The tradition of sending cards dates back a hundred years, perhaps it’s even older. Postcards have long been a way to send holiday cheer to those far away. In this day of telephones and e-mail, keeping in touch poses no problem, but not so long ago written messages were the only contact that some family and friends had with one another. The importance of a postcard from a friend or family member cannot be overstated. For many, hearing from a loved one is what makes Christmas special.
As with so many collectibles, there is a far greater variety of Christmas postcards out there than one would at first imagine. Anyone who is thinking about assembling a collection of all the different Christmas postcards that were published is more than a little naïve. There aren’t merely dozens of different cards, or even hundreds, there are thousands and tens of thousands. The field of Christmas postcards is so vast it just isn’t possible to collect them all. This is good news, not bad, however. Lovers of Christmas postcards can look forward to a lifetime of finding new cards for their collection.
Newcomers would do well to consider the collecting possibilities. There is nothing wrong with simply collecting whatever catches the eye, but collectors might want to consider focusing their collecting interests a bit. Many collectors center their collections on Santa Claus postcards. This seems to be the most popular area. The possibilities are vast, however. Other Christmas themes are: religious, Christmas trees, holly, children, toys, snow scenes, village scenes, gifts, sleighs, bells, snowmen, and more. Think of anything that reminds you of Christmas and there will be postcards out there that depict it.
One wonderful thing about Christmas postcards is that they mix and match well. A collector who focuses on Christmas trees can easily add a few angel postcards without them looking out of place. Snow scenes go with Nativity scenes and cards decorated with bells go nicely with those depicting sleighs. It isn’t possible to go wrong. I like the idea of collecting around a theme, but I think all collectors of Christmas postcards should feel free to break the boundaries of their collection and cross over into other areas when something special catches their eye.
Most collectors believe that Christmas postcards are expensive. Some are, but most are quite affordable. I often come across cards priced above $25, but I also find a great many nice cards for under $10. Christmas postcards can be expensive, but it’s not that difficult to find inexpensive cards. Those with a limited budget don’t have to avoid this collecting area. They just have to do a little more looking.
I have the most fun collecting when I don’t have a lot of money to spend. Sure, it would be nice to be able to go out and purchase whatever I desire without giving thought to price, but there is something satisfying about building a collection with limited funds. I’m far more excited about showing a collection to my friends if I haven’t emptied my bank account to assemble it. Anyone with a lot of money can put together an impressive collection, but it takes talent to assemble such a collection on a shoestring budget. A very impressive, and enjoyable, collection of Christmas postcards can be assembled with very limited funds.
Collections can be large or small. Many collectors have dozens or even hundreds of cards in their collections. I’m on the other end of the scale. I’ve chosen to keep my collection very small. My collection consists of just seven cards that I purchased a decade ago at an auction for $5 each. I’ve thought about purchasing more, but I’m quite content with the cards I have. Sometimes less is more. All my cards depict Santa Claus and date to around 1910. One thing I like about my little collection is that it has a very specific theme. Not only do all the cards depict Santa Claus, all were sent to members of one family.
Collectors should not fail to take note of the messages on the back of the cards. Often these short notes are packed with nostalgia. On the back of one of my cards, dated Dec. 20, 1910, is written “My Dear Little Cousin, How is Faddie, Ma, & mama? I wish you could all be here Xmas. We are going to have duck for dinner. Suppose you will have turkey. It will soon be a year that your ma was here. Has Faddie his corn all husked? Love to all from your cousin. Phillie.” This message makes you think of a Christmas dinner long ago You can almost smell the turkey, and the duck, and picture the Christmas tree and the snow covered eaves of the homes.
Another card dated Dec. 23, 1911 had this message written on the back “I suppose you are looking for old Santa. Hope he will get to see you and bring you lots of nice things.” This postcard was sent to a child. It brings to mind thoughts of brightly wrapped gifts and stockings filled with candy, nuts, and fruit. More than this, it brings to mind the hopes and dreams of a little boy for Christmas morning. Sometimes, the messages written on the postcards are far more precious than the beautiful illustrations that draw us to them.
Where can one find Christmas postcards? The answer is obvious for the most part. Christmas postcards can be found at antique shops, shows, auctions, and malls. They are available all year round, but are especially easy to find during the holiday season. In December they take center stage and are prominently displayed for all the see. Large postcard dealers will have the best selections, but don’t neglect any source. Christmas postcards can pop up just about anywhere.
Don’t forget to check out dealer ads and the classified sections of antique publications. These will offer the addresses of many mail dealers who may well have Christmas postcards to offer. Many dealers will send cards on approval, so you can actually look before buying. This does incur the cost of postage, both ways if you choose not to buy, but the cost is not significant.
A great selection is available on eBay. Rare cards can bring quite a price, but there are some real bargains with more common cards. Shipping costs are usually quite reasonable on postcards (as they should be) so shopping on eBay is an economical alternative to driving around to antique shops and malls. It’s also rather nice to be able to shop from home. There is no reason to go out on cold, snowy days.
Whatever you choose to collect, wherever you choose to buy, Christmas postcards are a wonderful, nostalgia filled collectible. They are a great source of enjoyment, and not just at Christmas. Collecting them allows you to have a little Christmas every day of the year.
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