A Guide to Collecting Vintage Recipe Pamphlets

Collecting vintage recipe pamphlets is a great hobby. It is a lot cheaper than many other hobbies, and gives you a fabulous insight into the lives of people in days gone by.

• Where Can They Be Found?

Recipe leaflets can be found in a variety of places. Online, they can be bought from specialist stores and auction sites. In the town, you can find them in antique bookstores and thrift shops.  However, the best place to find genuine, vintage recipe pamphlets and books is from garage sales.

Try to find sales that are held as a clearance of an older person’s property. These are more likely to have genuine pamphlets. Sometimes they are in a worse condition than you would find in an antique store, butthis is a bonus. It adds to the history of the piece to think that a housewife has used the pamphlet to provide meals for her family.

• Does Condition Matter?

Recipe pamphlets are part of what is described as ‘paper ephemera’, which means that they are only meant to be used for a short time and then discarded. This means that finding a mint, pristine copy is very hard to do. If you find one, hold on to it!

If you want to collect the pamphlets because of their potential value in the future, try to get pamphlets in the best possible condition you can.

• How Old Will the Pamphlets Be?

Pamphlets have been produced from Victorian times. Before this, housewives would records recipes in a personal notebook or ledger. Once printing became cheaper, companies who produced ingredients would give recipe pamphlets away with their produce to encourage more sales.

Vintage recipe leaflets can be found from each era, and you may choose to collect from only one era, e.g. the war years or the 1970s, or you may aim to collect a range of leaflets so that each decade is represented.

• Should You Specialise?

As well as specialising in different eras, some collectors will collect vintage recipe pamphlets from different regions, countries or for particular types of produce.

Baking is a popular subject for specialist collections, as companies such as Bero and Stork produced leaflets to promote their own products, as well as the bakeware companies such as Pyrex, who wished to promote their own products. The range of leaflets available is so great that you could even specialise in one of these companies in particular and still never finish !

Other areas of specialisation could be fruit, tinned food, early American, world foods, 1950s, post-war or pre-war, Betty Crocker, or fish and meat.

• How Should You Store Your Pamphlets?

At first glance, paper seems like an easy thing to store. However, you need to bear a few things in mind.  Paper can be damaged by heat, light and damp, as well as by contact with dust and dirt.  Store your recipe pamphlets in clear polythene pockets mounted in a ring-binder with four clasps for extra stability. Do not glue or use other adhesive to hold your pamphlets onto a backing paper, although a clean, white sheet of paper can be inserted into the pockets for display.  You might want to scan in your leaflets and display a copy of the back cover alongside the genuine vintage copy.

Make sure that you label each pamphlet with the date it was produced, the company that produced it, and where you found it. Keep the label away from the actual pamphlet in case the ink leaches through onto the original.

• What Else Can You Collect?

Along with the vintage recipe pamphlets that are produced as stand-alone items for customers, companies often used pages of the leaflet as advertisements to be reproduced in magazines and newspapers. These clippings are as interesting as the leaflets themselves, although they are harder to find. Make sure that you keep the whole page of the magazine so that the date of publication is included.

Labels from the products that are used in the leaflets are also an interesting addition to a collection. These can be displayed in the polythene pockets next to the recipe pamphlet. You will need to be confident that the label is of the same era as the vintage pamphlet you have collected.

Vintage recipe books are also a popular collectors’ item, but are often much more expensive than pamphlets or leaflets, and are usually more generalised. They don’t have the same associations with a particular brand or product that comes with free pamphlets.

So, whether you have been collecting vintage recipe pamphlets for a while, or wish to start a new collection, be inspired ! Look through vintage magazines and history books to find out about the brands our forefathers used. Research social history, and check out your nearest museum.

Collections of pamphlets are part of our social history, and are a valuable source of data to historians. Be proud that you are part of this tradition, and create a collection that could be of national importance.