Collecting Antique Ephemera

Antique Advertising Card for Perfume 1870




When I first became an antiques dealer, I kept hearing a word I wasn’t familiar with. Ephemera.
I asked what it meant, and found out I had loved and collected it all my life! Let’s look at what ephemera is, and how people are collecting paper ephemera today.


The word ephemera comes from the Greek word, ephemeros, which means short-lived or lasting for one day.




collecting antique ephemeraAntique French Advertising Menu





Ephemera is printed, on paper, and usually meant to be used once, or for a day, and then be discarded. It can include magazines, ticket stubs, greeting cards, letters, anything on paper.




Because these paper items usually had a short life-span, the antique pieces that survived over the years are rare and very collectable.



Antique Holiday Card with Bubble Blower by Coleman




I recently had the opportunity to view a superb collection of exciting ephemera.  After some begging {on my part!} the collector sold me some of the pieces shown in this post.




I’ll be adding pieces this week and into June for those of you who are as enamored with these antique visions of the last two centuries as I am!




collecting antique ephemera



Full Set of Six Harrison Fischer Postcards




As with many things I adore, the desire to save these disappearing paper scraps began in Britain with Victorian women. They loved cutting out pictures from catalogs – “scraps” –  and pasting them in an album, or onto screens, mirrors, boxes and even vases.




This delightful hobby spread to the states and most other Western countries. Manufacturers began producing beautifully lithographed trade cards for their products. Collecting chromolithographic postcards, cards, advertisements and more became widespread, beloved and fun!




Antique Victorian Birthday Card with Silk Fringe




For those of us who love history, antique ephemera is a beautiful and unique way to look at the past.




Printed paper is becoming increasingly collected and beloved by antique collectors, curators and historians as a significant antique to collect.




Small Victorian Gift Book with Scriptural Text




There is such a huge range of type and subject matter, each one fascinating in its own right.
The kind of ephemera I love best? Colorful, romantic and beautiful, but you guessed that already, right?







Lovely 19th Century Garden Songs for Piano and Voice




Ephemera complements your antique book collection beautifully. Every collector is drawn to different types of ephemera, and just as with the antique books you collect, you want to choose the ephemera that suits your passions.




Whether you’re a collector looking to add a great find to your collection, or you want to frame some fabulous ephemera to add to your home decor, ephemera is a beautiful way to add the style and exemplary art creations of the past to your home.




1926 Elizabeth Arden The Quest of the Beautiful Booklet





Little antique and vintage booklets like the one shown above are the perfect addition to a perfume bottle collection.





Unused Postcards from the 1920’s





Gardening prints, post cards of vegetables and fruits and little gardening booklets are a wonderful addition to your garden antique collection.









There are so many beautiful memories of the past in paper that we can rescue, and display with great joy.  You can add something meaningful to you or your family to a beautiful antique print, like the one above, which has a special area just for that reason!




collecting antique ephemera






You can visit the Ephemera Society of America for more information.




how to care for antique ephemera





1. Store your items flat in acid and lignin-free boxes, not plastic.
2. Inside the box, stack items from large to small.
3. Place acid free tissue between your ephemera pieces.
4. Protect any ephemera on display from sunlight.
5. Roll really large ephemera such as large posters in an archival tube.






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