Vintage Vignettee - April/May 2018
- story and photos by Vicki Niolet
What is it about objects outliving their intended usefulness that fascinates us?
We relive our past inside rolling fortresses of classic cars. The resurgence of “vinyl” (or as we used to call them, “records”) proves that near obsolescence isn’t necessarily uncool.
In the same way, collecting ephemera is popular today even though we live in a digital world driven toward a paperless society.
Handwritten letters, postcards, and manuscripts, basically any loose paper with messages or images, may also be valuable. (Unfortunately this reasoning may empower hoarders who can’t throw anything away.)
Most folks randomly accumulate bits of their past in scrapbooks full of ticket stubs, photographs, class report cards, and love letters for sentimental reasons. Some appreciate the artistry and detail of greeting cards with rich colors and elaborate cut outs, such as “cobweb valentines.” Others spend lifetimes tracking down baseball cards, historical documents, or famous autographs resulting in valuable collections that are anything but temporary.
Fluttering “Last Supper” fans kept delicate ladies from swooning, while subliminally reinforcing the commercial elephant in the parlor. And most importantly, they solved a problem in an uncomfortable situation. No one likes to grieve in the heat.
Entertainment ephemera include iconic concert posters (Woodstock, Monterrey Pop, N.O. Jazz Fest) and letterpress prints made famous by “Hatch Show Print” of Nashville.
While these remain highly pursued by collectors, there’s a new breed of collectible creators who capitalize on our need for tangible keepsakes in a technically oriented society.
In addition, they design elaborate tickets, programs, trading cards, and mixed media packages for concerts to create a tangible experience lasting beyond the performance. With clients ranging from Dolly Parton to Justin Bieber, the marketing maneuver provides physical proof of super fan status and a new category of 21st century ephemera.
This movement embraces the emotional value of vintage. Circus tent images, art-deco symbols, and printers’ dingbats (the graphic kind, not Edith Bunker) have dominated new print and digital media. Fonts reminiscent of headlines from The Daily Planet echo another era, like facing mirrors, old and new images infinitely reflecting each other.
In the future, flea markets and antique malls full of paper may become archeological digs revealing secrets of the 20th century.