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What Is Ephemera?

If you've heard the word ephemera and wondered what it is, you're not alone. This article might help you. 

Definition of Ephemera

Ephemera is generally defined as collectible memorabilia that is was for a short term purpose. Think show tickets, ticket stubs, playing cards, postcards and more. Ephemera is almost always paper-based and is often written or printed items that were expected to have short term popularity or usefulness. Ephemera is not normally considered something to collect, save, cherish or keep. But often times, we do keep and cherish ephemera items - especially vintage ones and we often put them in scrapbook pages. Now you're beginning to see why it's so hard to pin down a definition and explanation.

Ephemera ExampleThere is actually an official Ephemera Society of America where you can join other members in the U.S. who collect ephemera, catalog it and document it. Pretty amazing. You can see their definition of ephemera as well.

Tim Holtz Ephemera

Examples of Ephemera

Below is a non-comprehensive list of some items that might be considered ephemera. This is a small list, and there are no hard and fast rules of categorization, but this will help you get an idea.

  • playing cards
  • postcards
  • tarot cards
  • paper money
  • event ticket stubs
  • movie tickets
  • lottery tickets
  • office objects like post its, Rolodex cards
  • old maps
  • miniature items such as those found in doll house stores
  • packaging of all kinds
  • magazine ads
  • old book pages
  • old flyers
  • old newspaper clippings
  • political cards
  • old ledgers
  • feathers, leaves etc.
  • film or film strip materials
  • old scrapbooks

Several companies offer manufactured ephemera products - or products that emulate ephemera. Tim Holtz is notorious for his ephemera inspired creations.

More Ephemera

 You can find these items just by looking through your junk drawer and office supply cabinet at home or at work. Or you can visit a thrift store. Using ephemera on a scrapbook page, card or altered project adds a unique and creative flair.

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