10 Things You Should Know: The Antique Advertising Association of America

The Antique Advertising Association of America (AAAA) was established in 1990 and conducts an annual convention celebrating vintage and antique advertising each year.
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With Paul Lefkovitz

1 The Antique Advertising Association of America (AAAA), known as “Quad-A,” was established in 1990 and has conducted an annual convention celebrating vintage and antique advertising each year since. At one such convention, a log cabin tin collector, was pleasantly surprised when he found one of the rare pieces he was searching for to complete his collection. He had been collecting for decades.

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 AAAA conventioneers fill their rooms with items for show and sale.

AAAA conventioneers fill their rooms with items for show and sale.

The AAAA is the only national collector organization representing the full spectrum of antique and vintage advertising. There are a lot of clubs that specialize in specific areas, the AAAA includes ALL antique and vintage advertising. There is a broader range in this club than any other club that exists, making it an ideal venue to show off niche collections. For example, not long ago, a collector of cigarette rolling papers, which may be the most complete collection in the country, brought his entire collection to the AAAA convention. The collector’s hotel room was filled with the collection, which was mounted in frames. Convention-goers took advantage of the opportunity to experience a collection that they elsewise would have never seen. And it was a delight for the collector to share the results of his collecting efforts.

The twelve most popular areas of interest among AAAA members are: (1) signs, (2) tins, (3) general/country store, (4) ephemera (paper advertising), (5) tobacco/cigars/cigarettes, (6) coffee, (7) soft drinks, (8) drug store/apothecary (9) oil/gas/automotive, and (10) soda fountain, (11) breweriana, and (12) food.

 Obscure items, such as this “24 min parking” sign, are a hallmark of the AAAA convention.

Obscure items, such as this “24 min parking” sign, are a hallmark of the AAAA convention.

The AAAA publishes 12 award-wining newsletters each year, including its quarterly glossy print PastTimes. An e-newsletter, the Checkerboard, is published the other eight months of the year. PastTimes shows off the best antique advertising in existence and shares the AAAA news. The Checkerboard is more informal and has timely news and features about recent finds, a wanted section, and news of auctions.

The Checkerboard also makes people aware of resources out there that will be helpful for collectors. For example, there are many early catalogs and periodicals in the public domain, including early General Store and Drug Store periodicals, industry and trade magazines. These resources are included as downloadable links in the free Checkerboard e-newsletter. Whereas PastTimes shows off some of the best collections that have been curated, the Checkerboard helps you get there.

The AAAA annual convention, which is conducted in July of each year, offers non-stop action from Wednesday evening to Saturday morning, including room sales, a silent auction, the Favorite Advertising Exhibit, daily seminars, banquet meals, games, and fellowship. Some members set their rooms up like general store displays from turn of the 20th century.

This year’s event will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Reading, Pennsylvania from July 24-27. It’s the ideal place to meet with like-minded collectors, build new friendships, and reconnect with old friends. It’s a valuable opportunity to learn something new about advertising of old.

 LtCol John K. Williams will be at the AAAA convention wearing an authentic World War I uniform and displaying his WWI Marine recruitment posters and tobacco tins.

LtCol John K. Williams will be at the AAAA convention wearing an authentic World War I uniform and displaying his WWI Marine recruitment posters and tobacco tins.

The Favorite Advertising Exhibit at the AAAA annual convention features displays of antique advertising items of exceptional rarity and beauty. Polling of attendees will determine “Best-In-Show” winners in several categories.

This year, a new feature will also be added. Special displays of two concentrated collections will be shown: A collection by a retired Lt. Colonel who served in the U.S. Marines is going to bring a small part of his collection of World War I Marine recruiting posters and tobacco tins. And he will be wearing an authentic World War I uniform. The other special collection on exhibit is pressed glass (EAPG) advertising. This may be the largest collection of pressed glass advertising in the country.

A unique aspect of the AAAA conventions is the group’s collaboration with other collector associations. While maintaining separate governance and identities, collaboration with other conventions adds synergy and additional buyers and sellers at each event. In recent years, the AAAA has successfully collaborated with the Ice Screamers, the National Graniteware Society, and the Cracker Jack Collectors Association. On Wednesday, July 24, a co-hosted panel discussion will be held with three members of the AAAA and three members of the Ice Screamers. Specific questions will be addressed, but the audience can also participate and pose their own questions.

The AAAA publishes a Membership Directory Booklet that includes each member’s contact and interest information. Indexes by state and interest area, of which there are 25-30, are also included. This means collectors with similar interests can contact each other directly. Another critical bit of information is also included in each member’s directory listing: Does this person permit someone to come and visit their collection? The majority of AAAA members are willing to show their private collections to other members. They are kindred souls connected by common interests.

 The AAAA convention’s free “Public Day” will be held on Friday, July 26 from 1-10 p.m. The public is invited to participate in the silent auction, which will be held from 1-3:30 p.m., followed by general sales from 3:30-6 p.m. and again from 7:15-10 p.m.

The AAAA convention’s free “Public Day” will be held on Friday, July 26 from 1-10 p.m. The public is invited to participate in the silent auction, which will be held from 1-3:30 p.m., followed by general sales from 3:30-6 p.m. and again from 7:15-10 p.m.

At a time when many other collector associations are experiencing sharply declining membership and convention attendance, the AAAA has remained stable and strong from year to year. There has been no decrease in membership or attendance in the last 6-7 years. This is because the group changes things up and keeps it interesting. The group leaders find out what the group’s members need and they respond to those needs. The group also has a committed group of collectors. Many have been members for decades. “We introduced the Checkerboard about five years ago to try to keep the contact more regular,” recalls AAAA Publications Editor Paul Lefkovitz. “We figured if we connected with collectors every month, it would keep people more engaged.”

10 AAAA members include the top experts and the most avid collectors in numerous realms of antique and vintage advertising. Many have been collecting for decades. “It’s an inquisitive group that likes to know things and likes to share what they know with other people,” Lefkovitz says. Some members are so devoted to their hobby, they build extensions onto their houses or buy separate buildings to house their collections.

Paul Lefkovitz is the Antique Advertising Association of America’s Convention Coordinator. He can be reached at plefkov@gmail.com, or visit www.pastimes.org.

Karen Knapstein is the editor of Antique Trader. She can be reached at karen.knapstein@fwmedia.com.

AntiqueTrader.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated websites. 

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