The concept of collectible ephemera has caught my interest this week.
Ephemera is defined as items initially intended as having only a short-term usefulness or popularity. In collectibles terms, they are now, due to their delicate, transient and fleeting nature, so much rarer and therefore often so much more valuable.
The recent sale of the George Moyer collection of vintage firecrackers defines the ultimate in ephemera. A lifetime collecting what other people were just firing out into space never to return, nurturing a collection of items never intended to survive, resulted in the gratification of possessing true rarities. The top lots among his 1,300 fireworks and firecrackers sold for up to $7,200.
Balfour’s Supercharged Flashlight Crackers
It was exciting to see in this instance an auction that crossed the boundaries of collecting genres, uniting vastly different species of collector in their interests in the multiple facets of an item. An unopened packet of 40 Balfour’s Supercharged Flashlight Crackers, depicting an open wheel Indy-style motor race, attracted attention from both firework and motorcar enthusiasts.
The competition from both sides saw the crackers cross the finishing line at $3,900: not bad for a penny pack, picked up for a paltry one cent decades previously. That is a serious rate of return, and fantastic to hear of such a niche and somewhat wacky area of collectibles getting attention, bringing together several types of collector whose differing interests bid items up to sky high returns.
Sometimes it is worthwhile thinking outside the box of crackers primed to fire off into the ether. Resisting a moments pleasure that blooms and fades to earth could result in a lifetime investment and collecting opportunity. Spot the potential in the most ephemeral of items. Steam stamps off old envelopes and labels off bottles of beer. Scrapbook concert tickets and posters. Save strips of your old bedroom wallpaper – you never know, in years to come people may be paying thousands for it, like these fragments of Abraham Lincoln’s wallapaper currently for sale at Paul Fraser Collectibles.
Image: Morphy Auctions