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'Making Book' on Paper Memorabilia

April 11, 1985|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: Some time ago I think you mentioned a Northern California-based newsletter specializing in paper collectibles. Do you recall the name?--F.W.

Answer: You're probably referring to Ada Fitzsimmons' Paper Pile Quarterly, P. O. Box 337, San Anselmo, Calif. 94960.

Fitzsimmons, a former history teacher, is a dealer who, for a number of years, has published a quarterly ($2.50 per issue) in the field, covering a wide range of subjects from advertising art to post cards and calendars.

Now, she has produced a 95-page (indexed) collection of four of her recent quarterlies under one cover--the spring, summer and fall 1984 issues and a winter 1985 edition--for $7.50 plus $1.50 postage. It's entitled "Old Paper Collectibles: An Evolving Value Guide."

In our opinion, this is one of the most interesting collectible fields in terms of its contribution to American history and, simply, for its decorative value. This well-illustrated volume with information on 1,262 collectibles also contains several feature pieces.

"I'm bullish on paper," Fitzsimmons said in a recent telephone interview. Collectors are being drawn more and more to paper collectibles, she said, because they represent nostalgic memories of "cherished good times."

Additionally, she said, she is getting an increasing number of requests from companies and institutions that want to use paper collectibles to decorate their walls. For example, she recalled, a golf club recently contacted her and asked for paper memorabilia that they could use to decorate the clubhouse walls.

As for her prices, she said, "I think they're pretty accurate because I make a living selling these things," and as a result, she keeps track of national markets.

But there is no organized marketplace for these collectibles, so, even for the experts, price can be a slippery subject.

"We are working in a marketplace that does not have established values," she wrote in the introduction to the guide. "There are no 'blue books' of values of paper collectibles! There are so many different paper collectibles. Paper collectibles are not like stamps, which are fully documented, or post cards, which have been an established collecting area for some time now with clearly emerging values.

"These values have been evolving during the past 15 years through national, regional and local shows and mail order auctions. . . . For the past 15 years, we as a nation have been having a nostalgic love affair with ephemeral objects from our past. As a result we now have emerging values for old paper items that only a few short years ago were routinely discarded with the trash!"

Q: Among weather vane collectibles, what field is most prized by collectors?--B.E.

A: Collectors tell us that the most valuable period for American weather vanes is before 1850. The problem is that few of these are for sale because they probably have already been snapped up by collecting societies and museums. Both copper and carved wooden models from this period are prized.

More practical in terms of locating interesting weather vanes are factory-produced models of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Again, these probably are made of copper and can be found in interesting designs. Check with your local library because many of the old firms that produced weather vanes published catalogues that will educate you on what to look for.

A note of caution: Do your homework because, we are told, there are unscrupulous sellers who will cleverly treat newly produced weather vanes to give them an "antique" look and, hence, make them appear more valuable to unwary buyers. Among other things, look for telltale signs of new paint or file marks that will tell you that the vane is the product of recent work and may not date back more than a few months.

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