- Games, Toys, and Hobbies
Little Treasures in the Mail
A picture, a message, a stamp, traveling from around the globe or across town to your very doorstep. So simple and yet such a wonder is the postcard.
The first card I remember receiving arrived the summer after first grade. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Williamson, traveled to Europe that year and (in an act of generosity that amazes me now) wrote to each of her students. My card was of the Lipizzan Stallions from Vienna. I don't recall exactly what she wrote. (I'm sure it was at least a little educational.) Sadly, that postcard got lost somewhere along the line.
At age 6, getting mail addressed specifically to me was an enormous thrill! Know what? It still is. And postcards are among the best treasures to find in the mailbox.
Do you have at least one postcard among your belongings?
People collect lots of things. In fact many people have lots of collections! So, why collect postcards?
I didn't intend to collect postcards. They just began accumulating! When I was younger (and even more in awe of receiving personally addressed mail), it seemed wrong to throw away something someone had taken the time to select, compose a message upon, and put in the mail for me. Although I eventually parted with letters I'd saved, I just couldn't toss out my postcards.
Cards that arrive in the mail are easy to collect - you don't even have to go out and find them! And, they're small. They take up a lot less room than, say, a furniture collection. They're low maintenance, too. No need for bubble wrap, like with fine crystal. Even if you decide to collect vintage postcards, they are generally affordable and easily available. They may just be about the perfect collectible!
Are you a postcard collector?
Postcards are estimated to be one of the top 3 collectibles in the United States, along with stamps and coins.
The very first picture postcard is thought to be the one of a kind of creation of Theodore Hook, of London, and he sent it to himself in 1840.
In 1873, US Postmaster John Creswell introduced the first pre stamped penny postcards, depicting Chicago's Interstate Industrial Exposition.
The first souvenir card was produced for Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. (Fans of Erik Larson's novel, "The Devil in the White City," take note.)
The Post Office had the exclusive use of the term "postcard" until 1901. Other publishers had to call their cards "souvenir cards" or "postal cards" and they were imprinted with the words "Private Mailing Cards."
Originally, messages were not allowed on the same side of the card as the address. The "divided back" cards we know today were not permitted by the Post Office until 1907.
In the early 1900s, the popularity of amateur photography prompted Kodak Film Company to offer photo postcards. Family photographers could have their black and white photos printed directly onto cards.
In 1939, Union Oil Company introduced Photo Chrome cards, replacing hand tinted and linen cards with the vividly colored postcards we know today.
Life After the Mailbox
What happens to the postcards that come into your house?
The Lure of the Postcard
Almost as Many Reasons as Collectors
You don't have to be a collector to be tempted by that stack of postcards in the local antiques shop. They provide many delights.
Cards are cross collectibles. A postcard might be snatched up for its postage stamp, the advertising on its face, the publishing company name, the artist or photographer, the event or time period it represents or for many other reasons.
Love at First Sight
What inspires you to pick up a postcard or to save one?
One way to Start a Collection
Look in Your Mailbox
You know what they say about friendship: to have a friend, you must be a friend? Well, that can apply to postcards, too. If you want to get postcards, you need to send them.
Since I enjoyed getting mail as a kid, I made sure I always sent cards to my friends' kids, along with cards to my folks and other adults. in return, one young friend tracked down some of the most unique cards in my collection: cards printed on wood, copper foil, and even jigsaw puzzle cards.
I like to think those postcards -- sent and received -- had a positive impact. Maybe they enjoyed hunting down an unusual card, took creative pleasure in writing the message, or (like me) just liked getting something in the mail.
So, send some postcards and see what happens. Your friends will notice. And, they may return the favor. But, if not, you can always haunt the antique shops, search online, or wait for an inheritance.
At the Rack
When you buy a postcard to send, what kind of card do you most like to buy?
What do you usually write on the back of a postcard?
Storing a Collection
I confess, I have postcards in small heaps and piles and tucked between books on shelves. (And, yes, on the refrigerator, under magnets.) But I do make the attempt, on occasion, to organize them.
Some years back, I received a swell reproduction album book. After I filled it, I bought a second one. When I couldn't find a third copy, I started using photo albums. Since most postcards are about the same size as standard photo prints, they slip easily into the pockets. And, for the few cards that didn't fit, I used photo corners, or tucked them sideways into the pockets.
When I was given a beat up old valise filled with cards from a family member, I was as fascinated by the story in the messages as by the pictures. I'm in the process of mounting them on acetate sheets, slipped into clear photo album pockets, so the fronts and backs of the cards can be seen.
Serious collectors who value their cards can find an assortment of acid free archival storage solutions. Just like your photos and other ephemera, they need to be treated with care if they are going to look good for generations to come.
Post Office Rules
Actually, there are fewer rules about what you can and can't mail than you may think. The US Post Office's regulations are less about what you can put in the mail than about what it will cost to have it delivered. If you want to send a piece of mail at the postcard rate, it must be no larger than 6 inches long by 4-1/4 inches high by .016 inch thick. See? That's not so complicated, is it? Larger pieces, and those which are heavier, will cost more to deliver.
I'm one of those people who's a pretty big fan of the US Post Office. Who else will hand deliver a letter to your very door, in as little as a couple of days, for less than 50 cents? It's no less than a miracle, I tell you! Did you know you can actually mail a basketball, no outer wrapping necessary, by printing the address on it and applying sufficient postage? What do you think of the Post Office now, eh? But I digress.
The Mother Lode of All Collections
The Curt Teich Postcard Archives , located within the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois, is believed to be the largest public collection of postcards. Curt Teich and Company produced cards from 1898 until 1978. They were known for their "Greetings From" illustrations. After the company closed, the family donated the company's collection to the Lake County Museum. The collection is available online, so you needn't travel to Chicagoland to view it. Tours of the actual museum are available by appointment. (Click the link in the first line of this paragraph, to learn more.)
Are You Leaving A Legacy?
By some accounts, collecting peaked in the early part of the last century. ("The Golden Age of Postcards" is defined as spanning about 1907 to 1915.) But, they've endured, despite the inventions of the telephone, television, and even email.
If you've thrilled to finding a special vintage card or snickered over a silly image on the souvenir store rack, don't you want your kids, grandkids, nieces, cousins, and friends' offspring to have that same joy? Take up the hunt to find some postcards and put a treasure in someone's mailbox!
More Than Just a Note in the Mail
Some cards have a purpose beyond a note of remembrance. Here's one that shares a recipe as an additional souvenir.
Other practical, or "additional use," cards in my collection include some that break apart into jigsaw puzzles. I especially like the educational ones that show a State Map provide information on state flowers, birds, capitals, and historical dates.
Treat of the Day
New to My Collection
One of my pals read this lens and has redoubled her efforts to help me build my collection. She mailed me several location cards from a recent trip and also sent along some other cards, among them this vintage Curt Teich card postmarked 1908. It's a true penny postcard and features a 1 cent stamp! Thanks, sweetie! (You know who you are!)
Images in this Lens
All photographs in this lens (with the exception of products for sale) were taken by bossypants. Images are from bossypants's collection.
Comments are always appreciated and you don't have to be a Squidoo Member to leave a comment!