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Thursday, February 25, 2010


Ephemera is transitory written and printed matter not intended to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day. Some collectible ephemera are advertising trade cards, airsickness bags, bookmarks, catalogues, greeting cards, letters, pamphlets, postcards, posters, prospectuses, stock certificates, tickets and magazines. Decks of personality identification playing cards from the war in Iraq are a recent example.

In library and information science, the term ephemera also describes the class of published single-sheet or single page documents which are meant to be thrown away after one use. This classification excludes simple letters and photographs with no printing on them, which are considered manuscripts or typescripts. Large academic and national libraries and museums may collect, organize, and preserve ephemera as history. A particularly large and important example of such an archive is the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.


When applied to collectibles, ephemera refers to the minor transient documents of everyday life. Greeting cards, product labels, tickets, calendars, invitations and paper dolls are classic forms of paper ephemera.
But not all ephemera can be regarded as minor or even transient. Birth and marriage certificates, mourning cards, banknotes, sheet music, manuscripts and bookplates are examples of ephemera with considerable importance to the user or owner. Baseball cards, holiday ornaments, paper dolls and souvenir items are also considered ephemera, yet they were designed to be kept.
Some ephemera were deliberately preserved in family albums or attic trunks because they were beautiful images, held sentimental value or marked an event of historical importance. Trade-cards, die-cut scraps, invitations and newspaper articles are some examples. Still other forms of ephemera were inadvertently saved by routine storage year after year. Billheads, catalogs and annual reports come to mind. Whether by intention or accident, ephemera survive as treasures of material culture and as reminders of our past and present history.

Ephemera Links

Ephemera Society of America

The Ephemera Society of America, Inc. is a non-profit organization formed in 1980 to cultivate and encourage interest in ephemera and the history identified with it; to further the understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of ephemera by people of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of interest; to promote the personal and institutional collection, preservation, exhibition, and research of ephemeral materials; to serve as a link among collectors, dealers, institutions, and scholars; and to contribute to the cultural life of those who have an interest in our heritage as a nation or a people, both nationally and internationally.

Collector Groups

The American Antique Deck Collectors Club

American Matchcover Collecting Club

American Philatelic Society

Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum

The English Playing Card Society

The Ephemera Network

Golden Glow of Christmas Past

The International Playing-Card Society

Museum of World War II

Poster Stamps Collector Club


Ecrater Ning


Professional Organizations

American Antiquarian Society

American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors

American Historical Print Collectors Society

American Bookbinders Museum

Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America

American Philatelic Society

American Printing History Association

Association for Research Libraries
A book and Web site presenting illustrated and highly readable profiles of selected rare and special collections available for use in the major research libraries of North America.

American Textile History Museum

Centre for Ephemera Studies, University of Reading, England

Ephemera Society of Austria

Ephemera Society of the UK

Folger Shakespeare Library

Historic New England/SPNEA http://www.

The Library Company of Philadelphia

Manuscript Society

Professional Autograph Dealers Association

Musée de l’imprimerie

Writing Equipment Society


The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works

Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts

Graphic Conservation Company

Northeast Document Conservation Center


I love the diverse field that comes with ephemera, no matter where you look, ephemera is everywhere..

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