Here’s what our long-time columnists had to say when they looked back (or ahead) for the 25th anniversary of Postcard Collector magazine.
I became a serious postcard collector in mid-1980s. I started collecting topics related to disability and then moved to collecting real photo cards from the Adirondack region of New York State and my town in Vermont. From there I moved to collecting exceptional real photo postcards from any U. S. location on any topic. Rather than actually dropping collecting areas I slow down in one and pick up another.
It is difficult to tell whether my ideas of how postcard collecting has changed is a function of changes in the field or changes in my interests and approach to collecting. When I started I did all my purchasing at shows. I still attend many shows but I also spend a good deal of time on eBay. I think there are many younger dealers and buyers using the Internet. Many are not involved in the show and club scene. It is difficult to tell what is happening in collecting because we have very little information about the collector and dealer who relies exclusively on eBay.
The increase in the price of superior real photo cards has shocked some but even when I started collecting the exceptional cards were very expensive. Good rppc were still reasonable and I regularly kick myself for passing on cards because they were “overpriced.” Collectors of local views are willing to pay high prices for rare and better views but the most expensive cards go to topical and collectors who appreciate the esthetic and historical importance of rppc. The number of people with those sensibilities seems to be growing and photography collectors, and museums seem to be entering the real photo postcard market. While they are a force the local view collector remains central to the hobby. Their ranks have been expanded by the increase in second home owners who have developed an appreciation for the history of their newly found small town.
When I started there seemed to be more small dealers who only did a few local shows a year. Now it seems that the large, full time dealer and dealer organized shows dominate. This has both pluses and minuses. When I started I was hopeful that a national organization would emerge that would give shape and direction to the hobby. This has not happened. When I first got involved annual national conference/meeting/shows where happening but these too are a thing of the past. Dealers with regional and national visibility have filled in the gaps left by national organizations and other groups.
Susan Brown Nicholson
My how we have changed!
I was involved in the creation of the very first Postcard Collector. How can that be 25 years ago! Since that inception to today, the price of the postcards has skyrocketed with no exceptions; even the ten-cent yellow roses have popped to a buck a card. But, the most dramatic increases have come in real photo and select holidays. Real photo train depots were $3-$5, not $75-$100. Winsch Halloween were $20, or perhaps $50 for rare ones – not $200 to $1,500. No one cared much about artist signed that couldn’t be check-listed. Printed views were under a dollar and linens – well, linens were sold by the pound.
Back in those early days, everyone was a researcher, and I got my training from some of the best. There were not many books; I now have over 200 in my personal library. Dorothy Ryan and George Miller wrote the bible of the hobby with hours of tireless research in archives, copyright records and collections. Picture Postcards in the USA is still a fantastic book for beginning collectors of American cards. Elizabeth Austin created checklists of Ellen Clapsaddle and Frances Brundage to help collectors know what they were missing. Ellen Budd, in later years, expanded those listings with missing cards and we have today great information for those efforts. It was easier to have a desire to build a checklist of anything because the price of the cards was within reason to want them ALL. Clapsaddles were 50 cents to $2 with the mechanicals coming to perhaps $10; therefore you could put together an entire collection for a couple of thousand dollars. Today the four mechanical Clapsaddle Halloween sold for $1,200 in auction.
The shows have drastically changed over the last 25 years. Then the shows were mostly club run, dealers were very local and only a few trekked cross country to sell. In 1976, I was one of the few who did shows all over the Midwest, the East and West coasts and Europe. I was young and loved the travel and loved the people. Now, that wonderful feeling of comrades is about lost as the new collectors, the young collectors, the technological collectors all shop on line. EBay, and Internet web sites have created a whole new class of collector but I fear this entire generation is missing the best part of the hobby – meeting other collectors and dealers. The old shows had extensive competitions and displays of postcards that sparked new interests in attending collectors. We were always looking for another category to start collecting. Today people are more focused simply because of the cost.
The hobby has grown enormously in value and number of those interested. One example: the Lyn Knight Auction house holds two live auctions a year, with a mailing list of more than 15,000 interested clients, and that doesn’t include the many people who participate on line. Many people think that the hobby is getting old, but they just can’t see the young 20-30-year-olds who are buying from the comfort of their homes and offices. The hobby is not getting old; the traveling dealers are getting older. The hobby may switch to just an on line business in the next decade with online dealers seeking merchandise at auction, buying large supplies to feed their businesses, but the hobby is far from dead or dying. I hope I am around another 25 years to write how the hobby has changed in the last fifty years.
Congratulations postcard collectors for being with us the last 25 years and hope to see you the next 25.
The biggest change to the postcard hobby in the last 25 years has been the appearance of the Internet and eBay. It has changed so many things. When I first started writing for Postcard Collector, almost 25 years ago, I wrote my column by hand, then I typed it, cut it apart and edited it, then retyped it. I securely and carefully packaged up the cards to be shown and mailed them and my typed column via insured registered mail to Postcard Collector. What ancient history! And now we can see many of the postcards reproduced in full-color – something we only dreamed about in the magazine’s infancy.
In addition, with the Internet, all dealers and collectors can now buy and sell postcards worldwide instead of primarily in their own region or country. Of course the negative impact of this is that now far fewer collectors and dealers will travel long distances to get to shows, which means some smaller shows are struggling.
Another bit of good news/bad news for me personally is that those “too-modern-to-be-worth-anything linens and early chromes I began collecting 30 years ago have become very desirable. Now, unfortunately, many are beyond what I am willing to pay for them.
Although prices of the finest and rarest of all types and topics of postcards have escalated dramatically in 25 years, there are still many collecting opportunities for all budgets, and that keeps the hobby and the variety of collectors it attracts very interesting. For most of the past 25 years the backbone of the hobby has been the extensive network of postcard clubs which have contributed to making our hobby a very social and friendly one.
It’s been about 20 years since my first letter appeared in Postcard Collector; my articles and columns have been a regular feature of the magazine since soon after that. In those days postcard collecting was just outgrowing its nickname of “the poor person’s hobby.”
I remember my amazement in 1978 at finding a card that belonged in my collection priced at an astounding $15. Today there are super cards hiding out there at very low prices, but there are no longer boxes upon boxes filled with such treasures at shows.
Prices have responded to the shortage of supply of great cards, and we collectors have had to adjust our thinking. We’ve been forced to take the age old advice of “choose another category.”
For me, the heyday of the magazine and the hobby was during the 1980s with the “national conventions” hosted by “Postcard Collector.”
Although some people—because of loyalties to major club shows and other publications—resented the national term, many came in spite of their feelings after learning of the fun, education, excitement, camaraderie and cards to be found. We were all living the Postcard Life during that week each May in Milwaukee.
Rackcards came to Chicago in 1995 and I well remember my excitement at finding that first rack filled with free advertising postcards. It was in an Italian eatery on Southport and the rack was stuck on a back wall by the restrooms. I couldn’t believe the bounty and brought a handful of cards back to the table to show my husband George. For many years I grabbed cards and traded them with others across the country and around the world. How I miss those laborious albeit stimulating treks out into the neighborhoods of Chicago to harvest the rackcard abundance. Trips were also taken to San Francisco, New York City and Baltimore, in part to gather these local gems. I lusted after those free promotional postcards from such publishers as m@x Racks and GoCards. They promoted services and products like Absolut vodka, milk moustaches, new cars, indie films, credit cards, jeans and shoes among other fashions, cultural events, eateries to try, musicians and authors to sample, websites to check out and the modeling services of Kate Moss. Wondrously and seemingly by magic, free cards filled racks in coffee shops, cafes, brewpubs, cinemas and trendy restaurants a decade ago. Those were the best postcard days of my life.
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