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Collecting Vintage Thanksgiving Postcards

Updated on February 18, 2015

Thanksgiving Postcards from Days Gone By

No one really starts out as postcard collector by building a collection of Thanksgiving postcards. Collectors of vintage holiday postcards will often tell you they got their start in postcard collecting by chasing after the highly sought after Halloween cards or, almost as often, vintage Christmas postcards (especially Santa Claus cards). As they search for new cards to add onto their collections, they inevitably run into lots that are available as a whole for purchase that include a variety of postcards and they also find all manner individual cards that just draw them in. That's when they unearth beautiful and, sometimes, rare Thanksgiving cards and they begin to collect them too.

Vintage Thanksgiving postcards - those from the early 1900s - share the same history as the Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas postcards of the same era but there's one key difference: The holiday being celebrated is quintessentially American and the cards reflect that history. Let's have a peek!

Photo Credit: Yowzers

Indian Squaw with Turkey Schmucker Designed Postcard
Indian Squaw with Turkey Schmucker Designed Postcard

An American Thanksgiving in Postcards

Yes, it's true, Canadians celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday just as Americans do. Some other countries have similar celebrations. When you look at vintage holiday postcards you'll see that most were printed either in Germany of the United States and that, especially with Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas the cards were distributed in both Europe and the U.S. so people could send cards of greeting to friends and relations commemorating those holidays in places around the world. This just isn't so for Thanksgiving postcards. They were designed almost exclusively for Americans to exchange.

You'll find colorfully printed and embossed cards that depict stylized scenes of the first Thanksgiving in the "new world" including pilgrims, American Indians and more. Native American cards are quite a popular theme among Thanksgiving card collectors. Cards abound from the early 1900s that have a red, white and blue patriotic theme. Finally, and of course, Turkeys play a major role on the cards - an American Thanksgiving feast tradition to be sure!

Thanksgiving Postcard Artists and Publishers to Watch Out For...

Pilgrims and Corn Thanksgiving Postcard
Pilgrims and Corn Thanksgiving Postcard

The artists and publishers that you know and love from the world of Halloween and Christmas postcards all also created wonderful Thanksgiving designs to collect.

Look for pieces from these highly collectible postcard artists:

Francis Brundage

Ellen Clapsaddle

Samuel Schmucker

And also cards from these well known publishers:

E. Nash (artists unknown)

Raphael Tuck & Sons (also themselves artists)

John Winsch (multiple artists including Schmucker)

John Winsch especially, who worked primarily with artist Samuel Schmucker, turned out all manner of colorfully embossed cards, mechanical cards and even some prized "hold to the light" cards that are highly sought by collectors.

Photo Credit: Remember When Vintage Postcards

Thanksgiving Postcards from eBay

Thanksgiving postcards are slightly more rare to find than other holiday cards given that the holiday was primarily celebrated in America during the golden age for the cards. Their rarity doesn't necessarily translate to more value. Great Thanksgiving holiday cards can often be had on eBay and other postcard collector sites for only a few dollars each. That should make any collector happy!

Taking Care of Your Postcard Collection

Preserve Your Most Treasured Cards for Years to Come!

Many vintage Thanksgiving cards (and, really, all of the holiday cards) are embossed with raised surface designs. Other highly collectible postcards are called "mechanical" cards because they have (manually) movable parts. Foil edges and foiling within the card design are also seen often on postcards from the early 1900s. Some cards were hand painted. Lots were artist signed (whether this was imprinted or whether they were actually signed after printing (rare)). All of these factors make keeping and preserving these cards for years to come a concern for collectors.

You can put these postcards in albums and many collectors do. If you choose to do so, I recommend using archival paper if you pick a paper album or that you use an album that has plastic sleeves with no PVC or other chemicals that can mar card surfaces. If you use an album, remember to always store your postcard albums in a cool but dry place.

Quite frankly, for your vintage Thanksgiving cards I recommend using individual, high quality, thick plastic protectors that contain no PVC or other harsh chemicals and storing cards that are in these in a light proof card box or other container. Stored this way, you can take your postcards out and look at them whenever you like without ever damaging them.

Thanksgiving Card Enthusiast?

c. 1908 Lady Liberty Thanksgiving Postcard
c. 1908 Lady Liberty Thanksgiving Postcard

Are You a Vintage Thanksgiving Postcard Collector?

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Vintage Thanksgiving Postcards Photo Gallery

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A Great Thanksgiving Collectibles Reference

From the publishers, Schiffer Pub Ltd:

"Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday, is a time to rethink the values on which the United States was founded. Here it is presented through nearly 900 photos depicting 3,400 diverse images. Ranging from the nineteenth century to the present day, this comprehensive assortment includes platters, plates, decorations, postcards, candy containers, decanters, toys, turkey calls, and more. The turkey itself is exhaustively portrayed in ceramic, glass, pottery, paper, and wood. Also featured are items related to special Thanksgiving Day events, such as football games, parades, and "turkey trots." Informative captions serve as miniature history lessons and also provide current values. This book is the first of its kind and will be the ultimate reference for all who treasure the deep traditions of this cherished holiday."

Thanksgiving and Turkey Collectibles: Then and Now (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
Thanksgiving and Turkey Collectibles: Then and Now (Schiffer Book for Collectors)

This book isn't just about Thanksgiving postcards but cards and other Thanksgiving paper collectibles figure quite prominently in it. Since this was published in 2004, valuations in the book may be off. I find this most useful as a pictorial and historical reference to what's out there. When I need to know value, I check online sources.


Please tell us about your favorite Thanksgiving Postcard or cards and how you got it. We all love to hear the stories!

Do You Have Thanksgiving Cards in Your Postcard Collection?

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    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Well, you are preaching to the choir here. I am a confirmed deltiologist. Excellent choices and I am more educated now, great explanations. Blessed, pinned onto my letters and postcards board and linked to my own lens in a discussion about holiday postcards.

    • KayeSI profile image

      KayeSI 4 years ago

      I do love vintage holiday cards. They are so cute. The images are great for using on websites too - so I really do NEED to start collecting them. Thanks for the great advice. :)

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      I don't collect these but I enjoy seeing them. I love St. Nicholas art and lore as well.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      These are so cool! Thanks kindly for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Thank you for publishing this tour of vintage postcards. They're all very pretty.

    • justmelucy profile image

      justmelucy 4 years ago

      No Card but I have written in one my journals, Why Do We Have A Chanukah Bush and Christmas Tree, about how our traditions came to pass.

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 4 years ago from America's Dairyland

      I don't believe I do. Many of my cards are souvenir cars depicting locations. I'll be on the look out, now!

    • Onemargaret LM profile image

      Onemargaret LM 4 years ago

      Nope but it is an option.

    • Madonaa profile image

      Madonaa 4 years ago

      no i haven't the fond of collecting them

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 4 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I have just a few. I always look around at antique stores to see if there are any there. Sometimes I luck out!

    • thememorybooksh1 profile image

      thememorybooksh1 4 years ago

      Nope, i don't have any thanksgiving card.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I don't collect these but I enjoyed looking at the ones you have here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i don't have but i wish if someone could give me nice lens thanks

    • spids1 profile image

      spids1 4 years ago

      Great lens very well written.

    • profile image

      Hannah Writes 4 years ago

      I do not, but these are so precious to look at!

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Being British, Thanksgiving doesn't feature in my calendar, but this was very interesting.

    • profile image

      What_to_Know 4 years ago

      This is so darling a great way to send friends far away some holiday love.