The definition varies somewhat between collectors and also by museums/libraries. However, it basically refers to printed/written (mostly) paper products that were meant to be used once, or for one purpose, then thrown away. Examples include newspapers, advertising fliers, movie posters, menus and ticket stubs. I think that vintage cards of buttons come close to that definition. The cards certainly were not meant to be treasured. Once the buttons were used, they were to be thrown out. The buttons don’t classify, even though now-a-days they are mostly thrown out with the clothing!
I got to thinking about this as I received a lot of dusty and less than pristine cards of buttons. It occurred to me that they were bought for a purpose, but not stored with any care …. just like ephemera, they were not meant to be valued or stored beyond their function. Certainly, they were not intended to be collected as examples of manufacturing history!
So be warned, the cards I’m going to share are scruffy!