If you had asked me a month ago to attend a collectible show about something I knew very little about, I probably would have said, “No thanks!”, without a second thought.
Flash forward a few weeks, and I’ve not only attended my first collectible show but ended up loving it! Since becoming recently fascinated with all things ephemera, I couldn’t wait to begin my personal ephemera collection.
Attending my first collectible show resulted in a greater appreciation for ephemera. It also made me realize a number of things that could have helped me be better prepared when attending an ephemera show. Some of these things include; bringing cash, knowing how to get the best deal, and more. The tips I’ve come up with can likewise be helpful when attending any unfamiliar collectible show.
In this article, we share all about our experience of how we found a local ephemera collectible event to go to. We give an overview of what we thought of the event, what we learned, and how we think our experience could have been enhanced had we done 5 important things. By following the steps we lay out for you, you’ll enjoy your first collectible show as if you’ve been a lifelong collector.
Getting an Authentic Collectible Show Experience
Just weeks ago, my husband and I were diving into the realm of ephemera collecting trying to figure out just what this popular hobby was all about. Luckily, there was a lot we could learn about ephemera through online reading and websites. The itch to get our hands on our own ephemera was growing stronger by the minute.
We decided to jump full force into the hobby of collecting ephemera and get an authentic ephemera experience for ourselves.
First Peek Into Ephemera
When my husband and I started researching what exactly ephemera was, we weren’t sold on the idea of holding onto old printed paper. I’m not the sentimental type at all, and if I can throw something away, then great! However, upon discovering what the hype about collecting old printed paper was really about, we wanted to dive right into the vast pool of ephemera collecting.
If you’re still on the fence about whether you want to collect ephemera, check out 6 Reasons Why You Should Start Collecting Ephemera. Maybe one of those reasons will resonate with you!
Our first thought was to buy some ephemera online. Ordering basically anything online these days is just a click away. We knew we could get a piece of ephemera for ourselves within a couple of days. But, the amount and diversity of ephemera online were endless. We didn’t really know what to buy, what was legit, and what was going to be a good start to our collection.
Type in “vintage ephemera” on Etsy and you’ll see just what I’m talking about. There are packs of ephemera, single pieces, postcards, brochures, tickets, and more. We wanted a more personal experience to get us truly hooked on this new hobby and started on our own collection.
Finding a Collectible Show
While researching about ephemera, we came across an events page on The Ephemera Society of America’s webpage. We started scrolling through the page to find an event in Arizona to possibly attend. Lo and behold, there was one the exact day we were looking! Luckily, they had the event run for two days so we could free up some time the following day to attend. Here’s a picture of the invite about the event we attended.
To find an ephemera event near you, click here to go to the events page we looked at. For a more complete list of events, check out Top 4 Best Ephemera Events. I’ve compiled a list of the most popular events, as well as a list of event pages containing even the smallest paper shows.
Ok, back to our experience! Not feeling like we knew too much about ephemera, we were a little hesitant to attend this event. Deciding that to fully understand the hobby of ephemera we would need to jump in head first, we went!
Postcard and Paper Collectible Show
Saturday morning we jumped in the car with our one-year-old and headed to the event. Upon arrival, it was a little bit hard to figure out what part of the building the show was held in. After all, this was a massive church center, with multiple buildings, and there was also a very crowded farmer’s market happening in the parking lot. We walked around for a couple of minutes, found a sign that said “Paper Show” and asked the next person we saw where it was. He kindly directed us to the room of the event where we paid a small fee to attend.
Painting a Picture of the Show
We were amazed at what we saw. If you’ve attended a number of ephemera events, then I’m sure it’s not too surprising. But to us, we were literally dumbstruck. There were thousands and thousands of printed postcards, and other ephemera pieces laid out to be viewed. Here’s a picture of the large room where it was held and the tables that were set up to file through the material. As you can see, it was pretty populated!
We didn’t know what to expect as far as the number of people that would attend, but we were pleasantly surprised to find so many interested in ephemera collecting.
Each individual dealer brought an innumerable amount of postcards to sell. One dealer confessed to collecting postcards from auctions for over 25 years! Thankfully, thumbing through them was a breeze, as the postcards were well organized by topic and then subtopic. Here’s a picture of how they were organized.
Honestly, we were a bit taken aback by the plethora of postcards, posters, brochures, and other pictures to look at. We weren’t sure of where to start, how much we would be spending, and what we wanted to collect. Basically, we were completely unprepared. We wish we would have done a lot of things differently. We’ve narrowed down our ways to improve our next show or your FIRST show to just 5 simple tips.
5 Ways to Fully Prepare For and Enjoy Your First Collectible Show
1. Bring Cash.
Luckily, we showed up with $25 cash! We didn’t want to spend too much on our first show when we weren’t quite sure what we wanted to collect. The dealers generally take cash, so I’m glad we thought to bring this, but make sure you bring enough! Some of the pieces were only $0.25 while some were upwards of $100 or more. Make sure you do some general research about what you want so you can get an idea of how much it may cost you at the event.
Searching High and Low for Ephemera is a great place to start!
2. Clear up at least 2-3 hours or MORE to look through material.
Because there is so much to look through, free up a lot of time for your first show. We did not allow enough time to get a good feel for what we really wanted to purchase. On top of that, we had to move quickly because we brought our one-year-old son along, making it even more difficult to focus on what we were thumbing through. We’d strongly advise going kid free so that you can take the time you need.
These events are normally all day things, and it could potentially take your entire day to look through and find ephemera that you would like to purchase. We think that at least 2-3 hours would give you a decent amount of time to look through a number of ephemera and purchase some items worth adding to your own collection.
Don’t forget to bring some food in case you end up being there for quite some time!
3. Have a general idea of what you want to collect.
Because there are literally thousands of things to look through, it’s helpful to have a general idea of what you might want. The items are well organized by topics making it easier to find something specific.
Since this was our first event, we weren’t positive about what we wanted and were just trying to get a feel for what an ephemera show was like. We knew we would end up with a couple of postcards, at least, but beyond that, we really didn’t know what we wanted to start our collection. Picking the topic of Salt Lake City, UT, we grabbed any postcard with this focus! We both grew up in Utah so we decided that this would be interesting to look at for both of us.
What we Found at our First Show:
We thought these specific postcards were interesting because we could learn a lot about the history of Salt Lake City from them. Many of them had detailed descriptions about the photo taken or painting. Some were written on, and stamped, while some were never used. We like the combination of old or worn mixed with the well-kept ones. It really makes you wonder about the history behind each card!
One of our favorite postcards that we purchased is the one located at the top right corner. It depicts people floating on the Great Salt Lake. We thought it was unique because attached is a little bag once filled with actual salt from the lake!
Before we left, we wanted to get one last item of ephemera that wasn’t a postcard. We found a $4 wrestling match ticket from 1964. Even though it’s not as old as some items there, we thought it would add an interesting element to our collection.
You really don’t have to know exactly what you want to start collecting ephemera.
By getting a feel for the different items you may find your taste to be something more general at first. For example, you might really like stock certificates, or postcards. As you begin going to more shows or researching different items, what you like may become more specific. Maybe you realize that you only like collecting stock certificates from mining companies or postcards from a certain state. From there you might realize you only like items from a specific time period, or with distinct printing and design. It’s up to you to figure out your specific taste!
To decide what/how to collect, this blog post from the Ephemera Society of America web page is quite inspiring. Each collector goes about it differently, and it may take some time to figure out just what you want to collect. Click here to read their personal experiences with collecting ephemera.
For a complete guide to postcards and stamps, check out Postcard Collecting- What You Need to Know or Stamp Collecting- What You Need to Know. Who knows, you may find your most interested in collecting one of these!
4. Walk through the whole show to find the best deal.
Because we felt a bit out of place, we quickly sat down at a table and began thumbing through postcards. The dealer at this table said he had the cheapest cards in the show. Later we found out he wasn’t being completely honest with us. Yeah, his were cheap, but there were postcards a bit cheaper at a different table just down the row. Had we perused the whole show, then decided where to sit, we could have come home with a larger collection for less money! Likewise, getting a feel for what the whole show contains may help you pinpoint what you want to collect.
5. Talk to people while you’re exploring.
We found it super helpful to talk to one of the dealers whose items we were looking at. We were better able to understand where he got the ephemera and learned a bit about his own journey to selling postcards. Turns out he has been collecting ephemera at auctions for the last 25 years of his life! To say he was knowledgeable about the subject would be an understatement!
We regret, however, not talking to more people to get a feel for their own journey of collecting ephemera. It would have also been helpful to talk to those who were running the event. We could have found out when other nearby ephemera events would be taking place in the future. We strongly encourage you to talk to everyone you can. You’ll learn more about what to collect for the best price, as well as become aware of upcoming events. You may even end up with a collecting buddy who you can go to events with in the future!
With these 5 tips, we know you will feel much more prepared to attend your first collectible show then we did. This was only our first show, so we don’t feel too bad about being so unprepared. However, it could have been more productive and enjoyable had we done even a couple of the things listed.
Getting this hands-on experience of flipping through old postcards, menus, and tickets, no matter how unprepared we were, was awesome. If you’re feeling unsure of whether you should go to an actual event, we vote: DO IT. Though uncomfortable at first, it was an eye-opening experience. It has influenced our desire to dig deeper into the hobby of ephemera collecting.