One of my hobbies adjunct to coffee is collecting coffee-related ephemera. While on staff at SCAA I acquired on behalf of the association a decent little collection of approximately 50 pieces, which includes two hand-written invoices from James Folgers that are over 125 years old. One of my favorite pieces is an 80 year old sales brochure--in fine condition--for roasting equipment.

We had planned to create a small coffee ephemera collection that depicted the history of 19th and 20th century coffee in America through mundane items, such as invoices, letters, brochures, etc., and display it in one of the hallways. The budget was just a few hundred dollars but ephemera is relatively inexpensive to collect (unless you collect Lincoln letters or old rookie cards or something like that). Needless to say, events suspended this project.

If you’re ever at the SCAA offices and have an interest in this sort of stuff, ask to review the collection. I think you’ll find it fascinating. Also available is a complete collection of bound Tea & Coffee Trade Journal magazines from 1916-1941.
I am still a “coffee ephemerist.” My personal collection includes things like very old invoices, a 90 year old letter of apology from a roaster to a customer for late coffee, over 50 paper one pound and 12 ounce coffee bags, all of them over 50 years old. The variety of bags is astounding and they demonstrate that the coffee industry was once as dynamic and regional as it is today. I am a proud and card carrying member of The Ephemera Society of America (a fact Mark Inman once joked I should not brag about). I am particularly interested in connecting to others who collect coffee related ephemera.

So, my larger point, and I do have one, is that I as inspired by Matt Milletto’s launch of Barista Exchange to do something similar with ephemera: The Ephemera Network.

If you collect any type of ephemera (“transitory written and printed matter, not intended to be retained or preserved… derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day”) or might collect ephemera or just don’t have enough websites to visit every day, you’re invited to join now before the official launch and help me “seed” the membership.

Many people are “ephemerist” but don’t know it. If you collect trading cards or playing cards or posters or comic books or old advertisements, guess what, you’re one of us. In a few weeks I will be inviting my fellow members of The Ephemera Society of America to join but until then I’m asking others to join if they are at all interested in the subject. If you’re not interested, believe me, I understand. I’ve had many conversations in which I talk excitedly about an old letter or invoice or coffee bag only to watch eyes glaze over.

I’m trying to get a few sympathetic members on board before I invite the hard core ephemera geeks (especially any secret coffee ephemera collectors that might be out there). Also, ephemerist can be an exacting bunch so I’d like as much feedback as I can beg, borrow and steal before I invite the “card carrying” enthusiasts. And I guess I should note that this is not a money making venture.

Thanks, and, as always, sorry for the voluptuous verbosity.

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