Allentown Paper Show: A Fantastic Ephemera Fair in the Northeast

By Z.G. Burnett

Allentown Paper Show

For over five decades, the Allentown Paper Show has been an exceptional event, showcasing a wide range of ephemera in the Northeast region. What began as a general antiques show in 1970, quickly evolved into a book, paper, and ephemera fair, gaining immense popularity. Due to its success, a second show was added to the annual calendar. In 2021, founder Joyce Heilman retired, handing over the reins to local marketing professional and longtime Paper Show enthusiast, Sean Klutinoty.

A Thriving Event

On October 1, at 8 am, Klutinoty eagerly awaited visitors at the entrance of the “Ag” Hall in the Allentown Fairgrounds. Over 200 booths filled the venue with a rich assortment of merchandise. By 9 am, when the doors opened, the hall teemed with more than 1,000 enthusiastic attendees. Klutinoty proudly announced, “Many people came for both days.” The first day witnessed a surge in customer footfall, while the second day saw more buying and selling, with dealers expressing their satisfaction and labeling it as their best show.

Ephemera Delights

As visitors stepped into the primary building, they were greeted by 34 captivating booths, each brimming with unique treasures. The eye-catching highlight was an oversized poster provided by The Rock Top Book Shop and Bindery of Cashtown, Penn. The vibrant poster advertised the film “Großalarm” (1938), also known as “Chasse à l’homme” and “Man Hunt.” Rock Top’s representative, Mike Shoemaker of Shoemaker Booksellers, shared the poster’s captivating story, revealing that it had undergone extensive restoration and was priced at $5,000.

A Journey Through Time

Antiques on Elm from Manchester, N.H., presented an impressive photo wall adorned with framed nineteenth-century photographs. These captivating images of forgotten individuals were destined to find new homes with collectors attending the show. Farther down the aisle, Somewhere In Time from Cincinnati, Ohio, showcased well-preserved boxes for men’s and women’s clothing, dating from the turn of the twentieth century to the 1950s. Bette Jones, the knowledgeable seller, referred to these boxes as “true ephemera” – items that would have otherwise been discarded but had managed to survive. The price range for these remarkable boxes was $20 to $70.

Vintage Holiday Splendor

Black Cat Antiques, from Bethlehem, Penn., specialized in antique and vintage holiday goods. Their booth was exclusively dedicated to Halloween and Christmas ephemera. The majority of the space dazzled with German ornaments, antique greeting cards, and elaborate die cuts. Cynthia Bullock, one of the owners, shared their shift towards exclusively dealing with holiday items, mentioning the increasing difficulty in finding Halloween-themed pieces. The pricing of the die cuts ranged from $50 to the low hundreds, depending on size and age.

A Blend of Antiques and Passion

Karen Frost and Kristina Gangitino shared a booth in the second building of the fairgrounds, displaying an extensive assortment of antique and vintage photographs, antique children’s clothing, and small accessories. Frost, having closed her business recently, was offering her cherished collection. Visitors familiar with Frost and her business, Isabelle’s Bridal & Eveningwear, would recognize the antique album-style display she had created with some of her most captivating photographs. Frost’s dedication to her customers and her expertise were greatly appreciated, garnering high praise for her shop.

Gangitino, driven by her love for jewelry and the desire to repurpose old items, incorporated vintage photographs into her creations. She expressed her delight in making new contacts at the show and had even received a few jewelry commissions. In the near future, Gangitino plans to launch an Etsy account to showcase her unique pieces.

Unearthing Hidden Gems

Ephemera’s elusive nature often makes it challenging to find certain items. For those only familiar with the digital age, it can be difficult to imagine the sheer volume of paper products that recorded everything prior to hard drives. Unfortunately, much information has been lost over time as collections were discarded or consolidated. However, the quest for answers and aesthetic appreciation often drive sales. One remarkable example was a signed painting by Bob Nance. The painting, priced at $250, portrayed a cowboy burning his own “Wanted” poster, with his reflection in a bullet-shattered mirror. Although the artist remained a mystery, the painting managed to find a new home within the span of a conversation.

Captivating Collections

Vendors often enticed buyers with group lots of photographs or complete albums, catering to their interest in established collections or the possibility of reselling individual pieces. Jason Denlinger, hailing from Denver, Penn., took this approach to another level by offering the entire studio archive of photographer Henry M. Beach. Beach, known for his Adirondack photography, impeccably captured the contrast between America’s natural beauty and its industrial development. Denlinger’s exceptional archive included over 1,000 glass negatives, more than 120 real photo postcards, 70 panoramas, and six large-format photos from Beach’s early career. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the archive was available for $60,000.

Specialized Treasures

Lisa Breish Antiques from Port Washington, Penn., focused primarily on vintage Halloween collectibles. Their booth, reminiscent of a black and orange goodie bag, showcased an array of costumes, decorations, games, and paper serving ware. Lisa Breish, who also operates Anderson-Breish Antiques and The Kringle Shop on Etsy, was fully prepared to provide visitors with a delightful Halloween shopping experience. With her extensive collection, she confidently exclaimed, “I collect Halloween 365 days a year!”

The Joy of Discovery

Among the many remarkable finds at the Allentown Paper Show, one stood out in particular – a “juvenile library” created by John Marshall. Housed in an elegant slide-top box, this extraordinary collection of miniature books fascinated visitors. Marshall, a pioneer in the children’s book market, printed these little libraries in the 1800s. The library originally included 16 books and sets of picture-cards. Attendees had the opportunity to purchase a printed history of this remarkable library for $2,500.

Uncovering Stories

The Allentown Paper Show not only provided a platform for buying and selling unique items but also created opportunities for personal connections. Conversations often led to unexpected journeys into family history. Bruce Updegrove, for instance, discovered a shared connection with a framed antique paper cutout, known as Scherenschnitte. Bruce, the son of renowned folk artist Frank Updegrove, proudly displayed a few framed photographs of his father’s carvings depicting circus life and animals. Frank’s remarkable carvings, housed in a nearby Williamsport, Penn., museum, tragically perished in a fire in 1955. Bruce’s booth served as a tribute to his father’s incredible work.

Mark Your Calendars

The Allentown Paper Show is a must-attend event for ephemera enthusiasts. The upcoming spring show is scheduled for April 29 and 30, 2023, followed by another show on October 7 and 8, 2023. For more information, contact Sean Klutinoty at Quill And Fox or call 610-573-4969.