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Vintage Postcards

It might not be the first thing you think of when you consider collectibles, but vintage postcards can be quite the find at an estate sale near you. So, whether it’s nostalgia or your passion, let’s learn more about collecting Vintage Postcards.

The History of Vintage Postcards

Did you know the hobby of collecting postcards is so popular that it even has its own word: deltiology? That’s right, deltiology is the study of collecting postcards.

The evolution of postcards is quite the history lesson. It didn’t start until 1861 when congress allowed the mailing of privately made cards that weighed less than an ounce.

In 1872, lawmakers wanted Americans to send government-printed postcards, so they created new laws that made it more expensive to send a privately printed postcard. This made it twice as expensive to send a privately printed postcard (one cent versus 2 cents for a private postcard).

Then in 1898, Congress introduced the Private Mailing card, which was just one cent to mail. These cards didn’t include any sort of image like a modern postcard would.

In 1901 the term “Postcard” became standard, and pictures started to appear, but only an address was allowed on the opposite side so many postcards didn’t include a message.

In 1907 the divided postcard was introduced and allowed senders to send a message to the sender.

Postcards in the early 1900s

It was during this time that postcards became a popular (and practical) tool for Americans to use.

During this time, postcard design reflected the times. For example, in the early 1900s, Kodak produced a postcard that featured a real photo. These real photo postcards, or RPPCs, became widely popular. And during World War I, ink for postcards was scarce, so postcards included a white border to save on ink.

A Snapshot in Time

Postcards are a wonderful way to view the world as we no longer know it. Postcards from cities like New York and Boston show streets and buildings that are unrecognizable today. In many ways, postcards are a time capsule for the owner to treasure.

Value of Vintage Postcards

So, how do you determine the value of vintage postcards? Glad you asked! Here are our tried-and-true criteria:

  1. Age. The older the postcard, the more valuable it likely is. Those of value include postcards from the late 1800s.

  2. Postmark. There are several nuances that go into the postmark. First, it can help establish the age of the postcard. But the condition of the postmark matters. It should be easy to read, which makes the postcard more valuable. And keep in mind, there are collectors who just collect postmarks, so when buying a card with a rare cancelation stamp you might have extra competition.

  3. Subject. The subject of the postcard is something to consider. Collectors often stick to a certain theme, like holidays or beach scenes. Halloween postcards are not as common and are subsequently the most valuable.

Old postcards offer a glimpse into the past and are a treat to find at estate sales. Check out our upcoming estate sales to see if you can find some for your collection.


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