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Collectible Paper Ephemera

Collectible paper ephemera — ephemeron, singular — are a source of inspiration for scrapbook aficionados and writers, among others. Essayists, novelists and historians all find their work helped by these collections. Who knew that items so trivial at the time could turn out to be so fascinating, and even important.

What categories of these ephemera are available?

Categories are:

  • Billheads
  • Christmas ephemera, including gift tags, postcards, and cards
  • Other cards, including business and calling cards, memorial and membership cards, cards from library card catalogs, and computer cards from the days when a computer could take up the space of an entire room.
  • Awards of merit for schoolchildren
  • Personal diaries
  • Die cut scraps, which are excellent for scrapbooking. A die is a tool used to cut and shape paper and other materials.
  • Pamphlets on everything from how to have a great wedding to how to die well
  • Paper dolls and their clothes
  • Railroad timetables
  • Old magazine covers

Other vintage ephemera include calendars, letterheads, theater programs, advertising signs, labels and stickers, school report cards, pages from books, and catalogs.

When were these ephemera made?

These ephemera were made between from before 1800 to the contemporary era. This means that a good number are antiques, which meant they were made more than a century ago. The others are considered vintage ephemera unless they were made very recently. Pre-1800 pieces are often land deeds, currencies, almanacs or legal documents or rare maps. As the century progresses, there are stereoviews of well-appointed homes or scenes in nature. These are two pictures of the same object. You put on special glasses, and the two pictures coalesce to give an illusion of depth. The Victorian era was the era of die cut scraps, many with lush colors. You will find old letters, sheet music, perfume labels, and photos of silent movie stars from 1900 to 1920. Later years find more die cut scraps, autograph books, school books, menus and magazine covers.

What can be done with vintage ephemera?

You can use an ephemeron to do research, whether you are writing a historical treatise or writing a work of fiction. It is sometimes good to know how much something cost or how the trains ran back in 1899. You can use bits and pieces of a vintage ephemeron to add to your own contemporary ephemeron. Some ephemera are aesthetically pleasing enough to be framed and displayed as works of art or to give interest to the decor of a room. If they are Christmas ornaments, they can be continued to be used as such. If you are a stamp collector, these ephemera are excellent sources of antique stamps. You can also use them to make:

  • Origami: These can be anything from animals, flowers, fruit, finger puppets, boxes, paper lanterns, or other items.
  • Other types of paper flowers and insects
  • Photo cards
  • Collages, which can be random items or items in the same category, such as Victorian Valentine’s Day cards
  • Decoupage. This is pasting a vintage ephemeron on an object then decorating it.
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