HARTFORD, CONN. – Papermania Plus co-producers Gary Gipstein and Arlene Shea welcomed paper-chasers to the August 26-27 edition of the antique paper show Papermania Plus at the XL Center, marking the biannual event’s 72nd show. Occurring on one of the remaining fine summer weekends, the two-day show had to compete with last hikes, cookouts and pool parties; nonetheless, faithful paper hounds and knowledgeable traders know that this show is one of the best opportunities on the East Coast to find choice additions to their collections.
“There was a lot of business being done with out-of-state dealers coming to shop the show,” observed Shea. “The gate was okay on Saturday. There were still buyers on Sunday, although the gate was not as great – due to the beautiful weather, I believe.”
This show, which is considered to be the largest of its kind in the Northeast, attracts approximately 120 dealers from throughout the East Coast and Canada offering the full gamut of rare books, ephemera and collectibles – movie star posters, postcards, vernacular and fine photography, first editions, stamps, sheet music, tins, vintage valentines, world war ephemera and zodiac signs, to name a few.
Dealer head count was down compared to the show’s January edition, for a variety of reasons. One of the show’s regulars, Kuenzig Books, Topsfield, Mass., a reliable source of scientific antiques, books and posters, was MIA. John Kuenzig cited “the press of work, home repairs and a wedding – first time since we started,” he said.
Other show stalwarts like Rex Stark were also noticeably absent. “My associate John Kashmanian and I decided to drop out of the show after more than 30 years,” said the Americana and ephemera dealer. “Both of us went there more to buy than to sell, and the amount of really good stuff has significantly declined in recent years. My half of the booth was typically high-end material – the majority of pieces over $1,000 – and sales were always unpredictable. We both decided we didn’t need the aggravation if we weren’t able to buy great things.”
Eric Caren might disagree. “I bought fast and furiously!” he reported, enumerating a 64-year run of diaries of a New Hampshire man who chronicled voting for Lincoln, as well as the Titanic and Lusitania episodes (1850s to 1918), a circa 1850 daguerreotype photo of a gay couple in embrace, an 1870s trade card for the first robot and a mezzotint of John Paul Jones fighting the Serapis printed in 1780. “Most fun though was the original divorce document between Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio,” said the Westchester, N.Y., master ephemera collector whose prodigious inventory of material has been whittled down somewhat by five sales to date at Swann, Bonhams and Christie’s. Christie’s single-owner sale in June totaled $1.5 million, a new record for an ephemera auction. “Much of my time was spent promoting my next auction at Cowan’s on September 8,” said Caren. “Both Christie’s and Cowan’s have been exceptional to work with!”
“Saturday had a decent crowd at the show and was good for me, much better than usual due to three significant sales to loyal and very much appreciated clients who are passionate about prints,” said Marc Chabot from Southbury, Conn. Himself a draftsman, printmaker and curator, Chabot founded his company, Marc Chabot Fine Arts, in 1990, specializing in original prints and other works on paper. The dealer was showcasing works by master woodcarver, stonecutter and artist William Kent. “I had one new collector as well, the rest was only nickel-and-dime ephemera,” said Chabot. “Sunday was quite slow, due no doubt to being a beautiful, sunny weekend late summer day, so people chose to be outside instead.”
Bookseller Peter Masi of Montague, Mass., has exhibited at Papermania since about the second show, he said. “The winter show has always been more robust than the summer show,” he observed. “Summer can be a challenging time for a show, and Hartford seems a bit deserted – people are on vacation and there are many shows in more vacation-oriented locations.
“So, yes, I’ve watched the gradual attrition of exhibitors and public, and it was certainly evident this weekend. I’m involved in running several two shows in Massachusetts, and it takes greater effort every year to assemble a roster of exhibitors and attract public attendance.
“That said, as sometimes happens, when the pie is smaller and fewer to serve, the portions might be larger. My sales were better than many years, and some other dealers reported similar results. There was plenty of intra-trade activity,” said Masi, who added that he plans to continue to exhibit at the show.
“Our biggest challenge is creating ‘customer awareness,’” said co-producer Gipstein, who added that he and Shea continue to look at new ways to enhance the event’s visibility among millennials and baby boomers via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “My parents [Arlene Shea and the late Paul Gipstein] laid a great foundation, insisting on professionalism and great quality,” said Gipstein.
“Our dealers did very well,” concluded Hillcrest Promotions’ Shea. “They signed up not only for the January show but for next August as well.”
The next Papermania Plus is scheduled for January 6-7, and the 2018 summer show will be August 25-26. For additional information, 860-563-9975 or www.papermaniaplus.com.
Maritime ephemera specialist Greg Gibson of Ten Pound Island Book Co., offered this rare early sailing card — “For San Francisco, California. To Sail in the 25th of July, Positively. The First Class American Packet Ship ‘Louisa.’” It advertises the ship’s departure from Australia to San Francisco, “the El Dorado of America.” Printed in Australia, it measures 5¾ by 9 inches.
The JFK print featured in the booth of Marc Chabot Fine Arts, Southbury, Conn., is from a slate etching (old blackboard) onto fabric.—Sean Kutzko photo
A pair of student certificates for painter Edwin Romano Elmer (1850–1923) to attend National Academy of Design antique and painting classes for the 1899–1900 session with gold-initialed red pocket was a highlight carried by bookseller Peter Masi of Montague, Mass.
This Schwinn Bicycle Book and its 10-cent cover price evokes plenty of nostalgia.—Sean Kutzko photo
This mezzotint of John Paul Jones fighting the Serapis printed in 1780 was a find for historical ephemera dealer Eric Caren.
Avon “The Valet,” from a 1942 Avon Cosmetics catalog.—Sean Kutzko photo
Postcard collectors roam the stacks at every show, and Albany, N.Y., dealer Michael Seaman, set up near the show’s main entrance, is always on their list. —Sean Kutzko photo
The 1930 Lionel Trains catalog came with White Fox Rare Books of Vermont. —Sean Kutzko photo
Gary Snyder’s Riprap was a first edition by the poet and was offered by McBlain Books, Hamden, Conn. —Sean Kutzko photo
Richard Resser and Ann Thorner, Manchester, N.H., sold several prints, maps, bookplates and other items right up to the show’s end on Sunday. Included was this commission for Jonathan Belcher, Eighteenth Century merchant, businessman and politician from the province of Massachusetts Bay during the American Colonial period. Belcher served simultaneously for more than a decade as colonial governor of the British colonies of New Hampshire (1729–1741) and Massachusetts (1730–1741), and later as governor of New Jersey (1747–1757). This document was dated 1738.
Dealer John Spencer of Riverrow Books, Owego, N.Y., could not contain himself with this scary Gorilla At Large movie poster.—Sean Kutzko photo
Massachusetts dealer TJ Trahan displayed CBS studios promo stills from the Little House on the Prairie television show, along with a huge TV Guide collection.—Sean Kutzko photo
Resser-Thorner also showed the 1864 poster In Right Is Might from the US Sanitary Commission organized following the Civil War on behalf of the Union Army to care for the injured on the battlefields, aid disabled veterans and assist families of soldiers.
Peter Masi also brought a 1919 pamphlet issued by Ottoman Turks accusing Armenians of committing atrocities against them in the Caucasus Campaign.
Some ephemera, like politics, is local — as in this Hartford Whalers publication showcasing the signatures of 10 past teammates inside.—Gary Gipstein photo