Wish You Were Here - Postcards Rule.
Do you still send postcards? I stopped sending them for a while. Mainly because receiving them made me decidedly tetchy. You know the scenario – a foul day, the postie brings numerous bills and the ultimate picture of a place to die for.
Ice capped mountains, blue sky reflected on divine sea, blissful bobbing boats. There’s a hurriedly scribbled message - clearly the sender in paradise hasn’t time to waste writing to you. Just what you need to make you hideously fed up.
I assumed other people suffered the same angst. I was gobsmacked when a young uni student rang me with a complaint. ‘Please, please, send post cards like you used too. I miss them. I’m collecting them.’
Clearly I was missing something. Despite technology, sms, emails, blogs, twitter, - postcards are booming. And it’s not just new ones.
Many old postcards are a highly collectable item, so if you’re a hoarder - check them out.
It doesn’t mean they are necessarily lucrative, but play the right card and you might be lucky. Postcards range from a few cents upwards. In Iowa an unused post card advertising Waverley Bicycles with artwork designed by Alphonse Mucha (Czech, 1860-1939) sold for $12, 650 (USD.)
Auctions are a popular way to buy and sell postcards. And it’s not just small local places. Such is the power that Sotheby’s in London hold specialist postcard auctions two or three times a year.
Postcards from the past embrace a social history. They reflect what was happening that moment. Local history, sporting heroes, major exhibitions, museums, changing transport, cars, ships, trains, planes, customs, places - all frozen in time.
Nostalgia is relevant. There’s an undeniable view of events - passions and fashions of the past century.
Many collectors specialize - churches, town centres, world war one, embroidered silk, street scenes, animals.
The study and collecting of postcards is termed deltiology.
For genealogy buffs, the message on an old card can prove invaluable, providing clues to where former family members were and how they were faring.
After the death of my father, my sister in England found a postcard dated 1916 – sent by my grandfather who was away serving in the RAMC. It was to his young five year old son. (my father)
It portrayed a young boy wearing an overly large sergeant’s uniform. The message reads – ‘Dear Jack, I was surprised to find this picture of you and see you are an officer’. He then tells him he must be a ‘good boy for mummy. ‘
It is poignant reminder - he never saw his son again. In April 1917 he was drowned when his troopship the SS Arcadian was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea.
In Britain 1894 was a significant year for postcards – British publishers were given the go ahead to manufacture picture postcards which could be mailed.
By 1904 a young Donald Fraser McGill was about to make his mark.. He specialized in colorful, creations teeming with innuendo and double entendre.
He soon became known as the King of the saucy seaside postcard
Colourful, humorous, nothing to do with travel, the public embraced them. Nothing was sacred, voluptuous blondes, mothers-in-law- drunken males, fat ladies, landladies and vicars were fair game. At first political correctness was not an issue
Not until 1954 when McGill was charged with breaking the 1857 Obscene Publishing Act. One of his censored items:
Vicar to woman pushing pram – “And what is the baby’s Christian name?”
Woman replies “Christian name! I have not had time to think of that. I have been six months trying to find a surname for him.”
He was found guilty and fined. A huge blow to the postcard industry although by the late 1950s they were back with a vengeance.
McGill died in 1962. Over his lifetime he produced an estimated 12,000 designs around 200 million copies printed. He never had royalties although one of his postcards, a record breaker sold over 6 million copies.
He - “Do you like Kipling?”
She – “I don’t know you naughty boy, I’ve never been kippled!”
Royalty past and present always has an edge - Princess Diane is still a favourite. Prince William and Catherine are hot.
So what’s new in Australian postcards? There are the usual - scenic views of picture perfect places.
A stab at humour, featuring a shabby Sheila or a boofhead Bruce titled - Our lingo interpreted;
Have a chunder – The delicate act of regurgitation.
Go and tart yourself up – Please dress in your best clothes.
Donald McGill would be squirming and rightly so.
My favourite, I found in Ireland. It portrayed an older couple in a run down hotel, woman looking blankly across a table at obviously bored man.
Caption – Wish you were here - and I wasn’t!
Wonder what the rellies will make of that if it turns up in the next hundred years.
Useful websites - http://www.postcard.co.uk/clubww.php