We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Deltiology: Collecting Postcards About Postcards

One especially diverse and challenging-to-find collecting specialty is deltiology postcards, or postcards about postcards.

Postcard collecting was an international obsession in the early years of the 20th century.  Below is an early printed French postcard of a woman with a fantastic cascade of postcard greetings.  Articles were published in magazines, decrying the demise of the handwritten letter and tracing the spread of the blight. Here’s a selection of quotes from the excellent book, Picture Postcards in the United States 1893-1918 by George & Dorothy Miller*:

Postcard collecting had become widespread in Europe by the turn of the century. Hearst writer Julian Ralph…went abroad in 1901 and, upon his return, filed a lengthy piece on the phenomenon with Cosmopolitan. Titled, “The Postal-Card Craze,” the article appeared in the February 1902 issue and without a doubt served to catch the American public eye…by 1905 card collecting had reached comparable proportions in the United States...One certain indicator that a social phenomenon has reached epidemic proportions is the existence of topical humor in the popular press. American Magazine in March 1906 featured an amusing commentary on the collecting rage titled “Postal Carditis and Some Allied Manias”…

It’s only natural that the craze produced a variety of postcards about buying, sending, displaying and collecting postcards. We’ve gathered some different deltiology postcards here to show you how wide the collection can be – postcard displays, people holding their postcard albums, postcards of postcard shops, and contemporary postcards advertising postcard clubs and shows.  Here is a real photo postcard (rppc) of a little girl holding a big French postcard.  Below is the interior of a turn-of-the-century postcard store.

Even the ceiling is covered with postcards in this advertisement for the Remembrance Shop in Detroit, Michigan. This image always makes us wish that time travel was possible - oh, the postcards we would purchase if we could go back to a postcard shop like this one! 

Real photo postcards showed people looking through their postcard albums in their parlors...here is an RPPC of friends at the park gathered on a blanket to share their photo and postcard albums.  During the height of the postcard collecting activity, friends sent each other "postals" with messages written on the backs saying, "here's one for your collection."  The unmailed near-mint condition postcards so highly prized today were probably purchased specifically for collecting, or sent to collecting friends and family inside envelopes to protect them from wear and cancellation marks.   

Pretty greetings like the embossed card shown here showcased postcard writing and poetic or peevish postcards asked, "Why don't you write?"  Advertising postcards were sent out encouraging merchants to stock up on views of local scenes or holiday greetings.  Other advertising includes an educational glimpse into the postcards that were available 100 years ago.  See the front and back of the advertising postcard from the British publishers, Rafael Tuck:

Rafael Tuck Publishers did actually produce postcards that had gramophone records attached to them, and if you decide to collect only Tuck postcards you will end up with an enormous collection.  Finally, our favorite deltiology postcard, a real photo postcard showing two young ladies who have created outfits from leather postcards...now, they were passionate about postcards! 

 Price estimates:  Prices for deltiology-theme postcards are generally high.  This is a desirable and hard-to-find topic, so competition at auction is lively.  Expect to pay from $30 - $50 for real photo postcards with postcard albums in them. An especially fine card with a clear, sharp image may go higher.  Real photo postcards of postcard shops and/or photographers who produced postcards are very desirable and will go for over $100 each.  Printed postcards of postcard shop exteriors and interiors range from about $20 - $50 depending on the image of the postcards - more is better, of course, and signs that proclaim POSTCARDS on the store increase the value. The postcard of The Remembrance Shop is a popular card for deltiology collectors and can cost over $65 when found in top quality condition.  Greetings showing postcards like the little girl with the quill pen above are less expensive, and can be found for $5 up.  Please note - estimates are for cards in EXCELLENT condition and are only estimates of current prices.  

*Although this book was copyrighted in 1976, it’s still one of the most comprehensive and useful books for the collector, tracing the history of postcards and illustrating a wide variety of popular collecting areas – advertising, expositions, signed artists, patriotics, greeting, etc. A valuable volume to have on your bookshelf!

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