be on August 24. For information, www.papermaniaplus.com.