War and the military moves with a mountain of paper. This is true even today when so much operates electronically, but was so much more so during World War II and the decades of the Cold War. Manuals, forms, bulletins, orders, reports, posters, cards, letters .... the list goes on and on. Add photographs, charts, drawings, and other images and the possibilities are endless. While much of this fragile stock of paper militaria has disappeared, much still remains for the collector and historian.
One of the best known phrases from World War II is "Loose Lips Sink Ships". The phrase originated with this poster, issued in 1942 to be put up in taverns. It was sponsored as a patriotic service by the House of Seagram (Seagram Distillers) of Montreal. Click here for more information and a larger version.
Today in WW II: 15 Nov 1943 German SS leader Heinrich Himmler orders Gypsies and those of mixed Gypsy blood to be 'on the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps'.
Types of Paper Militaria
There are a very large number of types of paper militaria (sometimes called ephemera). Items may be issued by the military (or other governmental agencies) or may be associated with people in the military. They may be official or unofficial, commercial or not. Some of the most interesting items you can collect are in this category.
In modern times (roughly World War I forward), here is a list of the most commonly collected items. This is just a sample, there are many more subdivisions you could name. You can search for items in these categories at Internet auctions or on-line dealers where there are thousands of individual items on sale today.
- Field and Technical Manuals
- Official Documents
- Ration Books and Stamps
- Ration Books and Stamps
- Life Magazines
- Stars & Stripes
In addition to the above categories, of course photographs have always been very popular and will continue to be. Many interesting military photographs show up on the eBay listings, often one of a kind from a personal collection. On-line sources for military photographs are available on this page of Olive-Drab.com. You can download and print photos in this way if you have a good photo printer with your computer equipment and if the on-line photo is available with sufficiently high resolution for the use you have in mind.
Where and How to Find Paper Militaria
The eBay.com on-line auction is by far the largest marketplace for militaria of all kinds, including paper items. Almost anything you might be interested in will sooner or later show up there. On any given day, over 100,000 militaria items will be on auction, including some things you are probably interested in. For other ideas, visit the Olive-Drab.ocm Militaria pages.
Value of Items of Paper Militaria
The value of an item depends on its rarity, whether the item is original, a copy or a reproduction. Today's digital technology makes it relatively easy to produce excellent copies or reproductions from an original. This may be just fine, depending on what you are looking for. Ask the seller to explain the origin of the item. If a lot of money is involved, consult an expert to appraise the item.
Find More Information on the Internet
There are many fine websites that have additional information on this
topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go.
Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.
For good results, try entering this: militaria paper. Then click the Search button.