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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Calendar; Salesman’s Sample; Giant Image of Man Smoking Cigar; die-cut cardboard; shiny finish; 11 3/4 inches by 7/78 inches; $231. Photo courtesy of William Morford.
The corner drugstore in my neighborhood was bulldozed when I was about 8-years-old. Just like that, it was gone.

With it went the soda fountain, the 5 cent cherry cokes, the 10 cent single-scoop ice cream cones, and the Mr. Peanut displays of my youth. Happy hunting grounds like this were hard to come by. I hated saying good-bye.

Beside the goodies, what stands out now when I think back about the drugstore are the colorful signs, calendars and displays filling it. I don’t think I realized then that people weren’t born with a Coca-Cola in hand.

Even then I was hooked by the advertising, especially calendar art. Everything showed up on calendars from baseball teams, super heroes and dazzling sunsets to unbelievable skyscrapers and cozy woodlands.

Calendar art was something I related to. In a very real sense, it was art of the everyday person, a slice of life as many of us remember it.

Think about it. What other form of advertising were so many people willing to give so much wall space to?

Ephemera, by the dictionary’s definition, refers to paper or printed items like calendars meant to be used for only short periods, then discarded. It was collectors who rescued calendars from wastebaskets all over America.

Maybe it’s a good thing. Like old songs, calendars bring back the memories.

As giveaways, they were a lot more popular before television and radio. But they remained one of the biggest bangs for the advertising buck until about the 1960s.

The hands creating these early calendars might come as a surprise. Some of the most celebrated artists in America started out as calendar artists.

Landscape painter Thomas Moran and Frederic Remington as well as Charles M. Russell were calendar artists in their early careers. Later generations included Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, Hy Hintermeister and Rolf Armstrong.

Which are the most popular calendars to collect nowadays? The older the better rule applies simply because so many of these old beauties literally disintegrated. With their lavish illustrations and striking color lithography, calendars from the turn-of-the-century are pretty neat.

Plus, the materials were higher quality. From the late-1890s through the Great Depression of the 1930s seems to be the most popular time period for collectors.

Many old calendars feature one picture with a pad of month-pages to be torn away one by one, whereas modern paper calendars usually have multiple pages with a different picture for each month. The transition began during the 1940s and ‘50s.

Advertising collectors make a distinction between giveaways like calendars which were handed out at no cost and premiums. Premiums were items offered in return for a small payment in cash or maybe box tops.

The bidding closed on March 10, 2006, at William Morford’s Discovery auction in Cazenovia, N.Y. The sale included rare and unusual vintage advertising items like tins and early graphic packaging; calendars; signs; medicine, veterinary and country store cabinets; product display pieces; match holders, pocket mirrors, and tip trays.

Here are some current values for old calendars.


Calendar; Acne-Evans Flour Millers; Image of Factory; still in its original shipping carton; American Art Works; 19 1/8 inches by 13 1/8 inches; $110.

Calendar; Coca-Cola; Tom Sawyer Drinking Coke; illustrator, Norman Rockwell; frame quality; 1931; 22 inches by 14 1/2 inches; $121.

Calendar; Coca-Cola; Aviator Girl plus five other bi-monthly sheets; each frame quality; 1941; 20 inches by 14 1/2 inches; $165.

Calendar; salesman’s sample; Giant Image of Man Smoking Cigar; cigar and cigarette boxes on table beside him; die-cut cardboard; shiny finish; great look; 11 3/4 inches by 7/78 inches; $231.

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