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Postcard Ponderings: End of one era marks the beginning of another

Check out the inaugural installment of a new column, Postcard Ponderings, written by Antique Trader co-editor Karen Knapstein, as she explores her passion for postcards.

Many of you have probably noticed Barbara Andrews’ absence from our pages over the past several months. Barbara, who was probably Antique Trader’s longest-tenured contributor, has decided to retire from penning her Postcard Album column. In the latter part of 2013, she informed us she had written on just about all of the postcard topics that were relevant to her collection, and that she was committed to writing more projects with her daughter and co-author Pam Hansen. (Look for their books under their own names, in addition to the pseudonyms Jennifer Drew, Pam Rock and

Smile postcards

The postcard on the left serves as a reminder that the lines of communication to the editors of Antique Trader are always open. At right this postcard states Smile / Awhile / And while you smile / Another / Smiles, / And soon there’s miles / And miles / Of smiles / And life’s worth while / Because you smile. Postcards can’t get much more optimistic than that ... can they? (Photo by Karen Knapstein)

Evangeline Kelley.) So, we told her we would dearly miss her, but bid her a fond farewell and wished her many more successes.

As National Postcard Week 2014 drew near and passed, it seemed as though something was missing from Antique Trader – of course, it was postcard features. As long as I’ve been reading this magazine, I’ve always enjoyed the postcard columns by Barbara and the features by Roy Nuhn, Charles Bush and others. They’ve always inspired me to start my own postcard collection, but I was never compelled to the point of acting on the inspiration.

Until now. When, during National Postcard Week 2014, I found several box lots of postcards in an online Fusco Auction catalog. I thought the lots had ample potential for launching a collection and inspiring me to learn more about postcards and report on the findings.

I made inquiries on the shipping costs and process before bidding; Fusco was timely in their replies to my questions. I bid on two lots via LiveAuctioneers, hoping I would win at least one of them. I ended up winning the lot of “450-500 Sleeved Mixed World & Theme Postcards.

Participating was simple and exciting; closing the deal with Fusco was simple: I paid for my lot ($45 plus shipping, in case you were wondering), and they shipped it to me. The lot was soundly packaged and arrived within a couple of days of payment. It couldn’t have been any easier, and I couldn’t have been happier. (Unless I would have won the second lot, too, of course.)

Soon after, I was browsing eBay listings and found another lot that I couldn’t help but

vintage postcard

“All things come to him who waits — on himself.” This postcard offers up sound advice (with maybe a hint of sarcasm) from a century ago. (Photo by Karen Knapstein)

bid on. This time, it was “Huge US, Holiday & Topical Antique Postcard Lot 600+ Pieces.” I thought it would round out my newly acquired mixed world and theme postcard collection, giving me many topics to explore and write about. (That the lot was located in my home state, and hence wouldn’t take long to deliver, was an added bonus.) I set my limit and was outbid in short order. I then set another maximum and bid. And was outbid again. Then I set another limit (clearly, I don’t know my limits), and bid yet again. The fourth time I set my maximum bid, it was finally enough and I won the lot. (If you don’t believe me, drop editor Toni Rahn a note and ask her; I gave her a play-by-play as my postcard auction action unfolded.) Even so, at just over $76 for more than 600 postcards, I figured it was a lot of entertainment and education for less than 15 cents per postcard. I paid the seller (via PayPal, of course) and received my lot in short order.

Though the postcards were securely packed in a USPS Priority Mail box, I was not thrilled about the cards being tightly packaged in a bread bag, effectively rounding, creasing and chipping many of the corners. But, all-in-all, it balances out to a lot of “edutainment” for a relatively small investment.

After winning just two auction lots, paying roughly $125 for more than 1,000 postcards, I’m excited on the prospect of diving in and sharing what I find. (In briefly flipping through my newly acquired hoard, I’ve found some duplicates, too. As you know, we love to share here at Antique Trader; stay tuned for giveaway announcements.)

Editor's Recommended Reading...
One of the most recognized and respected authorities on postcards is Barbara Andrews. Although she's now focusing her writing efforts on other avenues and interests, her prowess as a postcard expert lives on in her book Postcard Collector: Greetings From the Way We Were.


In this book, a compilation of her columns, Barbara touches on many aspects associated with collecting postcards, including:

  • Everything from vintage linens to new commemoratives
  • Interest in real photo postcards and vintage chromes
  • Art of 19th and 20th century illustrators and photographers celebrated on postcards

Expand your knowledge of postcards with help from one of the best. Plus, when you order your copy from you'll save 30% on the retail price.

I don’t expect to find any cards that are worth more than $5 apiece. Generally speaking, postcards in large box lots — like any collectible in large lots — tend to be well-handled. By holding onto realistic expectations, I keep myself from being disappointed and may have some pleasant surprises. To quote Allentown, Pennsylvania, bottle digger Rick Weiner: “I’m not in it for the money; I’m in it for the history.”

If you’re looking to start your own postcard collection the same way I did, through large box lots, you can expect to pay an average of anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the description. (The better the description, the higher the bids.) However, there have been cases where lots slip through for a fraction of their auction estimates, and eBay still holds plenty of promise for the prudent picker.

I don’t aspire to replace our dear friend Barbara; she is irreplaceable. However, in launching the new Postcard Ponderings column, my goal is to spark discussions of the values of postcard collecting — and not just in a monetary sense. Postcards reflect art, culture, history, geography, humor, technology … the subjects are limitless. By exploring the postcard topics and their historical context, the postage, postmarks and messages, as well as home display ideas, we should be in for an interesting journey. In addition to exploring my own collection, sidebars of recently achieved auction prices also will be included, because I’ll be the first to admit: It’s not all about me. I hope you enjoy the exploration as much as I do.

About our columnist: Karen Knapstein is Print Editor for Antique Trader. A lifelong collector and student of antiques, she lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Joe, and daughter, Faye. She can be reached at


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