If there is one thing that every reader of this post probably has, it’s ephemera… and most people don’t even know what that means! Simply put, ephemera is any piece of printed matter that was meant to be useful for a short time, yet continues to be of interest today for any number of reasons.
Examples of ephemera
The term ephemera include postcards, advertising, articles, posters, greeting cards, personal letters, political items, matchbook covers, magazines, pamphlets, booklets, brochures, certificates, and any one of a number of other items on paper. Of course, not every old piece of paper is valuable, but here are some suggestions on what to look for.
Postcards are among the most widely owned and sought after items of ephemera. While most postcards are only worth a dollar or two (if that), some can fetch hundreds of dollars or more. Pictures of places are the most common examples, and consequently the least valuable. The exceptions here would be cards of local interest (wherever local is for you) – especially when they showcase something about the history of a place. Even then, the rarest postcards depicting places usually only fetch $20 or less.
Conversely, good old advertising postcards and holiday greeting postcards can bring much more money. Look for rarities like Halloween cards or early Christmas cards where Santa is wearing something other than a red suit. Collectors love these unique items and will pay dearly for them.
Ads and magazines
Old advertising is another popular category of ephemera. Ads for anything from a bygone era can be of interest, especially if the message is shocking by today’s standards. Consider an ad featuring a new car for $250, or one that boasts that doctors recommend their brand cigarettes for health. Both exist, and folks love them.
Old magazines are always popular, but age and condition rule in this genre. Cover designs by famous artists like Norman Rockwell or Maxfield Parrish bring money, as do editions featuring important events. Many magazines (for example, Life) bring money just for the good ads they have within, which many savvy folks cut out and sell individually. Forget about those old Popular Science and National Geographic magazines, however. Not every old magazine has a market today, and those are two of them.
Go with your gut
Lots of other paper can be interesting and valuable. Look through what you have. If it puts a smile on your face, chances are that someone else will see value in it too. Look for similar examples of your item on eBay, filtering options to see what it actually sold for (versus what someone is asking, as these prices may be unrealistically inflated). The more information you can gather on an item before you sell it, the better.
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