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Collecting Vintage Holiday Postcards

Updated on April 10, 2019
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Writing Nag is the pseudonym for blogger Patricia Biro. She writes about home, finance, creative writing and anything and everything vintage

Collecting Vintage Postcards

Collecting beautiful postcards was an common hobby since the early 20th century. The advent of chromolithography (multi color prints) meant mass-produced beautiful greeting cards, postcards, and trade cards could be found in every home. Producers of postcards manufactured many series of popular subjects to the joy of the collecting public. Collectors proudly displayed the album collection to share with visitors.

Specifically, postcards were sent because they were inexpensive to buy and send (.01). In a world of little communication, you could easily send a holiday or birthday greeting to loved ones. These cards became treasured objects and were often saved in postcard albums.

I started collecting vintage postcards when I ran across a large collection at a garage sale. I've always loved paper, so it's the first place I look at a garage or estate sale. In an manila envelope, in a pile of vintage magazines I found approximately 300 embossed and colorful vintage holiday postcards. They were only asking $5.00 for the lot, so I took them home and spent the afternoon admiring the charm of these unique cards that were over 100 years old.

Maybe the person didn't know what they were selling because when I showed my friend, who's an antique dealer, she told me that my $5.00 investment had a resale value of more than $300.00. The only problem was I didn't want to sell the beautiful cards. In the short time that I began collecting, I was drawn to the graphics, colors, history and especially the messages on the back of each unique postcard.

What I didn't expect was how much time I would spend building my collection and how much fun I would get out of this "relatively" low cost hobby.

If you're looking for fair prices, I recommend buying bulk lots. Or a vintage Victorian album that holds another collectors collection.

Look for these on online auction sites such as eBay or Goodwill or check local auction houses. While Halloween are the most expensive there are still deals to be had on Christmas and other holiday cards. I like to pick and choose my favorite ones from the lot and then sell the ones that don't quite fit.

Image Credit: Whitney made vintage snowman postcard. This series is from my personal collection.

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What to look for?

Generally speaking, serious collectors buy vintage postcards that are free of creases, stains, tears and foxing. Some buyers are enamored with the messages on the back but many collectors want mint, unused cards which I have found difficult to find. But, as with all collectibles, you should buy what you love, because you are never guaranteed a return on your investment.

Once you have chosen a topic or subject, for example "vintage holiday postcards" or "vintage travel postcards" you should do your research. Digital cameras, color copiers, and computers with color laser printers have made fakes, reproductions, and copycats abundant. Price guides, magazines, collectors’ clubs, museums, and libraries can be a good place to start when researching your subject.

A good way to start and build a collection is to visit thrift stores, flea markets, estate sales and tag sales. Some people still view postcards as having little or no worth and often boxes of miscellaneous ephemera can be bought for under $20. You may have to dig through many worthless pieces of paper to find what you want but ephemera collectors enjoy the hunt.

Family members and friends are another good source for collecting postcards. Many people don’t realize that the boxes of paper they have stored in their attics or garages could be a treasure trove, you may be able to acquire boxes of cards for little or no cost.

The Beginning of Whitney made

It's well know that George C. Whitney began a stationary shop in Worcester, Massachusetts at the turn of the century, the golden era of penny postcards. As chromolithography became popular more American publishers starting manufacturing cards in America rather than buy German made. George Whitney sized on the popularity and bought an existing Valentine card businesses and started a line of holiday postcards and greeting cards that became favorites with the American public through the 1940s. George Whitney employed the most popular artists of the time and manufactured series of postcards that become sought after and collectible. Unfortunately not a lot of information can be found on who the artists were, unlike other vintage postcard companies many Whitney made postcards aren't signed. If you're a fan of Mary Englebreit these postcards might become some of your favorites. Charming scenes, many featuring children and animals are the hallmark of this brand.

Halloween Vintage Postcard Whitney Made


The Series

Collectors generally try to collect a certain niche of vintage postcards, if you don't your collection can grow exponentially very quickly. Because I'm from New England and this was a company that originated in Massachusetts I decided early on that these cards would be the backbone of my collection. The Halloween cards aren't as pricey as some other companies...maybe because there were more in circulation or maybe because the company isn't as well known. But I have seen the prices increase substantially even in the short time I have become a collector.

© 2013 Writing Nag

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