Collecting Linen Era Postcards

For many years collectors have found vintage postcards to be a great way to own and appreciate a small piece of history at a very affordable price. In fact, postcards are believed to be the third most popular collectible behind stamps and coins. There are a great many options for the collector in deciding what type or subject of postcards to acquire. In this article we are going to focus on one type of popular Americana, and that is the linen era postcard.


Linen postcards were produced in great quantity from the late 1930s through the early 1950s and consisted of a wide range of subjects. Among them were city and town views, scenic, transportation, military, monuments, tourist attractions, and comics. A number of businesses at the time used them as a cheap but effective form of advertising. To the collector of cards from this period, the choice of subject matter is huge. Some may collect postcards from their hometown or state, others as an addition to a military collection, still others as a collection of specific subject matter or place. As an example, a few very popular collectible linen postcards are those of Route 66 and related roadside attractions. And there are of course a great many collectors who simply appreciate the history and artwork behind images produced 60 or 70 years ago regardless of subject matter. Suffice to say, the subject choices for the collector are virtually unlimited.


Contrary to the name, linen postcards are not produced on a linen fabric. Thanks to newer printing processes they were produced on an inexpensive cardstock with a high rag content, and then finished with a pattern which resembled linen. The face of the cards is distinguished by a textured cloth appearance which makes them easily recognizable. The reverse of the card is smooth as in earlier postcards. In viewing the sample scans you may be able to see the textured surface. The rag content in the card stock allowed for a much more colorful and vibrant image to be printed than the earlier “white border” style. Due to the inexpensive production and bright realistic images they soon became quite popular. In the early to mid 1940s postcard production slowly gave way to the new Kodachrome / Ektachrome printing process and the public soon fell in love with the new “glossy” format . With the exception of a few (mostly southern) companies most manufacturers had either changed to the new chrome technology or closed shop by the 1950s.


One of the better known linen era postcard manufacturers was Curt Teich and Company, who first produced the immensely popular “ large letter linen” postcards (among many others). The card design featured a large letter spelling of a state or place with smaller photos inside the letters. The design can still be found in many places today. A few other popular manufacturers include Tichnor and Company, Haynes, Stanley Piltz, E.C Kropp, and the Asheville Postcard Company.


The collector of linen postcards will find a great variety of postcards on a number of internet retail and auction venues. Other places to find collectible cards are second hand shops, flea markets, postcard shows, and perhaps your grandparents attic. As with most collectibles, the price of postcards will tend to vary with their rarity and demand. That said, there remain a vast number of very collectable linen era postcards which can be purchased for well under $10. While it is always best to acquire the best cards available for the price you are willing to pay, in many cases it is not always easy to locate the subject desired in pristine condition.. As grading standards can be somewhat subjective compared to coins and stamps, it is important the buyer closely examine  a postcard's condition and then make the decision as to whether the condition merits the asking price.


The options for storing your postcards can vary from the simple to elaborate. The most common method is to use thin plastic sleeves or album pages made specifically for postcard storage. Another option is rigid plastic sleeves which offer somewhat better protection. Both are available from many online vendors. In general, postcards should  be  stored in an area free of moisture, extreme temperatures , and direct sunlight.. While its unnecessary to go to extremes, little common sense will go along way toward preserving your personal collection of Americana for the next generation's enjoyment.

A few examples of linen postcards......

A Fallen Giant, Humbolt State Redwood Park, California
A Fallen Giant, Humbolt State Redwood Park, California
Tuna Boats at Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Tuna Boats at Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Engels Motel, Dan Diego, CA
Engels Motel, Dan Diego, CA
Statue of Liberty at Sunrise, New York City
Statue of Liberty at Sunrise, New York City
Texas Long Horn Steer
Texas Long Horn Steer
Greetings from Virginia
Greetings from Virginia
Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA

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