EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 295 - September 18, 2011 - ISSN 1528-6703     5 of 6

Collector's Corner: Postcards

By Michele Alice

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The coining of a special term for a hobby is usually a good indicator of its popularity, and right up there with numismatics (coin collecting) and philately (stamp collecting) is deltiology - postcard collecting.

Like coins and stamps, the sheer volume of available material, old and new, promotes specialization in an almost unimaginable number of categories. Interested in a particular type of postcard? You can choose among See-Throughs, Linens, White-Borders, and more. Fascinated by an event like the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, or a particular decade (the Swinging Sixties, anyone?), or the New York skyline? Or maybe you just like pictures of kittens, diners, or motels? Chances are that you will find numerous postcards for each of these, and even for categories as narrow as views of your own home town.

Collectible, privately-issued postcards should not be confused with the pre-stamped pieces issued by government-run postal services. In the U. S., those mailing pieces are generally referred to as postal cards or, since 1999, stamped cards. Postal cards, issued in the States since 1873, are instead collected by philatelists.

Privately-issued postcards have been in use since the mid-19th Century. Prior to the 1860's, people thought it improper to send messages that could be read by, well, anyone, but by the early 1900's the use and collecting of postcards had become a national craze. This was abetted first in 1898 by the reduction in postage from two cents to the same one cent charged for official post office pieces, and second in 1907 by the establishment of the divided back. Before 1907, the government did not allow message and address to be written on the same side of the postcard. Any message had to be written on the front the card, usually defacing the picture. The divided back finally allowed recipients to fully enjoy the pictures sent. Of course, pre-1907 postcards without any writing on their pictures are quite rare, and collectors are willing to pay significant premiums for examples.

Real Photo Postcards - RPPC's for short - represent another class of postcard much in demand by deltiologists. RPPC's are actual photos that have been developed on special postcard-size paper. They were sometimes produced in relatively large quantities, but abetted by such cameras as 1903's No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak. The general public could snap, develop, and mail unique pictures of family, friends, and surroundings. Under a magnifying glass, an RPPC can easily be distinguished from a printed photo card which is composed of tiny dots, while the real photo is not. Depending on subject matter, RPPC's can fetch quite hefty prices, but be forewarned: it is not impossible to create a reproduction by using an original negative on new paper.

Though most antique and vintage postcards can fit comfortably in a modest budget - $5 to $50 each - rarity, condition, and important or desirable subject matter can push prices into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. So if you'd like to learn more about this popular collectible, check out the resources listed below, and

Happy Hunting!


Advertising Postcards

Black Postcard Price Guide (2nd Edition)

Christmas Postcards: A Collector's Guide

The Encyclopedia of Antique Postcards/Price Guide (Wallace-Homestead Price Guide)

The Postcard Century

Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People's Photography

Websites A History of Picture Postcards - Link to article - Informative article.

The History of Postcards - link to website - Illustrated timeline at Emotions Greeting Cards' museum site. And don't overlook the sections on grading, terminology, and Hold-to-Light cards. - link to website - Nostalgic look at motel signage from the 1950's, '60's and '70's.

Playle's - link to website - Auction site devoted to mostly ephemera has informative Deltiology section: dating, grading, links, more.

USPS Postal History - link to website - See this page for, "Number of Stamped Cards and Postcards Sent via First-Class Mail, 1926 to 2010" - link to website - "The Vintage Postcard Forum" - link to website - Site devoted to postcard collecting offers sections on grading, pricing, types, terms, more. Great articles and links!

About the author:

Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ eBay ID: Malice9

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