Even if you don’t know the definition of ‘ephemera’, it’s likely that you’re surrounded by it. Anything printed on paper and not meant to have eternal value is considered to be ‘ephemera’. Pamphlets, receipts, ads, business cards… pretty much anything made of paper that isn’t a book or a fine art print falls under this huge category. The magazine in your bathroom, the restaurant receipt in your wallet, the scratch-off lottery ticket on the nightstand — it’s all ephemera. Because the printed message exists in so many forms, and for so many reasons, collecting ephemera is a huge field.
Collectors all have their reasons: some of them are very interested in history, while others take a voyeuristic approach, or enjoy understanding the ways that advertising and social norms have been conducted over the years. We interviewed collector Marty Weil, who revealed his own reasons, as well as dealer and collector Cliff Aliperti and Frank DeFreitas.
As we move into a paperless society, what will happen to the world of ephemera collecting?
Ephemera gives us clues about the past, even if we can’t ultimately figure out what old notes on the back of photographs actually mean. There’s something about looking into someone else’s life which is fascinating, so finding an old journal presents a narrative that no one but the original owner knew.
Most of the world of collectible ephemera consists of vintage advertising items, but printed matter is really too vast to confine it to such a small collection of items, as evidenced by this gathering of blog posts we’ve made.
- Collecting Travel Ephemera
- Thoughts on the world of ephemera
- Finding ephemera in a vintage magazine shop
- Ephemera promoting 1900s social events
- Paper propaganda during the Cold War
- Magazines and the quest for historical ephemera
- The portrayal of African Americans in vintage advertising
Do you collect ephemera? Show us in our Community!