Preserving the Art of Advertising

The American Advertising Museum in Portland, Oregon is a major exhibition, research and education center. It houses the industry's most comprehensive collection of advertising and business artifacts, assembled through contributions and loans from advertising agencies, advertisers, media, private collectors and other museums, including the Smithsonian Institution. The museum features permanent exhibits of specialty advertising, all-time best advertising campaigns, broadcast advertising, outdoor advertising and more.

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BiblioMania: The Fine Art of Books

This Month - Collectors Press: Turning a Vintage Art Collection into a Publishing Phenomenon
Richard Perry has had a longtime love affair with beautiful women. These gorgeous girls have appeared in calendars, pin-ups, ads, and greeting cards, and Perry has been collecting them for years. And it's not just women he collects: he is also fond of military, automotive, literary and advertising art - just about anything to do with American popular culture. Perry has chosen a unique way to display his collection of vintage art, making it the basis of his thriving publishing company, Collectors Press.

With the mission "to create stimulating nostalgic journeys through innovative design features and quality production standards," Perry and wife Lisa have found a way to indulge in their love of collecting retro artwork and turn it into a lucrative business. The Portland, Oregon-based company celebrates its 10th anniversary in publishing this December, and this year's offering of titles is bigger and better than ever.

"We're a publisher of collectibles, by collectors, for collectors," says Perry. "It can be a pretty neurotic way to live. Avid collecting is almost a disease, especially if you're focused on one specific area. Luckily, we're eclectic collectors, and our fascination is with all kinds of art and graphics, in many subject areas." This statement is proven by a look at their catalog: comics, movies, toys, automobiles, postcards, and tributes to the work of specific illustrators are all covered.

The Perrys' collection is rooted in the era before photography became the dominant mode of advertising art. Artists like Henry Clive, Gene Pressler, and Irene Patton were all prolific illustrators whose artwork romanticized that innocent age of the 'teens and 'twenties. Bodies were perfectly shaped and apple pies were golden brown.

Among CP's specialties are books about books. Many of their most elaborate and popular titles are anthologies of the artwork used in publishing genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery titles through the years. In 2001 they published The Great American Paperback, and 320-page opus containing cover and stories about hundreds of classic paperback novels. It is a glorious, colorful history of this lively and important part of our literary culture.

CP books are much more than a collection of vintage images on a blank white page. The layouts are highly artistic and colorful, always enhancing the subject at hand. "I think there's a certain feeling you want the book to convey," says Perry. "It's all about making the design of the book fit the style of the time of the artwork. There are a variety of design elements that have to be there, such as appropriate colors and shapes that fit the time period. Our designers need to be educated about 20th century history."

"We want each of our pages to be viewed as a work of art in itself. Little things matter, like the page number - if the book has a nautical theme, why not put a life ring around it? For a background, instead of a solid color, we might scan some vintage fabric and use that."

One of Perry's newest titles is United We Stand!: A Visual Journey of Wartime Patriotism, and is based on his own collection of WWII art and memorabilia. "I've always enjoyed collecting this part of Americana, and when 9/11 occurred, it gave us a real inspiration to put the collection in a book, and allow us contribute to the cause." (A portion of the books proceeds are being donated to the American Red Cross.)

The book contains images of the American flag and eagle, Uncle Sam, Rosie the Riveter, valiant nurses in posters, comic postcards, "V" for Victory items, maps - even patriotic jewelry. A special section offers suggestions on how and when to display the flag, a timeline of significant events of World War II, and patriotic questions and answers. The book has just been chosen to be part of an exhibit on patriotism for the 9/11 Anniversary at the American Advertising Museum in Portland.

"From a collectibility standpoint, WWII art is really accessible, and meaningful to so many people who participated or whose relatives did." (Both Perry and his father are U.S. Navy veterans.) "As often happens, this book began with my own collection, but that was just a beginning, and we borrowed items from other collections, and purchased other items. We're aggressively buying new things all the time."

"Our books tend to become collectibles themselves, and end up alongside the pieces described in the book itself. If we don't do a really nice job and make it a high-quality item, it won't be nearly as nearly as valuable to collectors. So we go all to make our books 'really cool.'"

Sometimes an obsession can lead to great things. As the Perry's collection grows, so does the depth of categories in their catalog. CP is broadening out, with a new series of cooking titles. The Retro Barbecue: Tasty Recipes for the Grillin' Guy and Retro Diner: Comfort Food From the American Roadside have just been released. Retro Stud: Muscle Movie Posters from Around the World displays the sly sexuality and excitement that was typical of posters promoting the sword-and-sandal movies of the 'fifties and 'sixties.

Another World War II nostalgia product is the The Military Pin-Up Kit, a package containing eight authentic pin-up reproductions, four pin-up postcards, and a 21" poster, all contained in a self-mailer similar to those sent to WWII GI's as reminders of what they were fighting for. Kits have been produced featuring pin-up art by two of the masters, Gil Elvgren and Earl Moran.

More than most collectors, the Perrys are able to share their passion for collecting with the world. This makes Richard very happy, especially when it can be combined with a good cause, as with the United We Stand/American Red Cross connection.

"The perfect world for a publisher is to able to give something back to society. The best you can expect is that the book you publish improves someone's life somehow."

For those of us who appreciate the golden age of illustration and vintage publishing, Collectors Press has improved our lives greatly.


United We Stand!
Hardcover w/jacket
8" x 8.5", 128 pages
300 full-color images
ISBN: 1-888054-64-6 $19.95