the ephemeral – jerry blaz


From: Jerry Blaz
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2006 1:45 PM

I noticed that you had something about an ephemera show in Lansing, MI coming up. The link led to a mention of how ephemera is still going strong as a collecting area, etc. and mentioned postcards. Most postcards were sent from places the senders were not from, in short, from travelers to places not home. And while most postcards probably said nothing more than “Having a wonderful time, wish you were here,” occasionally they were short epistles written small and around the margins of the small area given to the message.

When I was a neophyte in the business, I found myself running a table where I was only one of several bookdealers among mostly ephemera dealers who were offering simply postcards, and while it was a bad business investment for me as a bookdealer, it gave me the opportunity to learn something about this area of collecting. It also gave me an opportunity to learn something about how impressarios of these fairs would hide the fact that we were going to be out-of-place by being bookdealers at their show.

I don’t know if many people are still using postcards to communicate their vacation experiences with portable emails, cell-phones, easy “long distance,” etc., but very often the postcards had artwork on it depicting the exotic locale in Michigan or Iowa that was being visited, usually a photo in color, and these were popular when photos didn’t come in colors. I haven’t received a postcard in years, and the only ones I’ve received in the past few decades have been from cruise travelers who drop off at strange and exotic locales where they see the same “made-for-tourist” shops at every port.

As a dealer, I have dabbled in postcards, but I don’t think of myself as a connoisseur of them. They were offered by people to us who didn’t want them anymore, and, if the price was right, it was something to have in an open shop when someone came in requesting postcards. So I always had at least a shoebox full of them around.

The average collector of postcards appears to be female and, from my necessarily limited experience, quite mature. Most of the specialist dealers in postcards are also female. I don’t make this statement as a scientifically-extracted fact from a formal survey but as an anecdotally-extracted statement based on my 30 year+ experience. Postcards seemed to become less popular after WWII, and most of the collections I’ve seen are late 19th and early 20th century postcards. There are people who collect one particular kind of postcard, and the sub-categories are quite varied. For instance, some chose postcards that have a religious theme. Others have postcards that depict means of travel, or some particular means of travel, such as railroads, which would more likely be a male collector. I have seen collections based on plants, landscapes, humor, and fashions.

There still are postcard and ephemera shows in our area, but I haven’t had the urge to attend for at least a decade. But in my mind’s eye, I can still see the dealers sitting with the long rows of postcards that just fit and are neatly sitting in boxes with the faces out to the viewers/customers like the cards in a library’s box catalogue, and chairs where they can sit down and browse through those boxes on the table.

Jerry

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