Posts Tagged paper

Antiques Between the Pages and Beyond

21 September 2010

When the going gets tough the tough go to the library or the book store.  This has been my motto since childhood.  I was the kid who at the back of the school bus who was called variously Four Eyes, Professor or Book Worm.  I did not like the former.  The second one was acceptable but the latter was a point of pride.  I am an unapologetic reader and lover of books.  This part of my personality directed a portion of my antiques business.

People often say “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.  However, for me business is personal.  My personality and interests drive me in any business I am involved in.  I love wood and have been a professional woodcarver, I am currently a cabinetmaker.  I worked as a courier for a medical laboratory for 20 years mostly because I love being on the road day after day.  The best part of being a paralegal which I hated because I couldn’t set my moral convictions aside was the opportunity to spend time in law libraries.

The digital age seems to threaten the printing press and bindery.  It may be that paper itself will become a forgotten artifact.   Maybe, I still haven’t seen the paperless office that used to be a sort of techie mantra.  A cashless society won’t surprise me but paper will hang around a little longer.  It is undeniable that print publishing is going to go through more than it’s fair share of changes.  But then it always has.

Format Follows Function

A glossy high quality specialty magazine or coffee table book has little resemblance to a parchment or papyrus manuscript of antiquity.  At bottom they perform the same function.   The sound that emerges from our mouths becomes a part of the past in the instant of being spoken.  it becomes Intangible but still virtual.  It’s preservation occurs not by speaking but by hearing.  Communicating with the written word developed because it froze the virtual and made it actual, able to be understood consistently by all who beheld it.  Well, that’s the theory.  Wars have been fought, fair ladies have been won,  divorces have begun, both evil and good men have risen and fallen,  fortunes won and lost all because of a few words on a document or in a book.  For a prime example read Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman telegram.

Publication has gone from simple scraps of paper to leather bound volumes to slick color covers in perfect bindings.  The various ways of bringing together a collection of pages has served every ages technologies and material resources.  The rate of distribution took a quantum leap courtesy of Mr. Gutenberg.  Lithography brought us into the graphics age.  Offset printing and photography just blew out all the stops.  It’s been a long road to get to the point where ink is not something that can spill and make a mess on your desk.  Ink is just another electronic idea.  Comic books or quantum mechanics, all have spun from analog to digital expression.

This Place in Time

Our chronological vantage point is advantageous to observers of history.  I appreciate the new technologies but still get a warm feeling when I hold a fat volume with calf binding.  Marbled endpapers are high art as are good quality engravings.  Once upon a time people appreciated the craftsmanship in good bindings.  I am not an expert in antiquarian books but I delighted in buying and selling them.  Books also fit my model of niche marketing.  Specialty subjects proved surprisingly profitable. I lucked into a couple of books on slide rules by Isaac Asimov.  They have great collectible value and if you find them in a boxed assortment at a flea market you are sure to get them for next to nothing.  Operations manuals for vintage aircraft have a lively trade amongst people who can afford to pay premium prices.

Of course everyone knows about the high value of first editions.  As a result you usual find them at inflated prices.  The only one I found memorable was in a box lot of children’s books I almost gave away.  It was a first edit ion Dr. Seuss, Cat In The Hat.  It went on eBay for $400.00.  Condition is vital in well known titles but I found that to be less true of books with an esoteric subject matter.  In some cases the content is as collectible as the paper and ink.  Historical data is a commodity unto itself.

Art and books have a long standing relation.  Pre-twentieth century books often have wonderful maps and engravings that are more valuable when separated from the book.  Because of this we have the practice of book-breaking.  Destroying a great old book just to get the prints out to sell individually is a terrible practice.

Books have always been my friends.  They are good company and are always well behaved.  The libraries I have known and the booksellers I have haunted are another subject which I will cover the next time I sit down to share my digitized thoughts with you.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post Post to Digg Digg This Post Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

A Passion for Paper

1 July 2010

What does a dealer in collectibles collect for himself?  For me it was paper.  There is something about printed media that interests me on many levels.  Maybe it’s the pack rat in me.  As I grew into the antique and collectible field I continually came across what is called in the trade “ephemera.”  It fascinated me like nothing else in the profession.  I like the way the name suggests something that is lacking in substance and liable to imminent decay.  It suggests that not only our lives but the physical traces of our path through history are but dust in the wind.  The great paper trail of society comes in many forms: advertising, books, maps, documents, trading cards, lithography, prints and engravings.  The field is a grand combination of history and art.

I am fascinated with the artwork found on old documents.  Check out an antique stock certificate.  The engraved illustrations can be quite beautiful.  A postage stamp album is an art gallery in miniature.  Old checks and bank drafts often have very well done engravings or lithographed pictures.  As an item to collect collect old paper can include a broad array of subject matter or be highly specialized.  I have enjoyed maps since I was very small.  they feed the imagination as well as keep one from getting lost.  They record the locations of history and remind us of so many things now gone.  I used to have a climber’s map of Mount St. Helens that I kind of took for granted until one day it became instantly collectible as it became apparent that they weren’t going to need to print anymore of them.

Remember when road maps could be had for free at any gas station?  They are quite collectible especially if they have the right art work on the front panel.  If you are new to collecting road maps be advised that the printers didn’t always place a date on them in an obvious way.  Instead, they had a code in one of the margins.  you can read the date codes at websites such as http://www.roadmaps.org/date.html.  Maps were one of my first surprises in the collectible business.  I had always appreciated them and enjoyed them and didn’t realize what a treasure they were until I put one on eBay for a dollar and it got bid up to sixty.

One of my other favorite items were Victorian trade cards.  I had hardly known of their existence.  They keep showing up in box lots and stuffed into old books as page markers.  I admired the many charming lithographed designs and appreciated the historical detail they conveyed.  The light soon came on in my head and I adopted them as a lively little niche market.  They were doubly fun as I could gather them up at estate sales and flea markets. I kept the ones that interested me and sold everything else.  It was the first hobby I ever had that paid for itself and then some.

Of course the category includes books but that is a huge subject I will leave for another day.  There is so much more to cover in this fascinating area.  The use of paper spans centuries and the printers art has been so important in developing civilization it can hardly be grasped.  The invention of the printing press was every bit as world-changing as the invention of the Internet.   Before photography brought every man’s eye view to printed pages the graphic arts flourished wherever ink landed on paper.   Art in the hands of the common man is democratizing.

There seems an endless supply of ephemera stashed away in attics, basements and store rooms.  A good specialty shop in the field is like a god mine.  Back east I loved to go to Mr. 3L, Leonard L. Lasko’s shop on The Lincoln Highway east of Lancaster, PA.  Mr. lasko is a character and he’s been in his business for a long time.  The shop is not the neatest and if you like organization forget it.  This is a place to adjust your attitude and surrender to the thrill of the hunt.  You can find a staggering array of old advertising sometimes in new old stock wholesale units.  I remember finding packets of old Seven-Up soda bottle labels that had never been used.  They were just as they had come from the printer.  I bought them for a good price and sold them in small lots on eBay for over a year for a healthy profit.  Deals like that are just the ticket for steady cash flow.

Lasko doesn’t have much of  an internet presence but apparently he is still in business if you are interested.  You can find him at 2931 Lincoln Highway East, 17529 Gordonsville, PA, Phone: 001 (717) 687-6165.  oddly enough his favorite advertising strategy is announcing a “going out if business sale.”  he’s been going out of business for as long as I can remember.  Maybe he will shutter his shop someday but it’s still worth stopping in sometime just in case.  After all business in this day and age can be somewhat ephemeral.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post Post to Digg Digg This Post Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon