Antique Postcards

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Learning About Old Postcards

Vintage postcards are an affordable and fun hobby! Cards can range from a few cents apiece to the hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars each! Finding the true value of a card can be hard, with so many factors affecting its price. I'll try to list here some common things that affect a postcards price.

Age: The age of a postcard can sometimes add to its monetary value. Many collectors today look for the earlier postcards, from around 1898 until the 1940's. But as these cards become harder to find, a new market for cards produced from the 1940's until the present have been created. If you think about it, cards produced in the 1950's are already over 50 years old!

Condition: Condition is a huge factor in evaluating postcards. A card in excellent to mint condition demands a much higher price than those with defects. Small creases, tears, bends or ink marks can cut the price of a postcard up to half! Postcards are often mishandled, and that little crease or rounded corner may not seem like much. But to a true collector, it can make a big difference. $20 postcards can often be found in a dealers 10 cent box due to its condition.

Topic: Some postcard topics are more desirable than others. For example, in the Holiday postcard field, Birthday postcards are considered quite common. Although beautiful, and often produced by famous publishers, they cannot rival the value of a Halloween postcard produced by the very same publisher. Black and white postcards are great examples of view postcards, but a true Real Photo postcard of the same place most often demands a much higher price.
Rarity: How many of this particular postcard were produced? Was it made by a small town publisher, maybe in a small quantity of 100? Or by a large city publisher, produced in the thousands? This will greatly affect the cards collectible value. How many are still around? How many have you seen on eBay or at shows? It is not uncommon to see two identical cards at a show, with a great difference in asking price. Postcard grading will probably never be as precise as coin or baseball card collecting, with manufacturers production numbers and standardized price guides. As for vintage postcards, some "one of a kind" cards can be worth big $$$!
Postcard Types/Dating: Dating postcards can be somewhat easy when postmarked on the back when sent. But using this method can be deceiving, as cards were often printed and stored for years before being sold and mailed. Postcards fall into several age categories. Clues on the actual cards can help date them, when they are not postmarked by a post office.

Pioneer Postcards: The earliest known postcards are commonly called "Pioneers". They were produced before the date July 1, 1898. Most often they have vignettes or images printed directly onto Government Postal cards, but can sometimes be found printed on private publishers card stock as well.

Early Century: Early Century postcards are those from the dates of 1898 until around 1918 or so. This group is commonly known as the "Golden Age" of postcard publishing, as it contained some of the most outstanding examples of postcard publishing. During this time, postcards would begin to become standardized, most being printed in the more popular 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" size format. Included as sub groups within this group were "Private Mailing" postcards, "undivided back", "divided back" and "Real Photo" postcards. Undivided cards required all writing correspondence to be on the front (picture) side and the address only on the back, while the divided back allowed both a handwritten message and a space for an address on the back side. Real Photo, RP or RPPC postcards were made from images taken with an actual camera. They were developed in a darkroom and printed onto postcard stock, often in a brown sepia tone.

Mid Century: Cards produced from 1919 to around 1940 or so. This group contains the ever popular "linen" postcard type, with a sort of "fabric" type feel to them, produced in the 40's. Also produced during these years were the "white border" postcards. These are normally black and white view images with white borders around the outside.

Chrome Era: Chrome postcards were produced from the 1950's until present. These late century postcards used a new "chromolithic" process, with lifelike vibrant colors, resembling more of a true photograph, then a printed postcard image. A new size format was also introduced during this age, measuring approx. 4"x6" and popularly called "continental" size.

Modern/Rack Postcards: Cards made today are commonly called "moderns". A new type of collectible postcard is the promotional advertising postcards called "rack cards" or "free cards", as they are often found as give aways in restaurant and retail racks.

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