Gotta Catch ‘em All
Central to the valuation of a collectible like this, is the idea of ephemera. Mary-Elise Haug’s “The Life Cycle of Printed Ephemera: A Case Study of the Maxine Waldron and Thelma Mendsen Collections” gives us a framework. “Ephemera is any unpublished, flimsy, or insubstantial printed paper artifact produced for a specific purpose and not intended to survive beyond that purpose.” Modern collectibles markets have rewarded people for completely disregarding these intentions, instead filing comics, cards, movie posters, and event tickets into safe and protective archives. And the first to flout these guidelines? Victorian ladies and children!
This tiny rebellion starts a list of Victorian cultural traits that we can thank the weird kismet of late 19th-century fads and technology for. One of which, very much, was collecting. “Victorian society generally valued collecting such objects as stamps, insects, flowers, shells, and autographs for fostering prudence, inviting industry and meticulousness, training in the care of objects and teaching classification and arrangement skill.” [Haug, pg. 66]
See, mom? Collecting teaches virtues!
Collectible paper ephemera started showing up in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but it was the introduction and popularization of both chromolithography and advertising that popularized concepts of branded, colorful, collectible takeaways that marketers and mothers leveraged to bribe kids into running errands. Paper doll cutouts, for example, were published in monthly installments, adding characters and outfits to a previously-released set and encouraging picking up new issues of the hosting magazine. And merchants often got a set of chromolithography cards included with deliveries that they could distribute to kids in the most enticing way for their hyper-local markets.
Other Victorian Priorities
The Victorian era is 1837 to 1901, the years of Queen Victoria’s reign. For some extra seasonal fun facts and relevant examples, check out this video from the Victoria and Albert Museum talking about their collection of Christmas cards. Stick around for the one with a giant lobster nipping at children stuck in a tree! So seasonal!
In addition to the manufacturing of all of these bits, ladies of the Victorian middle class were also encouraged to make collections in albums. Scrapbooking and albums were for women and children whose households were funded by a growing set of “white collar” (intellectual jobs with fewer manual labor tasks) like teachers, engineers, administrators, lawyers, and managers; and the value of these collections was also seen and determined by these women and children. This audience prized complexity or lavishness, rarity, and had a strong taste for puns, slang, and odd things turned into people (there are a lot of Christmas puddings with faces, y’all).
And Player One moves a Buzzwole from their hand to their bench.
Get it? It’s a bug that makes a buzzzz noise. And it’s swole. Like, it has big muscles. See? Buzzwhole. It’s a pun. And a portmanteau. Thanks, Victorians.