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Tangential Circus Collectible: Champion Imagination Series Paper Sample Book

by Larry Kellogg (01/31/12).

The cover was plain black with a tipped-on picture.

Searching for cross-collectibles can uncover interesting items for your circus collection. In my last article titled “Advertisers, Just Like the American Public, Loved the Circus,” I highlighted circus-themed advertising by General Electric, Ivory Soap, Kodak Film and other major American companies. It brought to mind an item in my own circus collection that is unknown to many collectors.

In 1963 the Champion Paper Company began producing a series of paper sample books in their Imagination Series. Paper companies provided paper sample books to printers, advertising agencies and others to demonstrate the various uses for their products. The Champion Imagination Series continued until 1986 with a total of 26 different books. Each book had a different theme—“The West,” “Fire,” “Boats,” “The Man in the Moon,” “Safari” . . . themes that would spark the imagination. Book No. 11 was titled “Circus” and contained many classic circus images.

Each spread in the booklet had words describing paper and printing techniques. As an example, the text inside the cover said: “The cover of Imagination 11 has a photographic album look that suggests the nostalgia of circus days past. It consists of Champion Papers Colorcast® Drum Finished Litho, Black-on-black, laminated to Champion Papers Carnival® Cover, Antique Finish, White/ 90lb. The tipped-on photograph is reproduced in two colors on Champion Papers Carnival® Cover, Antique Finish, White/65 lb.” Similar descriptions were on each spread.

The tiger image was taken from an early Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows poster. The art was later used by the combined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The black bars on the left were die-cut and folded open to reveal text that described the circus coming to town.

Text on this page told about the wide-eyed child in all of us and our love of the circus. The ticket reproduced on this page was for the Great National Circus which toured America in the mid to late 1800s.

This painting by Robert Weaver was titled “Madison Square Garden, 1967.” It was accompanied James Whitcomb Riley’s poem, “The Circus-Day Parade.”

The next two spreads were titled “It All Began With Barnum,” and in just a few paragraphs explained the metamorphosis from Barnum to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

Posters, artwork and photos of various attractions were included with the text.

Clowns were the subject of the next section. The first spread was die-cut on the right page with a laughing mouth in the opening. When the page was turned it revealed the mouth belonged to a laughing woman.

Opposite the woman were brief bios of four clowns—The Great Grimaldi, Dan Rice, Tom Belling and Emmett Kelly.

Circus motion pictures were in the next section. Two double-sided inserts slid up and down with still frames from circus films being revealed in the die-cut opening.

Circus artwork by Calder, Lautrec, Renoir and Chagall was in the next section.

A beautiful sunburst wagon wheel from a circus parade wagon dominated the left page. A circus toy was on the right.

Stunning images by famed photographer Richard Avedon were on the last two spreads.

The final blue page gave descriptions and credits for the images shown.

So how do you find a copy of the Champion Paper Imagination 11 book? It’s not easy, but if you are able to find one, the price isn’t unreasonable. In February 201,1 a set of eight different Champion Papers Imagination books, which included the Circus book, sold on eBay for $32.99. As I am writing this article, a single copy of the Circus book is being offered on Amazon for $35.

Larry Kellogg is a Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.

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