Think movie ticket stubs, old maps, paper napkins, and the brochures you get when you visit any tourist attraction.
Because these items are usually torn or tossed, they’re highly collectible albeit highly niched.
I collect Universal Studios and old Hollywood ephemera. I have stacks of brochures from every era of the park, vintage postcards, maps, event schedules, even matchbooks and napkins. Each piece is a part of Hollywood history and when you pull them all together, they tell a story.
People often collect souvenir ephemera because it reminds them of a trip they took long ago. They had those bits of paper, but they threw them away at the time. Now, those pieces represent memories so when they see that map or brochure or postcard on eBay, they want to own it.
People also collect ephemera from their old home towns. Brochures and postcards from landmarks that don’t exist anymore are especially sought after. Imagine finding a menu from the long-gone restaurant where your husband proposed! Or tickets to your favorite theme park that shut down 20 years ago.
Sourcing Souvenir Ephemera
There’s no doubt that there’s a market for souvenir ephemera on eBay. They even have a category called Souvenirs and Travel memorabilia. There are also individual categories for postcards, maps, and other specific items.
So where do you find these items to sell? The best place is at an estate sale. Baby boomers were collectors and scrapbookers. They were more likely to keep these odd bits of paper than modern travelers. I find a drawer or box full ephemera at almost every estate sale. And since most people pass this stuff by, you can pick it up for cheap. Don’t bother sorting through it. If you see a collection of souvenir items – even modern pieces – grab them up and make an offer on the full lot.
The last stack I picked up included about 30 pieces from the 1950’s; Hawaiian travel brochures and maps, a San Francisco nightclub guide, brochures from Mount Rushmore and other tourist haunts, several menus and a couple of theater programs and tickets. I got the whole bundle for $5.
I sold 4 of the Hawaiian pieces within three days of listing them for $19.99. One program from an obscure theater sold a week later to a man who lived nearby. I imagine that theater was loaded with memories for him even though I had never heard of it.
With souvenir ephemera, almost everything is collectible. Older items in good condition will sell best, but there’s even a market for torn and faded bits if they’re extremely rare.
The best thing about selling souvenir ephemera is that you don’t have to know what’s rare. It’s all so inexpensive, it’s worth taking a chance. Bundle it with like items from the area, price it right and wait. It may take awhile, but the perfect buyer will come along. And not only will you make a sale, but you’ll also make someone’s day!