No, don’t start a check of your online map service. I made that name up and checked if any local governments had the audacity to name their town “Lost Hope”. It seems that none have.
So what’s my point? Well, even the smallest towns have had some sort of advertising piece made to celebrate their existence, and traveling sales people helped them out with every conceivable item to stick their location’s decal upon. Top that off with the postcards we have from every corner of the country and you have an idea of the possible depth a collection centered on a small town could have, even if the place was poorly populated with little road traffic over the last century, or completely lost its identity due to the path of an “I” system road.
I’m now reminded of this type of collection, as I just wrapped and shipped a plate to an Evanston, IL collector of souvenirs picturing local buildings from turn of the century. These were often made in Germany, as were a good portion of the populous around these Great Lakes states back in the 1800s and early twentieth century. Many of these souvenirs found their place in local homes as mementos of weekend excursions. Today, they are easy to display and take up limited shelf space, while reminding us of places that have lovingly been restored or have been lost to modernization.
While large cities have lots of great souvenirs or local advertising to choose from, it’s the small towns that attract my attention when we are out looking to stock our online stores. I have the ability to find and grab a souvenir plate in Kentucky, depicting lobster fishermen at dockside, and send it back home to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Sometimes it’s a small calendar from a local grocer that has survived for fifty years inside an attic that I’m crawling through at an estate sale. Now that gets me going on my search for my next great find.
Postcards are plentiful and I like to buy in bulk, hoping for the right mix. Buyers on the Internet are always hunting for a special location, their home town or favorite place they have visited. That’s why I have sorted my collection by state. Older souvenir postcards often had city street scenes or famous buildings. Again, the small town cards are a great attraction as the quantities first produced were small and a limited amount have survived.
As for advertising, many specialty companies produced low-cost advertising giveaway souvenirs. Match books, playing cards, can openers, pens, letter openers and calendars are just a few of the multitude of advertising items from companies like Brown & Bigelow.
We too like to hit home runs from time to time. Our recent sales have included an antique wall-hung time clock, a 1960s style drugstore Coke dispenser, some wonderful pottery pieces and a Lionel train set. These are great finds and wonderful sales, but often we sell to other dealers that expect to profit from their purchase. When I’m asked if that bothers me, I say no. I made my money and I wish them luck, but it just doesn’t have the warm feeling like returning something back home.
So if you see me out hunting, and hear me give a yelp, I just might have found a cup and saucer souvenir from old Borchert Field in Milwaukee or a match book from the “I Don’t Know Bar” in South Heart, ND.