Published: January 22, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
HARTFORD, CONN. – The 75th Papermania Plus show at Hartford’s XL Center opened at 10 am on Saturday, January 5, to wet weather, but inclement weather often translates into brisk traffic from visitors. And it did, with show manager, Gary Gipstein reporting high traffic on Saturday. Attendance on Sunday, January 6, when the weather was more pleasant and less conducive to being inside, was less brisk, though Gipstein was still optimistic about the turnout and attributed part of the steady visitorship to newly extended hours on Sunday. He also mentioned that a television news crew covered the show on Sunday morning, which he said has not been done in recent years and was “a good thing.”
A recent article in The New York Times (January 12, 2019) discussed the phenomenon among some colleges in rural areas of needing to reduce liberal arts fields such as languages and history to stay afloat. Interest in history is at a seeming low point. Ephemera – the tangible remnants and keepers of history – has suffered considerably from this change in cultural values. The value in shows like Papermania lie in the ability to preserve heritage and present history and culture in a way that is both affordable and accessible to people of all ages and in all income brackets. Gipstein has been making a concerted effort in recent years to spread the word about Papermania Plus on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using these platforms to highlight what dealers are bringing to the show. He continually updates these throughout the run of the show and said he saw a slightly younger demographic coming through the door. Several dealers reported positive results from this increased social media promotion, though, as is often the case, strong sales were not enjoyed universally by all of the vendors present.
The winter edition of Papermania attracts approximately 90 dealers, most from New England but also from as far away as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. As one would expect from the name, paper ephemera is the primary focus, so books, manuscripts, maps, posters and photographs are the most common commodity on the floor, but there is so much more, including games, cameras, sports and movie memorabilia and sheet music. With something for nearly every interest and embracing a modest price point that will appeal to seasoned and beginning collectors, future shows should not be missed.
Occupying a prime spot in the hallway outside the show were Cliff and Linda Hoyt, Lowell, Mass., who specialize in medical advertising and ephemera. The Hoyts’ latest book, A Century of Cures, Dr. J.C. Ayer & Co., of Lowell, Mass., U.S.A. (1841-1943), which was published in October 2018, was available for purchase and is the definitive 500-page history of the company.
Scarborough, Maine, dealer Stephen Hanly, with Bickerstaff’s Books, Maps Etc, had a colorful 1935 pictorial map of the University of Connecticut, which he had priced at $550. Hanly said interest in pictorial maps has increased, a phenomenon he attributed to the graphic and attractive nature of the maps, and their reasonable price range. He hoped Hartford would prove a good location to sell it, and, when reached after the show, he said that while the map did not sell, it had attracted considerable interest.
Folk art works on paper offer something for collectors looking beyond the scope of ephemera and both Evie Eysenberg, Cold Spring, N.Y., and Nancy Craig, NCC Antiques, Dover, N.H., had wonderful things. Among Eysenberg’s interesting items was a 1797 schoolgirl watercolor and pen and ink written in Danish or Swedish text by Gertrude Bisgaard. The tag on it indicated that it had been found in Ohio and had priced it at $300. Nancy Craig had a nice printed Pennsylvania Dutch fraktur with hand coloring, with a date of January 10, 1914, in Birdboro, Penn., that was priced at less than $100. While Craig did not sell the fraktur, she reported steady traffic through her booth and several sales of smaller items, all of which “added up.”
One of just a few dealers offering fine art was Marc Chabot, Mark Chabot Fine Art, Southbury, Conn. Chabot pulled out a timely slate print by William Kent, dated 1964, boldly titled “Nation is in Good Shape,” showing the figures in red or blue to identify them with their political affiliation. As this show happened at the beginning of the second week of a government shutdown, it seemed a particularly appropriate thing to have at the show.
People become book, manuscript or ephemera dealers for lots of different reasons, and they are usually happy to tell you why…usually with a fun story. This was the case for Bob Veder of Class Menagerie, Bolton Landing, N.Y., who had enjoyed a career in advertising before stumbling upon a portfolio of nearly 50 World War I posters at a field in Brimfield, Mass., about ten years ago. Veder was able to buy the portfolio for very little and turned around and sold them for a nice profit at Swann galleries in New York City. At that point, he was hooked and now specializes primarily in travel, advertising and World War I and II posters.
From the number of maps of Connecticut towns at the show, one gets the idea that they are more likely to appeal to the local audience, and they do. Bob Seymour, Colebrook Book Barn, Colebrook, Conn., had two maps prominently displayed, one the town of Woodbury, Conn., the other the town of Litchfield, Conn. Seymour said that in his experience, the map of Woodbury is scarce, and that one can find maps of Litchfield County more readily than ones of just the town. In the next aisle over, John Townsend of Town’s End Books, had several smaller printed maps of Connecticut towns and pulled out one from his town, Deep River, Conn. Though he has been in the business for 27 years, this is only Townsend’s third year at Papermania. Reflecting afterwards, Townsend said that while he did not sell his Deep River map, he did sell a couple of other maps of Connecticut towns, a couple of books and numerous other items of ephemera.
Early documents and manuscripts are often hard to spot but one that was nearly impossible to miss was with Dennis Holzman, Dennis Holzman Antiques, Cohoes, N.Y. The framed document with a large rosette seal was a 1744 land transfer between William Penn’s sons, John, Thomas and Richard, whose names were prominently written across the top of the document, became proprietors of the Province of Pennsylvania after their father died in 1718. The land transfer between the Penns and Adam Farney of Lancaster County was signed by George Thomas, who served as the deputy governor of the province of Pennsylvania from 1738 to 1747. Holzman had acquired it from an estate near Albany, N.Y., and had priced it at $650. When asked how he got into the antiques business, Holzman said he had started in construction and was able to keep things that were going to be thrown away, which he sold for a profit. He began dealing full time in 1988 and has been doing it ever since.
Eric Caren, the Caren Archive, Woodstock, N.Y., is one of the more high-profile dealers at Papermania. Caren, who has been called “The King of Ephemera,” has had several highly publicized single-owner sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams, and gave Antiques and The Arts Weekly the scoop that he would be selling another single-owner sale at Heritage Auctions in the spring. In Caren’s booth were several very prominent framed handwritten signs that read “Under 25? Take 1 Item Free.” When asked about this, Caren said he has been doing this for about four years, and it is his way to encourage young people to start collecting historical ephemera. He shared the story that he and his girlfriend had been leaving the show one day and he spotted a young boy about 10 or 11 years old on the escalator leaving with a few things under his arm. Caren had just acquired a volume of 1812 newspapers, but he pulled one of them out and asked his girlfriend to give it to the boy for free, which she did.
Caren told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that he would be leaving the country, to split his times between homes in Amsterdam and Costa Rica. He will continue to exhibit at Papermania as well as attend the New York and Boston book and paper fairs. Caren will continue to collect, and he has arranged for four different firms to handle sales from the Caren Archive.
There were several dealers of autographs, sports cards and coins, including Steve Rubin of Steve’s Collectibles. Rubin said he has been doing shows for 40 years and when asked if things are different, he said the internet has completely changed the market for his material. Additionally, he said the market has strengthened because people can buy and sell internationally, and often more cheaply than they used to. Rubin thinks the internet has allowed people to become more knowledgeable and interested in collectible material.
The next Papermania Plus show will be August 24. For more information, www.papermaniaplus.com.
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