I just watched this episode of Pawn Stars and it inspired me for my next lesson. The episode showed this guy selling a war bond from 1775 that was most likely engraved by Paul Revere. Pretty significant piece of…..ephemera.
Ephemera is written and printed matter not intended to be kept or preserved. Basically, any printed material that was meant to be used temporarily and then discarded is ephemera.
Examples of ephemera include: Birth and marriage certificates, mourning cards, banknotes, sheet music, manuscripts, bookplates, advertisements, tickets, brochures, receipts,newspapers, magazines, trade cards, product boxes, labels, tickets & invitations, postcards, bill & letterheads, posters, temporary signs, instructions, xeroxes, faxes, stickers, and catalogs..just to name a few.
What makes a piece of ephemera so valuable? Basically, if it has some significance (historical, pop culture, sentimental, educational, etc) it can be worth quite a bit to a person. Tickets to a famous concert, a fishing pamphlet from a now defunct fishing camp, a booklet on how to survive an air raid from the 40’s…..all can have some value to someone.
And they don’t have to be really old either. Imagine having, for lack of a better example, Lindsay Lohan’s scribblings from her courtroom proceedings. You may not want them…but someone does. And is willing to pay some bucks to get them.
Where can you find ephemera? Virtually anywhere. Estate sales are great places because a lot of times there are drawers or boxes filled with papers. I encourage anyone to take a moment to go through each thing….you never know. Books are also good hiding spots. A lot of “bookmarks” end up being very cool things that were grabbed at some point…not realizing the significance at a later date of the item. Book sections of thrift stores often have ephemera “hiding” in them. My past post shows a recent hidden ephemera treasure of mine.
Another great thing about finding these paper treasures, is that there aren’t a lot of people looking for them. Not too many people will sort through a box of paper stuff at a sale. Too bad. There’s definitely the potential for hidden “cash” waiting in some of those boxes.