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The Vintage Vertigo Team ~ An Etsy Team Spirit Finalist

10 May 2015

What is Ephemera?

Read All About It!

Ephemera is any transitory written or printed matter meant for eventual repression (or not meant to be retained or preserved). The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day. Some collectible ephemera are advertising trade cards, air sickness bags, bookmarks, catalogs, greeting cards, letters, pamphlets, postcards, posters, defunct stock certificates, tickets, and zines (Source: Wikipedia.org).

Over the years, more paper items have been lumped under the ephemera umbrella such as magazines (especially the advertisements and articles, photographs, stamps, bank notes and even books (prints, book plates etc).

It is amazing what people will collect. If it is made of paper, there is a collector who collects it. Some categories of ephemera are more desirable than others, but to a collector their ephemera collection is their world.

Come along as I share with you examples of the 
many various types of ephemera.

Calendars are a very collectible ephemera item primarily for the top portion of the calendar itself. Calendars may be local advertising or the Pin-up variety calendars (illustrations are of nude or scantily-clad women) are very popular and usually advertised a local business such as a service station/garage or a bar/tavern.

Most calendar collectors would prefer the complete year, which means the first calendar sheet shows January and the remaining 11 months are also present. But calendars with only the December sheet are still desirable if the advertising and illustration are of interest. Calendars come in all sizes and shapes. Check out the Pin-up calendar below, and yes, this is a Miss Piggy calendar from the 1980's!

Vintage Miss Piggy Photograph Fantasy Calendar Bathroom Decor Wall Hanging

Postcards are very collectible and also fall under the ephemera umbrella.  Postcards were the precursor of greeting cards and also cover almost every occasion you can think of.

 Vintage Train Postcard 20s Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul Railway The Olympian Train One Cent Green Washington Franked Stamp Souvenir

Greeting cards include birthday, get well or special occasion, with the most popular being Valentine's Day and Christmas.

Children's Birthday Cards ~ Vintage Unused Set of 4 with Envelopes

Collecting of labels also extends to food bottles, wooden crates, beer and wine bottles or medicine bottles.

 Lot vintage labels for food and beauty products early 20th century DESTASH

The collecting of matchbooks is a very popular area. Some collectors are generalist and collect any matchbooks. Other collectors are specialized, collecting local businesses, beer, hotel, transportation and the list goes on.


Tally card is a sheet for checking, counting, or scoring, as in the card game of bridge. The cards in the accompanying photo are quite colorful and elaborate, collector's also seek out home-made tally cards which can be just as colorful and unique as manufactured tally cards.

Feather Tally Cards, Birds, Made in Mexico, Vintage

Used or unused tickets or ticket stubs are quite popular. Again most collector's will specialize in the collecting of sporting events, theater or special events.

Carnival Tickets Double Raffle Ticket Sets Circus Ticket Paper Ephemera Lot for Upcycle Recycle Mixed Media Collage Pack Scrapbooks Green


A common collecting ephemera item are booklets or pamphlets. Every conceivable topic could be published in a booklet. These booklets were published for businesses to hand out to their customers. Some examples would include almanacs (Drugstores, Hardware Stores etc); medical or diseases (Insurance Companies such as Metropolitan); historical booklets relating to an individual, object, location or an event (tourism agencies, chamber of commerce, museums, libraries).

Also booklets could be about special activities, events, theater plays, educational, and the list goes on.

 Vintage Pflueger Pocket Catalog 160 - 1940's Fishing paraphernalia - Angler / Sports Collector / Fishing Tackler Booklet

An ephemera area that falls under breweriana. The collecting of beer coasters or beer mats. A piece of paper on which a beer bottle or mug is placed. These coasters and mats advertise the beer and breweries.

Holland Beer Coasters Beer Mats Drink Dutch Heineken Royal

This in itself is its own collecting area. As stamps and covers are paper, they are also considered ephemera. The photo shows a collection of postally used stamps still on paper (remains of the envelope).

Vintage Postal Stamps Paper Ephemera Lot of 50 Great Colors Graphics Paper Ephemera Mixed Media Paper Craft

I separated recipe booklets from the general booklets that I mentioned above. Many food companies of the time published recipe cookbooks which were handed out by grocery stores, butcher shops, etc. Often a patron could write to the food company to request a recipe booklet for the cost of postage. These are advertising cookbooks, as the booklet may contain information and facts about their food product and all the recipes contain the company ingredients.

Additionally, kitchen appliance manufacturers included the how-to-use the appliance booklet, usually with a section of recipes.

5 Vintage Spices Herbs Cookbooks on Their Use and Origin

A Happy Day - Dairy  Council Promotion booklet - 1962 printing - Miriam Jane Hurford

To close out this article, here are some other items that would be classified as ephemera. Examples of these include catalogs, brochures, broadsides, correspondence, maps, sheet music and on and on.

Songs from Walt Disney's Mary Poppins (Highlights for Very Easy Piano) - Vintage Sheet Music - Pub. 1966

African Map/ People Heritage/ Collectible/ World Map/  Double Sided.  1971 National Geographic.

Thank you for joining me today as we learned about the different kinds of Ephemera. All items are from members of the Vintage Vertigo Team on Etsy.
                                           -- John from QuinsippiMercantile


CraveCute said...

I learned a new word, PHILATELY!! Great article!

Plums and Honey Vintage Antique said...

What a wonderfully informative and interesting blog! I love learning about things I love, and ephemera fall into that category. The upshot is Never Through Anything Away. Thanks so much, John Reese for this very well written blog and for including my bird tally cards.

Blue Moon Attic said...

Very informative and I love the beautiful examples you've chosen to illustrate. Thanks for educating us in this wonderful area of collections, John and Diane. ♥

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great information and for including my children's birthday cards!

Anonymous said...

wonderful article, so well researched and great pics too. I've always loved ephemera.

Anonymous said...

Very informative, Thanks for including my vintage carnival tickets. I have several different kinds and colors.

Kathy Harding said...

Thanks John, Lots of good information!

Anne's Accumulations said...

Enjoyed seeing all the vintage paper ephemera highlighted in your clever blog. Thanks so much for including mine among these super examples.

kinseysue said...

I enjoyed this informative article as well as the pictures which accompanied - thank you for your hard work.

Leigh Blake said...

Informative, crisp and to the point holding your attention all the while.....well documented and examples were perfect illustrations . Thank you, John, for the lesson.....I collect cook books and calendars.

jp @ jpcountrymarket

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this John! Very interesting topic that you covered very thoroughly. Thank you for sharing it with us and including my shop! Miss Piggy thanks you too!


Rescued in Time said...

Thanks for all this great information, always great to become more informed about any aspect of vintage collectibles!

Toni ChicMouse said...

This was a very interesting article! I had no idea of all the items considered ephemera.

Meg's Endeavors said...

Great article loaded with information on collectible ephemera. Thanks John, I will be looking for more items like these when out picking! :)

Vintage Vertigo said...

Thank you all for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Excellent article, John! I enjoy your style. You bring together a lot of info in a way that's easy to digest and immediately understandable with the illustrations. (Sorry, I just put my professor hat on lol!)

SnapshotsThroughTime said...

I love the post! Thank you for including my shop!