Paper Collectibles

Ephemera is a term that draws collectors' attention, and it refers to promotional material that signified noteworthy events, ideas, and productions. Ephemera offers an interesting glimpse into history, as it represents what shaped, influenced, or even unsettled society at those moments.

From the Greek and Latin term for 'short-lived' or 'only for the day,' ephemera encompasses memorabilia that was supposed to be exactly that - handouts simply alerting people to important news or items. Ironically, many people greatly appreciated these pieces, despite the original intention of throwaway posters, flyers, and pamphlets. Often distributed for free, many were at first religious in nature, especially during the 16th century, as different leaders vied for attention. Satires then became a common theme, interwoven with serious discourses about political figures and societal concerns. Seemingly everyone had an opinion on something, as seen in vintage ephemera, which include musings and philosophies from Thomas Paine and George Bernard Shaw to costume manufacturing companies and housewives.

Interestingly, collectible ephemera also represent the evolution of printing and marketing. Early 17th-century broadsheets were a response to the British newspaper taxes calculated according to the number of pages. Publishers created leaflets that doubled as mini reports, which later stood out more to audiences with the advent of chromolithography, color printing by stones during the 1870s to the 1930s. As radio became more prominent and a source of competition, though, newspapers returned to including everything in one format. Artists, writers, and orators thus continued to circulate their thoughts and creations.

The subject matters that generated such souvenirs are quite diverse. There are broadsides, such as an 1893 original photograph of the Boone & Crockett clubhouse to a 1966 contemplation simply title Finding out something in a cafe. A fascinating selection of material has been preserved, from the 1941 pamphlet, Studies in Mysteries, by Eric C. Lewis, to the 1895 advertisement, Wedding Secrets, by Pabst Brewing Company. Shop and buy ephemera at AbeBooks, where you'll find guides, pictures, treatises, and more interesting and collectible items.