Not everyone can afford to collect fancy fine art from big galleries or auction houses, but just about anyone can pick up something old and beautiful at Hal Lutsky's Vintage Paper Fair.
Open Saturday and Sunday at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park, the Vintage Paper Fair attracts casual collectors and paper aficionados alike.
Nearly 50 vendors sell vintage postcards, postal ephemera, vintage labels, photographs, pinup art, advertising, posters, local history items, movie memorabilia and more. The show excels in variety, and unlike many flea markets, it is free.
"We get a lot of foot traffic from Golden Gate Park," says Lutsky, who has been running the fair for years. "One of the problems with these trade shows is that many collectors are pretty old, promoters don't advertise on the Internet and it can be like a senior citizens' home. But we get a much younger crowd in San Francisco."
While the fair attracts serious collectors, it is also a draw for artists, designers looking to mine old fonts and printing techniques, and garage-sale fiends who can't resist a potential treasure.
As a collector, Lutsky started off in coins, but after many years, he reached a plateau and lost interest in the hobby.
"Coins just got so expensive," Lutsky says. "There is a grading system with coins, and there can be an adversarial relationship between coin collectors and dealers. There can be hostility. You don't find that in the paper hobby. It's not about money. Coins are more profit-oriented, but people collect postcards for fun."
One of Lutsky's most popular vendors has nearly 50,000 postcards, many of them vintage, on sale for just a quarter each.
While the Internet market has changed things drastically for shows like Lutsky's, the in-person, tactile shopping experience cannot be duplicated online, where there is greater opportunity for shoppers to purchase reproductions by mistake.
"It's a different experience," Lutsky says. "A lot is cheaper in person, and you develop relationships with dealers. They'll save stuff for you and work out deals."
Lutsky, who has seen trends come and go, notes that the photo postcard has appreciated more in value than any other collectible in the past 40 years. But he's also quick to point out old favorites, like cigar and beer labels.
"They have some beautiful artwork," Lutsky says. "Many are embossed, use gold foil and are lithographs with colors that still hold up 100 years later."Hal Lutsky's Vintage Paper Fair
Where: County Fair Building, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Lincoln Boulevard, Golden Gate Park, S.F.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Contact: (415) 531-0553, www.vintagepaperfair.com