I'vde always loved postcards. At first, I was interested in the messages. Postcards provide an incomparable glimpse into the society during the period they were used. Some messages were funny, some sad, and some just plain strange. One, showing a donkey on the front read, “When are going stop being an a** and write to me?" Another, “This is a photo of the town. The place I marked with an X is where a father and his two sons were killed when a train stuck their haywagon. We're holding a memorial service on Wednesday. " The strangest one I ever read was: “Ellen thinks you're a lobster. I think you're cute. Doris. " It sounds to me as if Doris had an interest in the recipient. What she meant about him being a lobster, I don't know.
I also loved the images. Postcards were in some cases minitaure photographs of a bygone era. Real photo postcards can be found showing town streets, families, motorcycles, circuses, deep-sea diving equipment, nudes and just about any other topic you can imagine, including lynchings. I once purchased a horrendous collection of six cards that showed scenes of the 1916 genocide of Armenians in Palestine, including one with soldiers showing off the heads of three of their victims. Fortunately, most cards deal with happier topics.
Non-real-photo cards abound and show can show just about anything.
Pretty women are a common topic and are very collectible. Some artists such as Beaulieu and F. Earle Christie, are extremely popular and can bring in the hundreds of dollars.
Holidays were by far the most popluar subjects and literally millions of Christmas postcards can still be found. Most are of little value, but Santa Clauses are always collectible. Find one in a yellow or green suit and you have a minor treasure. Ones that have been manufactured to light up when viewed are known as hold-to-light or HTLs. Most of these are very collectible and some are worth in the hundreds of dollars. If you ever find a HTL with Uncle Sam as Santa, you have one that is worth in the thousands of dollars. Easter is probably the least-favored topic. The most favored by far is Halloween.
Halloween cards were popular at the time they were sent. Collectors avidly put them aside, and for this reason, a large number of the cards are still available. Today, the creme de la creme of the Halloween card are the ones by the Winsch Brothers of Germany. The quality of the cards and beauty of the designs have always made them popular. Today, they are worth in the hundreds of dollars in top condition.
So far we haven't mentioned condition. As with all collectibles, condition is the main concern besides content. Tears, missing corners, creases, any of these can reduce a valuable card to next to nothing. I have seen more rare cards with these problems than I care to think of. Anyone interested in collecting cards must keep condition in mind at all times.
Fads can affect price, too. At one time, real photo postcards were considered so undesirable that a purchaser would pull them out and discard them as worthless. Now they are among the most valuable. In the early 1900s, cards showing flowers or woodland scenes were the desired one. They were also the most common. During the heyday of the postcard, more than a billion were delivered in a single year. Today, woodland scenes and flowers are worth next to nothing. The despised real photos showing main street will always bring at least five dollars in good condition. Long sets showing carnivals or circuses are worth in the thousands.
If you are starting a postcard collection, go after the ones that you have an interest in. If you live in a particular neighborhood in a city, you can usually find cards to collect. Nearly every important building in every city has been photographed and made into a card at one time or another. If you have a hobby, look for cards dealing with Chess or gardening, or whatever else your fancy. If you have no idea where to begin, eBay or a local postcard show are your best bets. You will get an idea of prices and what's available. Plus you'll meet some great people while you're at it.
Finally, in a single word: ENJOY!
Copyright 2005 by John Anderson
John Anderson has sold collectibles for more than three decades. At present he is retired and is a full-time free-lance writer. His first novel, The Cellini Masterpiece, was published by iUniverse under the penname of Raymond John (ISBN 0595328059). John welcomes correspondence. If you have a question or would like to contact him, please log on to http"//http://www.cmasterpiece.com