To Toss, or Not to Toss – Paper and Small Advertising Items


rachelWhen cleaning out an estate or attic or simply doing Spring Cleaning, it can be difficult to know what is junk and what has some value. Shop owners who deal in antiques and collectibles often overhear a conversation that sounds something like this

Loved One #1: “Honey, honey look at this. Grandmother had one of these, but we threw it away. I never expected to see it for sale in a shop.”

Loved One #2: “Wow, I wonder what else we threw away that could have been sold.”

Paper items and smalls often make their ways to the landfill first because they seem like “no brainers” to owners or family members who are trying to sort through a lot of stuff. Ten years ago I too would have been the first to throw out or recycle old bills on letterhead from the 1950s (and earlier) or old postcards and metal tokens from days gone by. That was my mindset before becoming a postcard dealer and learning that many, many people collect all different sorts of paper items and small advertising pieces. These little items are easy to store for collectors, and they often archive the history of an area. Businesses that have long ago closed – their buildings demolished – still have some life through the advertising pieces they leave behind. I have customers who collect watch fobs, tokens, holiday postcards, US postcards (specific states or towns), postmarks, and Tennessee advertising. These items as well as magazines and newspapers sell better based on how old and rare they are as well as their condition. If you decide to keep the paper items you find, be sure to store them in archival sleeves for preservation. 

Next time you are cleaning and find a box of smalls or paper items, it might be worth taking them to a local dealer or researching online before you toss them. Most smalls may only bring a few dollars; with a boxful, that value can add up. The way I see it . . . I wouldn’t toss cash money in the landfill so I want to know the value of items before I toss them. Elegant recycling is all about keeping things out of the landfill and helping them find a new home. 

What is this? In the early years of World’s Fairs or International Expositions, a variety of products were offered as souvenirs to the visitors who attended these extravaganzas. One example is this silver plated salt shaker for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. This is a cross-over collectible for both collectors of World’s Fairs memorabilia and salt and pepper shakers.

Rachel Glenn is part owner of Rachel’s Attic Antiques and Collectibles in Dandridge, Tennessee and has been dealing in antiques and collectibles for eleven years and selling online for eight years.

Source: Rachel Glenn