On-the-scene, L.W.A. member Annie Y. sent us this report from the January 2011 vintage paper fair in San Francisco. The next fair is held on May 21st and 22nd, so mark those calendars. Once you see what she was able to find, you will NOT want to miss it. ~Donovan
The Vintage Paper Fair comes three times a year to San Francisco and each time the event comes to town, I am always really excited to spend a few hours looking and buying ephemera. The fair lasts for two days and the main offerings for sale are postcards in an incredible array of themes such as animals, cities, sports and much much more. Also for sale are vintage photographs, books, posters, matchbook covers, magazines and postal covers.
In the beginning, it was easy for me to be incredibly overwhelmed by the tables full of postcards. Now that I've attended the fair many times, I am much more familiar with what vendors offer and immediately gravitate towards certain booths. The layout of where specific vendors are located the San Francisco fair is nearly always the same, though of course that isn't always a guarantee. I am always looking for inexpensive ephemera, so I quickly head over to a booth that sells all their postcards for 25 cents. It's easily the most crowded booth in the fair, which can make it hard to browse. But I stick around, find a seat by a table and find postcards that are sorted under the theme of "Inkwells." All the postcards in this category relate to letter writing, with pen nibs, ink wells and envelopes! One postcard implores, "Why don't you write? I also sort through a box full of miscellaneous ephemera, which is just a heap of random stuff, including old photos, receipts, cards and canceled checks. I find some beautiful and tiny black and white photographs of an Italian city. I wind up spending nearly an hour at that one booth, buying 33 pieces of ephemera for around $7.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, go to a booth with a theme in mind when searching for postcards. I looked for postcards that had philatelic images, letterwriting, as well as Paris postcards. I also found souvenir postcards that featured giant letters such as "Greetings From California." If you are looking for a theme and can't seem to find it, ask the vendor. I've noticed that vendors are always happy to help and are really passionate about what they have to sell. Another tip is to always look under and above the tables. Some vendors place boxes on shelves or underneath tables due to space constraints. I find that vendors will often showcase their finest, most expensive and precious items in the front of the table. At first, I only noticed those items, but as I looked closer, many vendors sell old photographs for a dollar each, same with postcards and covers. They may not display them as prominently, so just be observant.
The key to finding treasures like these is to spend lots of time searching for them, so I try not to rush! By patiently browsing, I discovered German aerogrammes, beautiful and inexpensive old photographs, fragile blueprints, cabinet cards and all kinds of postcards. Now if only I could buy it all...
Besides the fairs in San Francisco, the Vintage Paper Fair has shows in Glendale (Southern California) and Concord (Northern California) . Be sure to check http://www.vintagepaperfair.com/ for upcoming dates.
For those not in other parts of the US check out this link for a listing of postcard and paper collectible shows: http://www.seocom.com/postcard/myshowsked.html
I also recommend searching for 'postcard shows' and you may be able to find a show in your area.