Greg is a general Christmas collector--specializing in Christmas cards and vintage nativities--who enjoys interacting with other collectors sharing knowledge, stories, helpful hints, and memories of all things Christmas. He runs a Web site called The Livaudais Christmas Collection. The following interview is a special holiday treat.
ephemera: Merry Christmas, Greg. When did you become interested in Christmas ephemera?
Greg: Around 1992, I was browsing in an antique store in New Orleans when I came across a basket full of old greeting cards. Many were Christmas cards from the 1940s and 1950s. They immediately sparked memories of my grandmother's house at Christmas and how she decorated her staircase with Christmas cards. That feeling of mystic, excitement, and anticipation that a child gets at Christmas came rushing through me. I just had to but some of these cards so I can relive this feeling every time I view them. As I dug through the basket I found some really odd, yet beautiful Christmas cards. The illustration didn't have a theme anything to do with Christmas. They had a L. Prang copyright mark and were from the 1870's and 1880's! I had never seen anything like that before. I ended up spending a couple of hundred dollars that day.
ephemera: I once found a similar collection of Valentine's Day greeting cards. They had a profound impact on me as well. I can see how such a discovery might launch a collection. What challenges or obstacles do you encounter in collecting Christmas ephemera?
Greg: Since I live in New Orleans, I can no longer rely on finding old Christmas items at garage sales. Most of that supply was destroyed with Hurricane Katrina and the flood in 2005. I now do most of my shopping via on-line auctions. This means I have international competition for cards, but because of on-line auctions I also have opportunities to acquire cards that I never would have otherwise. The only way to overcome the obstacle of on-line competition is simple, out bid them! I do have another method, don’t know if it breaks any on-line rules, but another collector and I have an eye for the same category of cards. We would bid aggressively against each other and really run up some ridiculous prices for the cards. So, we decided to contact each other when these cards come up on auction and would not bid against each other. We always allow the one who needs the card to complete a set, or series, to bid. If we both want the same card we kind of take turns or pick and chose from what’s out there as far as who bids on what. This isn’t favorable for the seller, but it does help us acquire cards at reasonable prices. Those over-inflated prices we were paying didn’t reflect what some people would consider a fair market value for those cards.
ephemera: I hadn't though about the ruination of all the paper that once existed in New Orleans. It must have wiped out thousands of collections of paper. The online strategy seems like it has been successful for you. What are your favorite items in your collection?
Greg: Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my grandmother’s old Christmas cards, but I do like the ones from the 1940s and 1950s that remind me of them. Some of my favorites are those Louis Prang cards I bought when I first started collecting. Other Victorian publishers that are my favorites are De La Rue, Ralph Tuck & Sons. Cards with children, Santa, and Nymphs are amongst my favorite subjects.
ephemera: What’s your advice for achieving success as a Christmas collector?
Greg: Organize! Keep your collection organized so you can enjoy it at your leisure. Also, protect it. Make sure you use safe storage containers; I use Vario pocket sheets. Keep track of what you paid for your items. This helps when putting an insurance value on your collection. Trust me, you never know when a flood will pass through your house and take everything away.
ephemera: That's excellent advice. Something not a lot of collectors often mention, but as your experience demonstrates, it is something that must be taken seriously. Ephemera collection take years to assemble and they can be gone in an instant though fire, floods, and other disasters. What resources and tools do you recommend to people interested in this area of collecting?
Greg: These books are a must for the Christmas card collector:
- The History o f the Christmas Card
- The romance of greeting cards
- Christmas Cards for the Collector
- Christmas Cards
- Gallery of Greetings
I also recommend:
- Louis Prang, Color Lithographer
- The Very Best from Hallmark
- Joy to the World: A Victorian Christmas
ephemera: Well, it's Christmas Day 2007, and I can't think of a better post to celebrate the holiday. Thank you so much for sharing your collection with us, Greg. And Merry Christmas to one and all.
Search Abebooks for the books listed in this interview.