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Postcard Collectibles

After coins and stamps, vintage postcard collecting is considered to be the third largest international collecting hobby. It is essentially an extension of the art of photography and graphic arts, allowing the creator no limits on his imagination. Whether they are views of a tourist spot, records of history, cartooning as a sign of the times, glamour postcards for the admirer, or just families through the ages, the postcard is an instant snapshot of man, his world, his interests and his foibles. They existed even before photography as lithographs and woodcuts. They came into being in the period starting in 1840, 1 year after Daguerreotypes exploded onto the scene. Immediately before the development of postcards, there were envelopes with printed pictures, including comics, music, and Valentines. These were attempts to package messages with joy.

During the American Civil War, there were envelopes with Patriotic Covers, soon to be followed by the 1861 Carlton cards, and the Lipman Postal Cards, privately copyrighted efforts, later replaced in the early 1870s with government postcards. Regularly printed European postcards appeared after 1870. In 1872, U.K. advertising cards appeared, followed 2 years later by the first German card. 1889 saw French Eiffel Tower cards, a preview of the tourist cards, soon to become commonplace in the next decade. The first multicolored postcard arrived in 1889 from Heligoland. Exposition cards were a natural postcard subject, starting with the 1873 Chicago Industrial Exposition. From 1898-1901, American publishers were allowed to create and sell private mailing cards for the cost of 1-cent.  In the early 1900s, postcards evolved, the front used for a design, and the divided back for an address on the right and a personal message on the left. England was first with the divided postcard in 1902, France in 1904, Germany in 1905, and the United States in 1907. After this, millions of cards were produced, many of them showing family members. After 1916, as postcards advanced due to new technologies, the personal greeting card declined, while the White Border picture cards remained strong. In 1930, a strong linen paper card allowed the use of vivid colors. The comic cards of World War II, whether showing the hard life of the soldier, or insulting the enemy, became commonplace. After 1939, photochrome cards appeared, eventually evolving into popular modern colored cards. 

Among favorite vintage postcards, are historical home town views, as well as places in other countries where people have visited and for which they felt nostalgic, even if the visit was brief and one-time only. Greeting cards were a popular way to remain in contact with friends and family overseas, especially during Christmas, Easter, and Valentines. Much scarcer are the less significant holidays such as Thanksgiving and Labor Day. Publishers competed for the highest art work and greatest appeal, and some truly outstanding graphics can be found. Others had attached novelties, including glitter, feathers, and ribbons. There were "I was there" and "I survived cards" commemorating historical events and disasters. There have also been art postcards, still available from museums and art galleries, the poor man's print art collections. As a lucrative business, this attracted many artists, and became a means for publishers to portray reproductions of Old Masters. 

Collecting vintage postcards is initially fun, but has proven over time to be an investment to the knowledgeable collector, and a treasure to genealogists and historians.




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