Paper Ephemera | Newberry

Paper Ephemera

It was another one of those donors who brings me things and then try to tell me how worthless they are. I’m not sure what motivates these people. They may simply have grown up in a culture where we are encouraged to display our shortcomings to as many people as possible. (See any reality show for further details.)

“Got a bunch of these Farmer’s Almanacs from the last ten years,” he told me, waving a hand over them. “I don’t suppose you want those.”

“Oh, we sell them,” I said, taking the box from him.

“Really?” he demanded, taking out another box.

“Well, let me be more specific. We put them out for sale. They aren’t al there when we finish up. I hope we sell them.”

He frowned. “Why would anybody want them?”

“Some people just like to have a complete run,” I said. “Old American tradition.”

“It doesn’t make sense.”

I shrugged. “I’m not here to counsel them, sir; just exploit them.”

“Ha!” he said. “I know old TV Guides are collectible, but this is a bunch of TV sections from the Tribune in the 1980s. I could just as well put those in recycling.”

“No, no,” I said. “The 80s are yesteryear now, don’t you know. People like to reminisce around old TV sections of their newspaper. They get nostalgic for a time when they actually read the section to see there was nothing on television instead of flipping through 600 channels to find that out. For that matter, they get nostalgic for a time when their newspaper had a TV section.”

“Here,” he said. “Annual reports from corporations. Companies send those out for free. Nobody would actually spend money to buy them.”

“Well, I sold somebody’s collection of ten years’ worth of annual reports from John Deere for four hundred dollars,” I told him. “There are plenty of people interested in old tractors. Some of the newer ones are very educational for those of us who aren’t in the business world and didn’t know that Smucker’s makes Hungry Jack Pancake Mix. Kind of fun.”

I could tell I was getting on his nerves, but for some reason these people will never just concede the game and move on. “Ha! Ha ha!” He nearly threw the box at me. “Old calendars! I bet those go in the trash the minute I pull out of here.”

“Well now,” I told him, flipping through the pile in the box, “Most of these will actually go into the photography section.”

“Photography section?”

“Sure. If you look at this one correctly, it’s not an old calendar. It’s a portfolio of a dozen 16 x 20 photographs of covered bridges, perfectly suitable for framing once you cut them free. Some motel chain may feature these in the rooms six months from now. These other two will either go into Art or American Indian Studies, since they’re pictures of paintings by modern Lakota artists.”

“Another motel?” he sighed.

“Or someone with a school bulletin board or somebody with crafty hobbies. One of my customers took the pictures from one of these calendars, paired it with calendar pages from a drugstore calendar with nothing but ads in it, and made herself a whole new calendar.”

He shook his head and shut the lid of his trunk, being out of boxes to tell me to toss out. “And now she’s got a recycled calendar business worth millions.”

“Nooooo,” I said, “Just as a matter of fact, all her friends mocked her until she hid under her desk and wouldn’t come out for three days. So the idea’s perfectly open and free for you to develop it…if you hadn’t just given all your old calendars away.”

He opened his mouth, thought better of it, and drove away. I’m surprised he didn’t at least pause for a peek into our recycling bins to see what I DO throw away. But that’s a whole nother blog.


So Dan, What do you put in the recycling bins?
To be continued.

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