Related Articles: Arts Supply Store, All

Vintage Paper Fair

Treasures for Discovery

“The Vintage Paper Fair is coming up!” I said excitedly to a friend the other day. This drew a strange look and a puzzled “Oh…?” What, you may wonder, is a vintage paper fair and what’s to get so excited about? Hal Lutsky’s series of Vintage Paper Fairs only provide fantastic inspiration and finds to anyone with a passion for pretty much anything really. In particular, if you fancy yourself to be any sort of craft, design or antique aficionado, run, don’t walk to the paradise of vintage post cards, photography, campy brochures, “all manner of curious, beautiful and interesting old paper” and more that await at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park this weekend.

August sees the second San Francisco edition of the increasingly popular Vintage Paper Fair, which has resided in San Francisco’s Hall of Flowers (also known as the County Fair Building) twice a year for the last three years. Show organizer and promoter Hal Lutsky got into the vintage paper business 15 years ago at a Butterfield auction, where he purchased his first lot of 50,000 postcards for $100. Hal figured four postcards per cent was a small price to pay. At the auction he also met a postcard dealer who encouraged him to get into the business, and thus his hobby was born. Hal bravely sold his accounting business to invest more time in the vintage paper side of things.

Today, each show features approximately 100 vendors, most of whom Hal has known for a good 15 years. “People are normally overwhelmed the first time they visit,” Hal says. Perhaps you’re still wondering how vintage paper can be overwhelming. Consider the number of things from the past that have either come back into or never been out of vogue. A visit to Wasteland in Upper Haight affirms that styles from the past demand higher prices today. Of course, someone who lusts after a tattered and well-worn Poison shirt might not go for the fringed moccasin boots on the next rack. Similarly, collectors of hot rod paraphernalia might not go for well-preserved fancy restaurants of a bygone era. But regardless of what you like, you are bound to find something interesting and exciting at the Vintage Paper Fair.

70 to 80 percent of what’s for sale is comprised of postcards, the rest made up of photography, brochures, ads, greeting cards, pinup art, posters and labels. Labels may not seem the most thrilling thing you could find, but one of renowned cartoonist Chris Ware's most ripped off pieces (The Acme Novelty Library, number 8 front cover) is based off an old cigar label, as explained in an excerpt from biography Chris Ware by Daniel Raeburn:

“‘Of all my covers this one is the most completely and blatantly swiped,’ says Ware. ‘Of course, it’s also my favorite. Have you ever seen that book, The Art of the Cigar Label? There’s one called ‘Columbia’, where she’s anchored on the shore with all these kids crowded around her. All I did was replace her with a big fat horny Super-Man.’”

According to Hal, 90 percent of what you’ll find at the Vintage Paper Fair is from the 1850s through the 1950s. From a little preview I scored a postcard-sized photo of a girl with a bicycle from 1898 on thick cardstock-like paper with silver beveled edges, the Seargent’s Dog Book (For Your Dog’s Sake) from 1945, a Cine-Kodak News pamphlet from 1947 with sweet color photos, and a summer of 1955 issue of Leica’s photography magazine. Not too shabby! Other examples of what you might find this weekend include cigarette cards from the 1920s, Victorian-era trade cards, all sorts of literature (with plenty of pictorial content) for boy scouts, girl scouts, transportation, railroads and Bay Area local history.

Many of the Vintage Paper Fair’s vendors carry lower priced items for the budget-conscious or new dealers who don’t know much about the value of things they’re perusing. Vintage papers (especially postcards) have been increasingly popular on eBay, but the prices you’ll find at the Paper Fair are generally bound to be lower, not to mention no shipping fees and you can examine as closely as you like what you are about to pay for. For the curious, Hal does free appraisals, which brings us to another great thing about the Vintage Paper Fair: it’s free to attend!

Frequenters of the Vintage Craft Fair include graphic designers, collage artists, librarians, authors, and the curator of the Maritime Museum. Due to popular demand, next year may see an additional lineup totaling three shows for San Francisco. If you can’t get to one of the San Francisco shows, Hal also puts on biannual shows in Concord and three shows a year in Glendale, if you’re ever in Southern California.

To get prime pickings, Hal advises it’s best to stop by Saturday, the first day of the show, before the good stuff gets scooped up. Make it a day trip and go for a jaunt in the park and take a walk through the Botanical Gardens and you have another wholesome, fantastically fun day in San Francisco.

Vintage Paper Fair
August 9 – 10
Hall of Flowers (County Fair Building)
Golden Gate Park
9th Ave & Lincoln Way
San Francisco, CA 94122
Free admission both days
Saturday: 10am - 6pm
Sunday: 10am - 4pm