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Collecting Postcards

Updated on August 17, 2014

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?

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CA Postcard
CA Postcard

Collecting

Why Postcards?

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?

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Postcards are estimated to be one of the top 3 collectibles in the United States, along with stamps and coins.

Collecting Postcards Vintage (scanned by bossypants)
Collecting Postcards Vintage (scanned by bossypants)

Trivia

Some "Firsts"

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

Collecting postcards on the refrigerator (photo by bossypants)
Collecting postcards on the refrigerator (photo by bossypants)

What happens to the postcards that come into your house?

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Collecting Postcards (bossypants collection)
Collecting Postcards (bossypants collection)

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?

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Wooden postcard bossypants collections
Wooden postcard bossypants collections

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?

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What do you usually write on the back of a postcard?

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Collecting Postcards Album (photo by bossypants)
Collecting Postcards Album (photo by bossypants)

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.

Postcard Vintage Postage (bossypants' collection)
Postcard Vintage Postage (bossypants' collection)

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.

Curt Teich Postcard (bossypants collection)
Curt Teich Postcard (bossypants collection)

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!

postcards, bossypants' collection
postcards, bossypants' collection

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

Credits

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!

Having a Great Time! Wish You Were Here! - What do you have to say?

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    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I'm not a postcard 'collector', although I have a collection of souvenir postcards. To explain, there have been times over the years I have been someplace I wanted to remember and didn't have a camera. Postcards of the area are a great way to remember what you saw. :) PS: I've always loved receiving real mail too and frequently send cards (greeting type) to my young grandsons. Postcards would be a fun thing to send. Have to remember that.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      I love this lens. I joined Ruthi's group - I have definitely gone postal. Maybe I will see you there sometime too and we can exchange cards. I like the kitschy, quirky cards - I am a big fan of the giant vegetables. I have made my own cards too: out of books, off of boxes. Pinned to my postcards board and out by google plus.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      Back for another view of your postcard collecting ideas. I am really enjoying getting back into postcard collecting, this time with Squidoo lensmasters via Squidink Gone Postal.

    • profile image

      grannysage 4 years ago

      My parents had a rock shop that catered to tourists. We also had a rack of postcards for them to browse through. I enjoy seeing these postcards show up now as vintage cards. We have started sending cards to our granddaughter from the different places we have traveled in our RV.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 4 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I really enjoyed this, since I'm an off again, on again collector. I used to belong to round robins and trade with people, but then I just couldn't keep up with it anymore when my business started taking too much time. If I can ever retire.....

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 4 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      I collect postcard from my hometown. I also buy postcard for my stamp collection: I search for Canadian stamps on postcard as well as Australian stamps on postcard (some rare franking are worth a lot of money, much more than the stamp alone or postcard alone).

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just saw your post on NetLeeks and stopped by to see how things are going. Hope you are doing well. - SquidAngel blessing will refresh!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Love this lens! I like how you're showing off your lovely postcards. That bear in the tree is wonderful!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      At one time I had collected hundreds of postcards from all over the world. I have recently begun collecting postcards again and creating a few of my own for sending and selling.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Back for another look at your postcard collection. I think I'll get some out to send this week. It's fun to get a postcard in the mail!

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Nice lens - Angel Blessings from me

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent lens as it has lots of info about postcard

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent lens as it has lots of info about postcard

    • MJsConsignments profile image

      Michelle 5 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      This is a great lens, especially for the beginning collector. Way to promote the hobby!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      What an excellent idea for a collection! Thanks for sharing this with us - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • MarcoG profile image

      Marc 5 years ago from Edinburgh

      The cinemas over here give away free postcards, I have so many! I would hate it if I lost them!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I recently got a postcard from a sweet friend of mine. It's always an unexpected treat, and very welcome too! :)

    • bharat01 profile image

      bharat01 5 years ago

      You have picked a very good topic, Superb lens, thumbs up.

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 5 years ago from Sweden

      Just a note to remind you that you are on MY MIND

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You are going to get new collectors started here, nicely done!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Our friends' daughter was struggling with reading in school and resistant to their efforts. I started sending her postcards from our travels with clearly printed notes on the back. They said she was intrigued by them and would try to read the message. I like to think in a small way I helped her overcome her reluctance to read.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Excellent lens - I've sold vintage and antique postcards on eBay for years. I still think they're fascinating!

    • bossypants profile image
      Author

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks, Peggy. We can be postcard penpals! I'd love it!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      @Joan Haines: Joan, that sounds like a lens waiting to be written. What a wonderful idea!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This is a wonderful lens, Bossy! I should send more postcards because they're inexpensive, fun and pretty, and just so nice to receive!!

    • bossypants profile image
      Author

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      @Joan Haines: How clever! What a unique and thoughtful idea. I'll bet others will read your comment and adapt your idea!

    • bossypants profile image
      Author

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      @ChrissLJ: I know Chriss -- I can get lost in those boxes of postcards, too. Fascinating!

    • bossypants profile image
      Author

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      @Heather426: Thank you for visiting and blessing this lens!

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      I sent my mom a series of 80 postcards, one per day, starting 80 days before her 80th birthday. She really enjoyed it!

    • bossypants profile image
      Author

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      @GramaBarb: Thank you for the blessing, GramaBarb. I've collected magnets, too. Now we need to get you some postcards to put under your magnets! :)

    • bossypants profile image
      Author

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      @evelynsaenz1: Thank you for the blessing, Evelyn!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 5 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I don't like messing with cameras on vacation and every place I've ever been has lots of perfect pictures already taken by professionals on postcards, so I always just buy a bunch of them for my souvenirs and don't worry about stopping for pictures. Ugh. I don;t want to stop and take pictures. Postcards are much better!

    • ChrissLJ profile image

      ChrissLJ 5 years ago

      I spent about 30 mins this week reading post cards at a local flea market. As someone who loves history, it's interesting to see what people viewed important or of note over the years and the differences in the images used on postcards over the past 100 yrs.

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 5 years ago from Vancouver

      Great lens! You made me wish I collected postcards :) but I collect magnets instead.

      Just had to bless this lens as you put alot of work into it.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

      Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • bossypants profile image
      Author

      bossypants 5 years ago from America's Dairyland

      @rickmac lm: Me too, Ric! Me too! I'm glad you're doing your part to keep postcards in our world! :)

    • rickmac lm profile image

      Rick McBride 5 years ago from Dallas

      I love sending them and getting postcards. I hope it doesn't completely disappear. A digital message just isn't the same.