Vintage Ephemera and Paper Collectibles

If traditional collecting is not an option, consider paper collectibles and vintage ephemera


| December 1998



The Moline Plow Company 1911 letterhead

The Moline Plow Company 1911 letterhead (second from top) was to the point: "Please note that there are twelve letters in our name – an even dozen. Address all correspondence to the company. None to individuals."

Pieces from the DeZago collection

So. You're interested in tractors and engines, and you'd like to be a collector, but a few things get in the way ... things like time, money, and storage space. Why not consider ephemera? Ephemera's just a fancy name for photographs, documents, advertising materials and the like. Paper can be a good choice for the collector whose budget and facilities won't allow the real thing. 

"Really, there's not much involved to getting started with it," said Tony Mitchell DeZago, a California auctioneer/collector who's built a huge collection of farm-related vintage ephemera in just the past two years. "Even if you're just collecting copies of letterhead, there just aren't as many collectors in paper. Literature - manuals and those kinds of things - yes. But the number of paper collectors? Slim to none."

That doesn't, of course, mean it'll be easy.

"Farm letterhead's real hard to find," he said. "Sometimes you'll find it in box lots at swap meets. You'll get home, and go through the box, and find something related to farming. There's some bookstores that cater to paper collectibles, and you can get some through correspondence with other collectors. Some collectors advertise in the antique trade magazines, and if you request a specific interest, they will usually send you a list of what they have."

Compared to what engines and tractors are selling for these days, the price is right.

"Prices vary, anywhere from 50 cents to $100," Tony said. "It just depends on the piece and the person who's selling it. Of course if it's framed, it will sell for more."