Published: August 30, 2022
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
HARTFORD, CONN. – It’s probably fairly safe to say that many – if not most – people equate Hartford’s XL Center with sporting events for the Hartford Wolf Pack, the University of Connecticut’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, men’s ice hockey teams and music concerts by headliners of every vintage. But the longest running event at the venue has been a show for collectors of books, manuscripts, maps and other paper-related ephemera. Papermania Plus – the “plus” denoting the added inclusion of photography and advertising items – is a twice-annual event managed by Gary Gipstein of Hillcrest Promotions that celebrated its 82nd edition on August 20. Fifty-five exhibitors, mostly from New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, set up on tabletops in the center’s East Hall, with outliers Florida and Kentucky each being represented by one dealer.
“The show turned out very well. It drew a reasonable crowd considering the environment. Vendors were pleased to get back to a face-to-face event,” Gipstein said. He noted that the show was the 20th anniversary of the death of the show’s founder, his father, Paul Gipstein. “He was not just a promoter but an integral part of the antiques community in and around New England. His business legacy lives on, and people still think about him; several people mentioned him during the show.”
Inside the front door and occupying booth #1 was Bob Shepherd of Niantic, Conn., who was seen making deals with fellow exhibitors even before the show opened. Among the standout items in his booth was a stack of early railroad bonds, all in what he described as “mint condition.” He had found them in an estate from Middletown, Conn., and was asking $25 apiece for them.
Mahol Grant and Sandie Spadaro were set up next to Shepherd and had old magazines, maps and posters. Spadaro said that a current popular category was bright, colorful abstracts and pointed to a few works by Lorraine Abrams, a New York City recluse who recently passed away. The Bethel, Conn., dealer has been doing Papermania Plus for between 25 and 30 years and exhibits at the Elephant’s Trunk in New Milford, Conn., and the Allentown (Penn.) Paper show.
Josh Heller, Joshua Heller Books Photographs and Miscellany, is a good place to go if you are in search of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century photography, antiquarian books and books on Americana and pop culture. In his first show back since Covid-19, the Pittsford, N.Y., dealer showed off a rare first edition but second printing of Our Bodies Our Selves (1971), which he was selling alongside the January 23, 1973, issue of the New York Times, which announced the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision.
Along the same interest lines but across the show floor, Ken Florey specializes in ephemera from the women’s suffrage movements, both in the United States and England. In addition to selling two of his recent books on collectibles from the category, the Madison, Conn., dealer said he’d gotten interested in the topic “a long time ago,” when he wrote an article on the subject for a journal. Among the most significant items he has handled in his career was a hunger strike medal given to Lavender Guthrie (1889-1914), a British suffragette.
Glenn Vogel, Ocean Township, N.J., had a table of old daguerreotypes in the center of his booth and said he has a particular affinity to the Civil War period. When asked to point out one of his favorite pieces, he showed off a framed printed document from the North Carolina Monument Association, which was dated 1894 and discussed the reburial of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, in Richmond, Va. It was framed with a piece of the catafalque from when Davis had lain in state in Raleigh, N.C.
Ben Koenig of Country Bookshop had, among many things, a set of James A. Michener’s The Modern Japanese Print, an Appreciation, which was published by Charles E. Tuttle Co in Rutland, Vt., and Tokyo, Japan, in 1962. The run was limited to just 510 copies and the set Koenig was offering featured not only the artist’s signature on each print but that of Michener’s as well. Two volumes on Ansel Adams were also rarities in the Plainfield, Vt., dealer’s booth.
“There’s nothing else like Papermania,” enthused Fred Calabretta, who has always come to the show to buy but was participating as an exhibitor for the first time after a lengthy hiatus. He said he specialized in things “from the 1860s to the 1960s.” While Antiques and The Arts Weekly was in his booth, he had interest in antique postcards and vintage hardcover novels, the latter of which he helped box up for a buyer.
Stanton Kip Miller, SK Miller Ephemera, used to do Papermania Plus but is back now that he has retired from a full-time job. Specializing in antique advertising, a passerby got their two cents in, claiming the New York City dealer had “the best die-cut advertising collection.”
“We have colleagues who do the show; they encouraged us to do it,” said Holly O’Brien of Yesterday’s Muse Books, which was making its Papermania Plus debut. The Webster, N.Y., bookseller specializes in the history of Rochester, N.Y., as well as military history and literature. When asked what was one of her most important pieces, O’Brien quickly pointed to a signed NASA photograph of Apollo 11 astronaut, Neil Armstrong, which was acquired from one of her longtime regular customers.
After the show, O’Brien reported sales of various broadsides, a collection of New York magazines from the early to mid-1900s, some volumes of Recognition Journal from World War II and vintage children’s books.
“People are starved to come out and experience culture in person,” noted Southbury dealer, Marc Chabot. He had several graphic works by William Kent, who was at the forefront of slate printing and whose works were influenced by nature, environmentalism, sexual mores and political corruption, as well as by the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963. Chabot mused that Kent’s work “is so resonant today; he would have a field day [with the political environment] and be totally outraged.”
After the show, Chabot reported a few sales, notably an M.G. Martin color drawing for a ceramic animal “nodder” with a nodding head. Marc Chabot Fine Arts represents Martin’s original prints, works and drawings and Chabot said she was a highly creative artist in several media who traveled to Italy on a Fulbright fellowship in 1959, and headed the art department at the Westover School in Middlebury, Conn., for many years. His other sales included a color lithograph still life of pears in a compote after Georges Braque, and a black and gray etching with a difficult to decipher pencil signature of a windmill by a river in an Arts and Crafts style.
Local paper Americana and antiquarian book dealer Richard Murphy said he’s been doing the Papermania shows “since they started” and had already enjoyed several sales by the time we stopped by his booth an hour or two after the show opened. He had sold “a lot of paper, and books from the 1790s.”
Vintage Castle Film reels were of interest with John Kuenzig, who specializes in what he dubbed “antiquarian STEM ephemera – science, technology and engineering.” He’d found the film reels at a flea market and was selling them individually. The Topsfield, Mass., dealer was returning to Papermania Plus for the first time since Covid-19.
Coca-Cola advertising ephemera is fairly plentiful. One could not say the same for that of Moxie soda, which was created around 1876 as “Moxie Nerve Tonic” and was designated the official soft drink of Maine in 2005, according to Wikipedia. Uncasville, Conn., collector, Charlie Dennis, who was visiting the booth of Paper and Lace and speaking with Twig Holland of Milford, Conn., and Art Edinger of Kentucky, was on the prowl for Moxie glasses that were made as early as the 1920s.
“Business is awesome,” Gary Sohmers said. The owner of Wex Rex Collectibles and pop culture collectibles appraiser on the Antiques Roadshow has seen a huge demand in new categories, driven largely by what he calls the “nostalgia curve”: collectors look for things they remember from their childhood.
After a busy and successful New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association show in Manchester, N.H., on August 11-13, Resser-Thorner Antiques said they were having “a good show.” Some of the sales tallied in the first hours of the show were a small framed Revolutionary War document dated 1775 and a few box lots.
The 83rd edition of Papermania Plus will take place January 14-15 at the XL Center.
For additional information, www.papermaniaplus.com.
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