Great, potentially important, post by Marty Weil today over at the ephemera blog:
The Weil-Ptak "Standardized" Ephemera Scale
In short, the scale, brainchild of Marty Weil and John F. Ptak, who operates an online bookstore, delves into the details of 6 factors to categorize ephemera items from "least ephemeral to most."
I don't want to copy the ephemera post verbatim, as I urge you to have a look yourself, but in order to give a better understanding of what I'm about to do I'll say that the six factors are 1) Place of origin/population target; 2) Amount of usage/intended amount of use of the printed item; 3) Purpose; 4) Savability (Reasons why the item might have been saved); 5) Medium (what it's made of); 6) Age.
Okay, so we'll target a couple of specialty items of our site now.
Let's start with a supplement. The M23 Movie Star Supplements issued with The Philadelphia Record throughout the 1930's. Here's how I grade it according to the Weil-Ptak Scale:
B: 1 (that's a bit of a stretch though, grading 1 as intended to be saved)
C: 4 (Weil-Ptak only publishes grades of 5 and 1 for mark C -- I'm going to assume it's a scale from 5 through 1)
And now I'll take a quick look at a magazine, to be specific, I'll go with a 1947 issue of The Sporting News, as I've recently listed a complete set of those for sale. We'll assume it's a run-of-the-mill issue, nothing too special like important Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson content (both of which there was a lot of that year!). Here we go:
C: 3 (see above comment for C)
Conclusion: The issue of the Sporting News is slightly more "ephemeric" than the Movie Supplement. What does this mean? With a lowest possible score of 5, ranging up to a top score of 30, the way I understand it the closer an item scales to 30 means it is a combination of rarer, more fragile, and tougher to find than an item scoring lower. Especially in good condition, my guess is a 30 would be tough to find in any condition! A 30 was likely something that most of the population would have thrown away. My first thought of a 5 would be the type of item issued somewhat recently with the idea that it'd be collected--I'm sure it'd score higher than a 5 but something like a commemorative issue of a magazine detailing an important person's death or a big sporting event, something meant for the masses to consume, would likely score lower than a 10 on the Weil-Ptak scale.
Does a 30 mean a bigger price tag than a 5? Not necessarily. You're probably not going to get a better price on a 100 year old used bus ticket than you are for the Moon Landing issue of LIFE, but that's not what this is about.
My first impression is that this is about classifying the unclassified. Collectors crave information, a scale brings organization to a growing but largely unorganized hobby. Check out some of the posts over at the ephemera blog. You'll see stories about people collecting things you never dreamed were collected. Looking at recent posts there is coverage of collectors of Sterographs, Checks, Vietnam War ephemera, Mario Lanza and so much more! Every collector, no matter how common or obscure their niche, aids the collecting community in allowing the objects of their specialization to survive another generation of collecting. And what's interesting to me is how often items from one collection find their way into another, usually more specialized or generalized collection which the item fits into.
The Weil-Ptak Scale, if implemented correctly, is going to help collectors in the end, as it's going to help in organizing the hobby.
Suggestions: Casual things I picked up in applying the grades to these specific items. Item B, usage, was tough for me to apply. Especially to the newspaper insert. My guess is the intended usage is for a kid to pin the item on their wall for a few weeks until it falls off. But a supplement falls into all spaces in between with the possibility of being thrown out the same day, to being framed in a display forever. Item C, purpose, either needs grades 4-2 to be defined or more clearly explained if 1 and 5 are the only grades. F, Age, may need more than 5 points, or perhaps have points 4 and 5 combined with a new point 2 (100-200 years old) inserted between current points 2 and 1. Actually I think the age category could use the most work, but could be most easily corrected as well.
All in all this is great work though, and honestly I didn't notice any of my suggestions when I read the post, only upon application. I hope to see more!
Update: Just noticed that The Exile Bibliophile also did a post about the Weil-Ptak scale. Must be some smart folks over there because they had the same idea that I did -- they ran one of their items through the scale, in this case, a Stereoview of the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston. Great work!