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Odd collectibles may be rare, but that doesn’t mean they’re always expensive

Deanna Dahslad

Deanna describes ephemera as one of the most overlooked and lowest priced areas of collecting, which hosts some “odd” collectibles.

This is Part 2 of a two part post. Read Part 1 here.

Mathematically speaking, what’s odd or even “weird” in collecting is often what is not collected very much. Sadly, these would be collectibles or categories of collecting which are generally seen as not very desirable. In our free market society, where desirability is given a monetary value, a low price is one of the easiest ways to spot an odd or weird collectible; less interest equals less competition and that means lower prices.

Speaking in broad and general terms, one of the least common and therefore lowest priced areas of collecting is ephemera. How often do you see a piece of paper held up on any of the antiques and collectibles shows? Unless it was a pop icon autograph, piece of Civil War ephemera or other historical document, you’d fall asleep waiting to count to two.

Ephemera overlooked, even in advertising

Even in the popular area of advertising collectibles, ephemera is the poor cousin. Big old advertising signs and vintage vending machines are showier to display than old bits of paper. (Something an ephemera collector is very aware of when they see the less than interested faces of folks invited to look through books containing antique postcard or stamp collections.) But perhaps the smallest, oddest, area of collecting is that of collecting items pertaining to local businesses.

While a lot of people collect national names and brands, items of local interest undoubtedly have less people clamoring for them. For example, Coke is a very popular area of collecting; but small, regional soda pop brands, not so much. And the smaller the population of the town, the smaller the collecting interest.

Getting even odder: local business ephemera

Among the smaller, odder, areas of ephemera collecting are items from the truly local shops and businesses that were once found along Main Street, USA. As a nostalgic nerd, my passion for my old hometown has led to a collection of Milwaukee retail store ephemera. It may sound like an odd collection; and I certainly don’t have a lot of competition when I raise my bidding paddle. But I am also not alone in my interest.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin department store collectibles

Department store collectibles

“Geographically-based department stores are gone, but the employees and customers still remember with fondness their experiences working and shopping at these grand institutions.”

Paul Geenen has written a book on some of the old department stores once found in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I asked him to do his best to sum up such an admittedly small interest. Geenen replied, “Geographically-based department stores are gone, but the employees and customers still remember with fondness their experiences working and shopping at these grand institutions. Schusters and Gimbels: Milwaukee’s Beloved Department Stores is about two family-owned stores that people still remember with fondness.”

In fairness, not all the people who read Geenen’s book are likely to be collectors of items from those stores. This likely makes me and my collection even odder…but that’s fine by me because less collecting interest keeps the prices low – and so my collection can continue to grow!

Whenever I’m reminded that me and my collections are odd (or even weird), I do what I suppose many do: I use the word “unique.”

Do you collect anything you consider “unique”? Leave a comment below with your story.

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