Collecting Linen Postcards
Postcards are some of the most collected items in the world and yet, many card collectors completely ignore an entire category of them; linen postcards. Why are they ignored by so many?
Linen cards are, primarily, an American art form that enjoyed about a 15 year run for the most popular producers of them like Curteich Company. Many captured images of places that no longer exist in a vivid color that was never before seen on a card. While lots of these cards were mass produced, many are more rare and, certainly, when considering the theme of a given card, many are highly sought after by collectors.
A Bit of Linen Postcard Background and History
While real photo postcards (RPPC) continued to be popular, mass production of postcards began in earnest after WW1 but, because of the decline and shuttering of many foreign card companies, many of the mass produced cards were of inferior printing quality. When the linen postcard was introduced around 1930, suddenly people had beautifully colored, quality cards with a rich feel to send to family and friends. The cards would prove to be very popular until into the WW2 years when the rag content used in their production was needed to aid the war effort.
Linen card producers began shutting down around 1939 when chrome, full color, full bleed cards were introduced. Most of the rest closed or shut down production by 1945 (due to WW2) but a couple produced cards into the 1950s on a more limited scale.One of the biggest and best known U.S. producers of linen postcards was the Curt Teich (later Curteich) Company of Chicago, IL, USA. The company bears the name of it's founder, a German immigrant with a printing pedigree. Another large U.S. producer was the Ashville Postcard Company of Ashville, North Carolina. It was founded by Lamar Campbell LeCompt.
Can an Unposted Linen Postcard be Dated?
Most linen postcards that collectors in the U.S. will come across were produced by Curteich (aka Curt Teich). If you have a Curteich postcard that's in good condition, you're probably in luck if it hasn't been posted and you want to know the date it was printed.
The company used a very simple numbering system to date it's cards to specific years. If you look at the image just above, the stamp box has a number in the lower portion. This is the "date" and card number. Other Curteich cards have this information along the side on the back although it has appeared on the front as well. The first two characters of any "number" are a single digit (denoting the last digit of the year) and either the letter A, B, or C. "A" was for the 1930s, "B" the 40's and "C" the 50's thus a card that starts off "2B" would have been printed in 1942.
What are the Most Collectible Linen Postcards?
Linen cards were most often produced to depict buildings. Thus, some of the most collectible are of buildings that ceased to exist during or shortly after the end of the linen card era. If you can find linen cards of places like Ebbet's Field and the Polo Grounds (both baseball stadiums) you'll have a highly sought after , valuable collectible.
Curteich made very popular the "BIG LETTER" linen postcards like in our photo further above (Punxsutawney). These, especially ones for small towns, are highly collectible by both people that live in those towns and people trying to complete a "full set" of BIG LETTER cards.
State Map cards, like the one in our photo for this section, are another popular linen postcard type with collectors.
There were many humorous cards produced in linen. Cards that are all part of the same theme tend to be collectible as a group. We've seen groupings of "military" themed and "hillbilly" themed humor cards bought and sold for good money.
Finally, groupings of several cards around a particular subject have been shown to have wide appeal to both postcard collectors and hobbyists interested in the theme of the cards in the group. Think things like baseball, trains, black Americana, hotels, homes of the Hollywood stars and so forth and you're getting the idea.
Linen Postcard Photo GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
Linen Postcard Poll
Do you collect linen postcards?
So Where Can I Get Quality Linen Cards for My Collection?
We find these everywhere! People often give them away or sell them in bulk for pennies...keep your eyes open at:
Once you start looking for them, you'll find them everywhere too! Make a seller a reasonable offer to take all their linen cards off their hands and they'll probably take you up on it. Most people will pass right over them.
If you want to buy specific cards, searching eBay or Delcampe are your best bets. If you want to purchase linen postcards in bulk for a good price from a reputable salesperson, look for Top Rated Sellers on eBay selling Linen Postcards in "Lots". Ideally, you'll want hundreds of "unsearched" cards for the best value. You can also seek themed groupings on eBay.
Caring for Your Linen Postcards
Unlike the real photo postcards (RPPC) of yesteryear and the more current chrome cards, there is not much of a threat of linen postcards sticking to each other given the high rag content of the paper and the textured design of the cards. Damage due to being exposed to higher temperatures is not really a concern. Cards can be stored stacked or in a photo/postcard box fairly safely.
Light on the other hand can and does damage these cards. Like book pages, the backs especially can tan or "fox" with age spots. And, though they're less prone to curling and corner chipping than RPPC, they're not indestructible. If you want to enjoy these for a long time they should be in sleeves and boxed or in an album with archival pages.
Products to Safely Store Your Prized Postcards
Recommended Postcard References from Amazon.com
Please tell us about your postcard collection. Do you collect linen cards? Inquiring minds want to know!