Collecting Antique Postcards

A simple guide to starting an antique postcard collection.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, sending penny postcards was a popular form of communication. There were postcards available for all occasions and holidays. Some of them had beautiful paintings and pictures on them. Some were done in simple black and white, sepia, drawings. While others contained only words or poetry.

Before starting your own collection of antique, or vintage, postcards, you must decide on which type you would like to collect. With so many to choose from this isn't going to be easy. The most popular collectible cards are the Halloween postcards, followed by Christmas, Valentine's day and Thanksgiving. Postcards from places around the world are also very collectible but not considered as valuable. Postcards once used for advertising that contain humorous slogans are also fun to collect.

Once you have decided on which type of cards you'd like to collect, you then have to decide on a topic. Let's say you have chosen Halloween postcards. You might decide to collect only cards with witches or black cats on them. You could also decide to collect postcards from a particular series. The Tuck's 150 series of Halloween cards are especially sought after and make a great collection if you can find them. You might decide to collect cards that were drawn by a single artist such as those drawn by Ellen Clapsaddle whose postcard paintings mostly depicted adorable children. Fortune telling postcards were very popular for a while and would make a lovely collection also.

Once you've decided on a type and a topic for your collection, it's time to start hunting. Flea markets, antique shops, and garage sales are good places to look for cards. For those who are impatient or don't have the time to spend searching through boxes and shelves, you can buy vintage postcards on E-bay. There are also many web-sites online devoted to the sale of antique postcards and ephemera.

Antique postcards range in price from a few dollars on up to the hundreds and even thousands of dollars for the most rare and collectible cards in excellent shape. Your budget will have to be the deciding factor on how much you will spend for your collection.

The value of a postcard is mostly determined by its condition. An antique card free of wrinkles, rips, and dog-eared corners would be more expensive then the same card in poor condition. Each dealer has their own system for judging the condition of their cards but most follow the excellent, good, fair, and poor rating system.

For the amateur collector, the best way to determine the age of an antique postcard is by purchasing cards that have been postally used with dated stamps attached. Unused cards are more then likely going to be in better condition but with so many reproductions on the market today it can be difficult to tell the authenticity of an unused postcard. As your collection grows you will become familiar with the look and feel of the antiques and be better qualified to determine a real one from a fake.

The added bonus of purchasing used antique postcards is the personal writing on the back of the cards which provides a rare peek back in time. Sometimes the information on the back of the card is more interesting and unusual than the picture on the front.

As soon as you purchase your first antique postcard you need to decide how you are going to protect and store it. Paper deteriorates over time and must be kept free from smoke and the elements. You can keep postcards in an acid free photo album or in individual plastic postcard protectors stacked neatly in a box. If properly protected your antique postcard collection will bring you years of enjoyment.

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