Sunday, July 13, 2008

An Ephemeral Kind of Day

Drifting from blog to blog today to see what's up lately, I came across a couple on the subject of ephemera, which is my kind of collectible.

Here's the most precious piece of ephemera in my collection: a portrait of my dad, Henry Buys, at age six, taken in Holland just before his family immigrated to Iowa.

Paper is a very practical item to collect, for klutzes who travel a lot and live in small houses. It's usually unbreakable, portable, easy to share images of it over the Internet. Photographs are probably my favorite, though old documents and letters can also stir my emotions. And those vivid old postcards, like the postcard book you can see at the Thrift Shop Romantic's blog today.

At the ephemera blog, the proprietor is celebrating a birthday, which caught my eye because I mine was Friday. Don't ask which one, I don't go there anymore unless I have to. Nothing extraordinary happened, just a lazy kind of day with my mate, running into people I hadn't seen for a while. A serendipitous kind of day.

From there I wandered over to the Ephemera Society blog, where I found an article by Arthur Groten about poster stamps, tiny versions of promotional posters with stickum on the back, just like stamps but a whole different version of philately. I'm not sure they'd be a valuable investment as postage stamps can be, but talk about a portable collectible!

Ken Prag, a San Francisco ephemera dealer whose displays can be found at many antique shows, sent me this postcard of a town that brings back fond memories for me: Point Arena, California. Until two years ago, I lived 15 minutes away from Point Arena and had several friends living there. I'd love to show them this street scene from more than a hundred years ago, when it was a booming logging town, bigger than it is today.

I'm guessing this upbeat Uncle Sam postcard was available for sale to servicemen at the PX during World War II, maybe even WWI! to send back home to their families.

Ken also has an impressive collection of stereopticon views, timetables, passes, old stock certificates and other documents, a few of which are shown on his web page. If you're looking for a particular type of ephemera, he may have it or know how to locate it. Inquire at

Another thing I like about ephemera is the wide range of items you can specialize in, from the goofy to the sublime. Imagine, for instance, collecting air sickness bags from airlines!

Ephemera gets its name from the fact that it wasn't originally intended to be preserved. There's something delightfully perverse about saving something that wasn't meant to be saved, don't you think?

1 comment: said...

If you like ephemera, you might like a blog I read often, Swapatorium. I've been interested in old photographs and cards/letters in antique shops since I was a little girl. I used to sometimes buy old photographs with my allowance money and make up stories about the people in them.