Fascination with human recording of time’s passage fills many pages in encyclopedias and is reflected on numerous Internet sites that describe lunar, solar and astronomical systems dating back to Egyptian times and depicting even earlier markings. Some experts claim our modern Gregorian calendar is just one of about 40 others said to be used throughout today’s world. Among those currently best known are the Islamic, Hebrew, Chinese, Hindu, Buddhist and Julian examples.
But in modern America, variety seems endless. Consider the Web site www.calendars.com which brags that its stock of 5,500 new 2008 calendars represents “the world’s biggest and best calendar store with formats for every interest and occasion.” This enterprise boldly touts its wares as: “the best selection of calendars in the known universe.”
And that’s just referring to the latest for the current year. Now consider collectible or vintage calendars!
Though some are printed on fabric, ceramics or other materials, most calendars are made of paper and are therefore amazingly ephemeral. So quite aside from their subject matter, antique ones are often extremely valuable just because of their delicate nature. And how far back must a calendar date to be considered an antique?
The Coca Cola Co.’s calendar history is an excellent barometer for this subject with its first offering appearing in 1891. Originals produced in the next decade are apparently so rare their prices are reputed to be worth $18,000-$20,000. Still a leading representative of the calendar advertising industry – and still ranking high today – Coke offerings really flourished from the 1920s to 1950s. Values of some of these and calendars issued by other firms in those earlier times can be deceptive because some were produced in such large quantities their prices now reflect their too wide availability.
Visit www.thecoca-colacompany.com/heritage/collectorscolumn.html for warnings about fake materials. Also, there is information that applies to many other products’ calendars. Reproductions can be hard to discern from the originals. For instance, the website for Valentine Antique Gallery offers original Maxfield Parrish calendars from the 1920s and 1930s and Vargas calendar girls, Norman Rockwell, Impressionist painters and other vintage art command prices in the $200 range. But a check of eBay shows many reproductions of these works available at single digit prices.
Quantity, condition and scarcity, as with any kind of antique collecting, all come into play along with subject matter. Political calendars, those featuring celebrities or special events wax and wane in popularity. A serious collector should consider joining the Calendar Collectors Society (www.calendarcollectors.org) and learn the importance of “complete” calendars, i.e. those having complete pads. Some represent companies no longer in existence but may be important for various reasons. The Society also provides valuable price lists.
Today’s elders may remember the pin-up girls and “naughty” calendars that were tacked on the walls of many service stations and machine shops.
Others will cherish the delicate Victorian images many of which are still available at surprisingly modest prices. Check out
www.grandmalola.com/cal.php to see lovely images and entries such as this beautiful lady on the 1907, 3-inch by 6-inch Osborne art drawn by Philip Boileau with a tiny calendar stapled on the bottom of the card. Its listed price is $150. Others from this era sell for as little as $25, so many variables are involved.
No one knows what tomorrow’s treasures will be. Now selling from $10-$15, calendars depicting George Bush may languish and gather dust years from now or they may be really valuable items.
Time will tell.
How many calendars does your home have?
Recently, an informal and casual poll of a number of households indicated that a typical dwelling boasts at least three calendars. These may be categorized as:
• Free calendars, sent by mail or picked up at appropriate outlets – the kind that represent or promote retail, service and business enterprises, charitable and other organizations, all promoting special interests
• Gifts from family or friends that represent people, hobbies, sports activities, artists or other specific interests
• Calendars folks may purchase themselves, buying them for a definite purpose such as a desk blotter, a decorative wall hanging, an engagement record, a handy reference to fit in pocket or purse or to hang as a magnet by the phone or fridge.