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Local ad memorabilia still an attainable collectible | Diversions

Advertising items have always been popular collectibles. Advertising collectibles include any item that promotes a product, a service or a company brand/logo. The most popular categories include signs, cans and tins, display items, packaging such as boxes and wrappers, and promotional giveaways.

This field is very broad; the focus of this column will be on ephemera, which are written or printed items that were meant to be used and then discarded.

In general, advertising collectors consider any paper or cardboard items to be ephemera. Further, they also classify items such as trade cards, which were meant to be collected, as ephemera.

At Shady Lawn Antiques, we have a section devoted to anything that has “Walla Walla” printed on it or that is related to the town and area. This section is not limited to ephemera; it also includes books, yardsticks, milk bottles, beverage bottles, cans and tins, advertising, ice tongs, cups, mugs and plates.

Collectors and price guides typically divide ephemera into general categories. These categories are not all encompassing, but they provide a good framework to begin this discussion on collectible paper and cardboard items.

Cardboard signs

Cardboard signs were created for indoor use and often had folding easel backs. They were detailed, and their nuanced colors were used to draw attention to a product. They also identified products — “We serve Shady Lawn Ice Cream.”

Cardboard signs were not durable, so it is rare to find them in good condition. One would think this would make cardboard signs more valuable than metal signs, but that is not the case.


Calendars have been popular promotional items from the 1880s to the present. Printers sold “stock” calendars to businesses with their name prominently printed on them. These were given away, and they reminded people about the company…

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