One’s trash may be another’s treasure. How is it possible that the bus tickets, promo stubs and even paper bags that we so readily throw into the bin become so valuable a couple of years on?
But hold on — they are. The simple pieces of junk that litter the homes of people from the past are actual collectible items today. It might sound crazy at first but many people find collecting ephemera a worthwhile activity.
Ephemera are pieces of paper that are not really intended for long-term use. These can take the form of raffle stubs, flyers, cigarette boxes and pretty much anything that we would normally consider trash.
A publication, be it a simple comic strip or a shopping catalog, offers a glimpse of history. Each piece of “trash” as we refer these materials today reflects the type of culture that a certain era has. How else can we understand how people from the 1920’s really lived if we don’t have anything that came from that decade? Ephemera tell stories about the type of values, lifestyle and ideas that were so prominent in a certain era.
While collecting trash sounds preposterous, it is actually an interesting activity that you will want to take up if you’re interested in history. People who collect ephemera are those who would like to know more about a certain era. These are the types who would give anything for an adventure to the past. Historians who study the changes in different ways of life through the decades get their inspirations from the junk that past pack-rats have bothered to keep.
A piece of laundry flyer released in the thirties can cost a lot in the present era especially if it’s still in good condition. Comic strips depicting a particular time’s political scene may be considered trash during its time but for collectors of today, it can cost hundreds of dollars.
If this doesn’t make you keep every single shopping receipt that you get, then I don’t know what can. Who would have thought that pack-rats actually have a point when they refuse to throw away junk?
Where to start
Starting an ephemera collection is pretty simple. You will want to start with the junk that’s attracting dust in your basement. For all you know, you have really old documents that have been produced in previous decades just waiting for your attention. You can also try online auctions, museums and libraries if you want ideas on the type of ephemeras you want to collect. The possibilities are really endless. If you’re interested in clothes and fashion, you can try acquiring old catalogs, advertising flyers and other materials produced by clothing designers of the past. So be a pack-rat and start collecting other people’s junk today.