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Collecting Antique Greeting Postcards - Some Interesting Variations

Updated on March 4, 2013

In this article I wanted to point out some interesting aspects of antique greeting postcard collecting. First of all, this article pertains to only the greeting type postcards. If you look at postcards on Ebay, for instance, you will see over 2 million listings (today there are 2,338,210 active listings). But these are broken down into 31 categories. Out of these 31 categories, I mainly shop in one and that is "Greeetings". There are a few other categories I might have in my collection, such as Holidays and art, but I usually stick with Greetings as it contains the largest amount of the type of postcard I collect.

I want to start out with some fun things to look for. I discovered these things quite by accident as I sorted and looked at all the cards. I found cards with similar looks and yet different. The most basic of these is two exact cards, but with different greetings. This is quite common and you can see an example of this in the next photo.


As you can see in these two cards, they are exactly alike, but have different greetings.
As you can see in these two cards, they are exactly alike, but have different greetings.

In the next photo, there are two cards that have very similar pictures and yet there are some differences. I always wonder if one postcard company would steal images from another. I know that postcards were extremely popular and I suppose this could happen. But another possibility could be that the company would just rework a picture and change it slightly, perhaps on a later run. I really don't know much about how these companies operated, how they got the artwork they used, etc. I know there were some cards by well-known illustrators of the day and are signed, such as C. Klein and Rose O'Neil. But all of the numerous unsigned cards, I can only surmise, were done by various people who sold their artwork on a freelance basis.

If you look at the backs of these two cards (the second photo below), you can see that they are very different, which would also suggest that they were produced by two different companies. The better card is dated earlier. The card on the right is much better quality, with more detailed embossing and much better printing quality. It's also the one that is dated earlier on the back.

It's interesting to think about these things, but unfortunately, I have no real answers to the questions.

In the next photos, I have two sets of cards, both with the same base printing, but it looks like another printing with gold was then added to the base card. I suppose this was an efficient way of using a basic image, with more ease of adding different greetings. As you can see in the picture of the rose, the basic image was also used to hand letter a greeting. I see this hand lettering with, what looks like glitter paint (or perhaps they used glue and added the glitter on top) to write their greeting and to add some glitter to the rose. I'll show some of the variations of this in another article.

Another variation is the same image, but using different colors. In the next three sets, you will see variations of this.

Perhaps there is also available a white background with gold ink, like the one with silver.  One never knows of all the possibilities, but that is part of the fun of collecting.
Perhaps there is also available a white background with gold ink, like the one with silver. One never knows of all the possibilities, but that is part of the fun of collecting.

The next photo shows a set of cards with mirrored images. This is not quite as common as other variations. I have only a couple of sets like this.

As you can see, there is no end to the exciting possibilities of antique postcard collecting. I can't even tell you how exciting it is to find an addition to a set that I think there are no more or a different variation of a card I already have. It's like a treasure hunt.

Happy collecting!

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