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Vintage Papers and where to find them

Estate sales are really the very best place to find vintage papers.  I don’t mean just old books or postcards which are often at thrift stores, Goodwill and yard sales and are a wonderful find in themselves. What I am really looking for are unusual papers, forms and hand written books and ledgers.  An estate sale where they are trying to sell everything and literally anything is where I have good luck finding papers to art journal with and include in sketchbooks.

Of course there is eBay and Etsy and I must admit that I found this fantastic ‘Tourist Ledger’ on Etsy and an album full of photos from the 20’s and 30’s at Goodwill online.

Having said that, I don’t find a paper treasure trove at every sale I visit.  I go to about two sales a month, I use the ‘Find Estate Sales’ app on my phone and there are always photos of each sale so you can assess whether there may be a good chance that there is stuff you will want to look through.

I am not a dealer or an estate sale pro, so I only go to the ones which look like I will find something I will like and can use.  It depends on what is in the photos whether I get up at the crack of dawn to get to the sale when it opens which can be anytime from 7am to 10am.





I bought the photos from Goodwill (online auction) with a view to using them as part of a journal page, but try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I have seen Oliver Jeffers dip photos into paint and they look great, but I like to use them as reference to draw and paint from.  Another artist who does amazing things with vintage photos is Naomi Vona, she is so inspiring, but I still can’t draw on my old photos (they are not my family or anything to do with my heritage, but I still won’t deface them!).

My Instagram feed has a few pictures I have painted using old photos as the starting point, and I think for now, this is what I am going to use my vintage photo collection for.

The most recent sale I went to was at an old school in the St Louis area and it was clearing literally everything out, from Atari computers to pottery kilns via text books and craft materials.  I made a beeline for the flashcards and the paper cabinet!  I am fascinated by the various paper recording systems and remember a lot of them, especially things like library cards and Rolodex contact storage.


I am particularly drawn to the hand written papers, diaries, filled in forms and ledgers, photos and postcards with notes written on them.

The vintage wallpaper I used as a background is gorgeous but quite delicate so I am not sure the best way to use it. Anyone use old wallpaper in art journals?


Someone who uses ledgers as sketchbooks and totally inspired me to use old paper to draw and paint on is Don Colley, his sketches are amazing whether in an old book or a regular sketchbook.

We are going to Cape Cod on vacation later this year and I am tempted to take the ‘St Louis Photo’ diary as my sketchbook and see how I get on.  Watch this space!

Do you go to sales of any description?  What do you look for?  Anything specific or just on the look out for treasures?

Happy Wednesday x


This entry was posted in: Creativity


I live in St Louis, MO, but I am originally from Lincoln, Great Britain. My family and I have lived in the Mid West for over 15 years now. My blog is where I blog and chat about all kinds of creative stuff.


  1. I probably go to less sales than you go to, but do have a nice little collection of papers and books and other ephemera. I’ve really got more than I can probably ever use so I try not to go out looking much since storing it is becoming an issue. Oh, that tourist register of yours is really fab! I also love to try to get old yearbooks for the old photos. I find it less hard to cut from and use them than any pictures I’ve bought. Thanks for sharing your goodies and tips!

    • The yearbook is such a good idea for using old photos but not actually using photos! I see them all the time at estate sales and never even considered them. Thanks for the idea!

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