What is Ephemera? - A Humorous Guide

First Things First

Before we dive into the particulars, I'm irresistibly compelled to draw your attention to three expressions that are deceptively similar to the word ephemera (a type of paper collectible - see image examples).

Proceed with caution my friend, this could get ugly.

The following somewhat indistinguishable words are dangerously misleading in that they carry a strain of virus known as way-too-much-info-itis.

The way-too-much-info-itis infestation perplexes would-be ephemera collectors by bogging them down with unnecessary facts.

Although it’s hard to determine when the virus will strike, it’s fair to say that anal retentive collectors are especially susceptible (I've personally struggled with the virus for years).

We'll Kick Things Off By Examining the word Ephemeron

Ephemeron is generally referred to as an insect that lives for only a few days.

What's more, ephemeron is also the singular tense of the word ephemera (a kind of paper memorabilia that was initially intended for short term use, hint...hint).

So whenever I’m confronted with this homonyms word in a sentence, I have to guesstimate whether it’s referring to paper ephemera or a slimy bug.

Next On Our List is the word Ephemeral

Ephemeral is a type of plant that's distinguished by its extremely short lifespan.

Like the previous definition, this expression is often used in reference to the word ephemera as well. Collectors generally consider the words to be synonymous as it relates to paper memorabilia. It's simply a matter of context and personal preference.

Our Third Expression is Ephemeris

This expression has something to do with astronomy, celestial navigation, and ancient Greece. In other words, it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything or anyone who currently lives on the planet earth; literally or figuratively. Its existence is totally superfluous.

So, What Does Ephemera Actually Mean?

The literal definition of this peculiar word is:

  • Something of no lasting significance, or...
  • Something lasting for only a day, or...
  • A created item that has a short life span

    However; in the world of collectibles, the word ephemera is synonymous with the term paper collectibles.

    Hence young Jedi collector, ephemera or paper ephemera is:

  • A paper item that supposedly has no lasting significance, or...
  • A paper item that's intended to last for only a day, or...
  • A paper item that has a short life span

    In essence, paper ephemera is an item that wouldn't generally be looked upon as something of value. Yet, these items are fervently sought after by collectors and often given as gifts.

    Items that Are Generally Categorized as Ephemera

    It’s literally impossible to create an exhaustive list of ephemera items; not to mention the bits and pieces that contradict the strictest definition of the word. The goal here is to simply point you in the right direction young padawan.

    Examples of Ephemera:

  • Unique or Vintage Magazine Clippings
  • Decorative Paper Collectibles
  • Rare or Vintage Magazine Ads
  • Magazine Prints or Photos
  • Paper Military Collectibles
  • Vintage Company Trade Cards or Advertising Cards
  • Playing Cards, Trading Cards, Dance Cards
  • Handwritten Recipes
  • Vintage or Antique Receipts
  • Postcards
  • Currency Ephemera – paper money primarily
  • Old Photos of Celebrities
  • Vintage Ticket Stubs
  • Unique Matchbooks
  • Antique or Vintage Lottery Tickets
  • Jigsaw Puzzles
  • Vintage Newspapers and Newspaper Ads
  • Old Historical Maps
  • Vintage Bookplates
  • Antique or Vintage Book Pages
  • Vintage boxes, paper based fabrics, packing paper, Rolodex cards, etc.
  • Paper Dollhouse Collectibles
  • Vintage paper based art supplies – drawing paper, Art Deco, etc.
  • Antique Sketches, Painting, etc.
  • Religious and Spiritual Bookmarks, Litho Cards, Ordination Papers, etc.

    While I could go on and on, my guess is that you have a fairly good understanding of what paper ephemera is at this point.

    The Next Logical Question Would Be...

    How much is ephemera worth?

    In regard to the value of ephemera, there's bad news and good news.

    The bad news is that ninety percent of paper collectibles have no value. That is to say that ninety percent of paper collectibles have no documented market value.

    The good news however is that ephemera collectors are general drawn to pieces because of personal reasons. In such a case, an item is worth as much as the collector is willing to pay for it.

    As it pertains to those items that have traceable market value, you simply have to do the research. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts young padawan.

    Happy Hunting!
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