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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

NEW YEAR Date Postcards

Sometimes called Date-in-Design, these New Year Date postcards begin with 1900 and continue through World War I. A “century” card was produced for 1900 in Germany, rather a plain flat design with green ink. But even at that early date, more fanciful designs were beginning to enter the collectors’ albums. We begin with a snowy scene in which the shadows from a pair of birds and the arched gate-tops form the numerals – a creative way to put the year 1900 in this Frohliches Neues Jahrhundert! postcard. This is a flat card with glowing pastel colors and an undivided back, mailed from Germany.

Many New Year Date postcards simply add the year to an otherwise free-standing design, and some of those can be charming.  Some have calendars attached with a page for each month, others feature a calendar printed on the postcard in the design.  Those are all more common and, while collectible, not as much fun as the more complex designs where the date is part of a fancier picture.

These little Angels are carrying a forget-me-not floral garland with hanging bells, each of which has a number to form 1904 - the card is richly embossed and has gold added. We love the Angels wearing only their wings and a few blossoms during such cold weather.  In the background is a night-time view in deep greens and blues, the perfect setting for these charming rosy-pink heavenly messengers. This postcard has an undivided back, and is mailed from Sweden. 

Pigs are a traditional symbol of plenty and often appear on New Year postcards, sending wishes for prosperity with their presence.  These giddy pigs prance along with round leaf-decorated signs, 1903, trailing streamers - a cheery image with lots of porcine action.  Bright gold details embellish the design and the postcard is beautifully embossed.  It has an undivided back and was mailed from Sweden.

This ethereal design of a pretty turn-of-the-century woman holding a glass of hot wine shows the numbers 1903 floating above her, formed of the steam from her drink.  A very creative image, with exceptional artwork - her face is lit with a soft glow, and the deep green background sets off the subtle numerals perfectly.  An undivided back, this card offers the sender a little blank area on the front where a message can be written, as only the address was allowed on the back.  The undivided back period officially lasted from 1901 - 1907, although it's possible to find cards from the later years with divided backs, so there is some overlap.  This is a flat card which was kept in an album and not mailed. 
                                                       Here is a flat Bonne Annee postcard mailed from France.  It's a real photo image combined with artistic elements, to show glamorous women and numerals for 1907.  The women represent the four seasons, Spring holding a sapling branch with pink blossoms, Summer with an armful of flowers, Autumn with a harvest of grapes, and Winter wrapped in heavy clothing and surrounded by snow and ice.  This photo postcard has elaborate color tinting.
 Here is a popular design, re-issued for several years by just changing the numbers, by Paul Finkenrath Berlin (PFB) publishers.  The cavorting cherubs float in a soft cloud bank slightly above a grassy meadow, holding floral garlands that form the numerals.  In this design, one plays a harp. The series shows a variety of colors in the flowers - sometimes the numerals are held by women and cherubs. These cards have very detailed embossing and are perennial favorites among collectors.

A golden sun peeks over the horizon on this gold-lavished design of playful Angels shooting holly berries and leaves against a wood panel to form the numbers 1908.  Very detailed embossing, nice artwork and a playful, unusual design add to the desirability of this New Year date image.
These Victorian children in a snowfall actually form the numerals on this 1908 New Year Date postcard.  Having the characters on the card form the numbers might be done in a pretty design or a humorous design like the restaurant characters on the postcard shown below for 1907.

Some very attractive New Year Date postcards were produced using the dates as frames for other images or in which the numerals were held by pretty children.  There is a full calendar on the second postcard.  Both these cards are embossed with vivid colors.

The last two designs above were published as regular New Year Date postcards and also as hold-to-light postcards, with die-cut openings in the top layer of the card that allowed an inner layer to glow when the card was held up to a light source.  The hold-to-lights (HTLs) are harder to find and highly valued by collectors.

Price Estimates:   Simple New Year date postcards can be purchased for a few dollars each - these are the ones referred to at the beginning of this post, which show just the year or a simple decoration on the numerals.  If you'd like to begin collecting New Year date postcards at this level, lots frequently appear on eBay for 3 or more at the same time, and the prices can be a bargain.  Mid-range high quality cards with or without embossing, will sell for $10 - $25.  Hold-to-light postcards, depending on the design, can cost $100 or more. These estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition.  They are only estimates of present prices.

Friday, December 11, 2009

FRANCES BRUNDAGE Artwork on Christmas & New Year Postcards

One of our favorite postcard artists is Frances Brundage.  Her beautiful children have her trademark big soulful eyes, and many of her designs are lively with lots of action.  We've chosen a Christmas design and a group of New Year designs by this prolific artist to illustrate her work for the holidays. 

Frances Isabelle Lockwood was born in 1854.  Her father was an artist who taught her to draw. When he deserted the family, Frances was only 17, but she began selling her pictures to help support the family.

Working with Raphael Tuck publishers, she illustrated books with her Victorian children - these are highly collectible today.  Her images were so popular that they also appeared on paper dolls, trade cards, calendars, prints and, of course, postcards.

Frances married another artist, William Tyson Brundage, in 1886.  Their only child, a daughter, died in infancy in 1891.  Frances Brundage's work also appeared on items published by the Samuel Gabriel Company of New York and Saalfield publishers in Ohio.  The bulk of her work was published by these three publishers, although she also did designs for a handful of other publishers. 

The two images of young children above show her classic big-eyed little ones, often wearing mischievous grins.  However, one of the most appealing aspects of Frances Brundage's work is the individuality of her children.  They have some elements in common, and those elements help us identify her many unsigned designs (there are only about 300 postcard designs signed) but they also have their own unique character and charmSome are wistful, others impish, occasionally thoughtful, and some are simply sweet turn-of-the-century children engaged in tasks of the time.
This is our absolute favorite Frances Brundage image - of Father Time playing on the floor with Baby New Year.  Although these two symbolic characters appear in many antique postcards for the New Year, only Brundage made the turning over of  the calendar such a joyful romp!
We end with a Frances Brundage illustration of a happy baby hanging in a fancy pink blanket from Father Time's scythe.  Baby New Year is usually shown as a boy - perhaps Brundage was paying tribute to her lost baby girl in this touching design and the one above it. 

Her career was long and successful - in her 60s, Frances Brundage was still creating memorable artwork for early 1900s households.  She died in 1937, at the age of 82.  If you would like to learn more about Brundage, see Women Children's Book Illustrators on the web.

Price Estimates:  Postcards with Frances Brundage images, usually unsigned, can be found as early as the undivided back era of 1901 - 1907.  Prices vary widely - you may be able to find a bargain unsigned design at a postcard show or online.  This is where your research in identifying artists by the style of their work comes in handy.  Those postcards identified as Frances Brundage will sell between $10 to over $100, depending on the rarity of the design and the construction of the postcard.  Some of her Halloween postcards are at the top of the price curve. Also, there are Brundage mechanicals and hold-to-lights which command high prices.   These estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition.  They are only estimates of current prices.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NEW YEAR Postcards - Fantasy Floral Objects

Floral object postcards are plentiful and fun to collect. Greetings for birthday, congratulations and good luck are available with floral objects that are simpler in design than those shown here and that may be embossed or flat. Hearts made of flowers were popular, especially on messages of love or Valentines. Christian symbols, crosses and anchors, embellished both Easter and greeting postcards. There are also some vivid floral object greetings, Made in Germany, with embossed birdhouses, ships and automobiles that often have gold added. Although roses, forget-me-nots and violets are the most common flowers used, there are also postcards where the objects are made of shamrocks, holly or pansies.

This post focuses on New Year postcards that are decorated with elaborate floral objects. The postcards have detailed embossing and all the International Art postcards have shining gold added. As with any antique holiday postcard, the richness of the embossing, the addition of gilding and the rarity of the design will affect value. At the top of the post you can see the Victrola (also search for phonograph or gramophone) made of violets and published by EAS; the EAS logo is in the lower left corner. There is no gilding on the phonograph postcard.  The rest of the postcards in this post were all published by International Art Publishing Co., which is printed on the backs.

The violin, piano and trumpet have modest touches of gold.  They all feature a garland of greenery in the upper part of the designs and have a little art deco flair.  We have some of these images in both blue and purple - apparently these New Year designs from International Art were made in both bright blue forget-me-nots and in deep purple violets, although the artwork is identical.  The flowers are only distinguished by their color and not by their shape.  

Some of the International Arts postcard designs have lavish gold added - the organ made of violets with golden pipes, and the designs of bagpipes and a glockenspiel.  These also have floral swags and  ribbons rather than the leafy garlands on the musical instruments above.

 This unusual design, also from International Art publishers, shows a smoking set, complete with cigarette box, cigarette holder to put out on the table for company and a floral matchbox.  Gold hearts and a floral garland inside the box lid might have made this a multi-purpose design, equally ready for a Valentine greeting  at upper left as a Happy New Year one.

The last floral object New Year's design, the champagne bottle, is a good example of a cross-over collectible.  Not only appealing to floral object collectors or New Year fantasy collectors, it is also desirable to those who like to collect champagne bottle images.  It is one of the harder-to-find floral object postcards.

Price Estimates:  As with all antique postcards, the price on these pretty floral object postcards has gone up over the past ten years. Where even high quality postcards like the ones shown used to be available for a dollar or two, these fancy designs are now more likely to cost $10 - $15. Simpler designs can still be had for a few dollars, and you may even find them in the $1 box on a dealer’s table at a postcard show. Also, keep an eye on the lots of greetings listed on eBay auction – if you create a Search within Postcards for Floral Objects, (make sure to click the Titles and Descriptions box for your search) you will be alerted when these become available. Remember that cards are usually less expensive in lots, although most lots have a few cards (if there are just a few, you have done well) that are in less than ideal condition. These are prices for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates of current prices. 

CHRISTMAS FANTASY Postcards - Beautiful to Bizarre

We especially enjoy Fantasy postcards – although many antique postcard designs were flights-of-fancy illustrated, true Fantasy postcards stretch the limits of imagination. At this time of year, with Christmas on the horizon, we’d like to share some Christmas fantasies that show the range of the Fantasy genre – from beautiful to bizarre.  We begin with a sweet embossed fantasy image of a bird driving a Christmas holly sled hitched to a toy horse.

A top quality John Winsch Christmas series shows children dressed in evergreen and pine cones, holly leaves or mistletoe. Each design is beautifully drawn with an added feature.  The child holds a snowball, as the child here, or a toy...one shows a golliwog, one a doll and another a teddy bear, for instance.  Each child has an exquisite face with charming features and delicate coloring. With rich embossing and strong colors, these have the typical Winsch large-initial-letter sentiments and the John Winsch copyright date at the bottom edge. This image is copyrighted 1910.  This series is occasionally attributed to Samuel Schmucker, and usually not.  This is a confusing area of collecting because Schmucker cards are very desirable and some sellers add Schmucker's name to almost any Winsch-published design.  You can often find these mis-listings on eBay.  In fact, Winsch had a number of fine artists creating postcard designs so determining which postcard may be by an individual artist can be a challenge.  Some cards are definitely Samuel Schmucker artwork - we will feature these in later posts, beginning with a post showing some of his Christmas and New Year designs.  

Fantasy ornaments are a popular Christmas theme; we show both the easiest and hardest-to-find of the series of anthropomorphic candle ornaments on evergreen branches. This was a very popular series – it can be found with a variety of publisher backs, with and without glitter (there is clear glitter on the gingerbread man postcard shown here), and even in flat versions. Piracy of designs was not unusual – this series is an example of how well-liked designs moved through different publishers and formats. This particular version of the Gingerbread Man is an early undivided back and while the Apple card has space on the front for To___ and From ____, the back is divided for address and message areas.

Lovely angels with feathery wings and gentle expressions are shown projected in the light from a “magic lantern” or early 1900s slide projector. The background is solid silver, the projector decorated with holly. This series also has postcards that show images of children in the light.

For the most part, Whitney postcards are still not collected with great passion.  Some Whitney cards are certainly plain, flat and of inferior quality.  However, some Whitney postcards are nicely embossed with imaginative designs.  We show two examples here of quality Christmas fantasy postcards from this publisher. 

The first is a dog family getting ready to enjoy Christmas dinner...there's a calendar on the wall turned to December 25th, Mama dog is carrying a roasted turkey, and the children are excited.  There's a cheerful air to this dressed-dog design with embossing and bright colors.  The second example of a Whitney fantasy shows a child wrapped in a colorful quilt up on the roof in the snow - animated gifts appear to be diving down the chimney.  They are either charming or alarming depending on your point of view.  This postcard has light embossing and very imaginative artwork.  

The last Christmas entry personifies the bizarre in fantasy postcards - one of a popular series showing a grinning pinecone man playing with animated toys.  Rich embossing and odd artwork make these fantasy images special - the faces range from enthusiastic to grotesque, with each design showing movement, color and intriguing shadows, a subtle touch. 

Price Estimates: The John Winsch children dressed in Christmas greenery cost between $40 - $100.  In the living candle/ornament series, the Candle/Apple card is easy to find and can be purchased between $5 - $10. The Gingerbread Man is the hardest to find, and can cost up to $50. The projector postcard appeals to collectors of magic lanterns, as well as collectors of Angels, Christmas or Fantasy, and that can drive up the bidding. We have found these at postcard shows for a few dollars, and paid up to $20 when the bidding is lively on eBay. The Whitney postcards are undervalued, in my opinion. The animated package designs are odd and the dog family postcard is appealing – a good investment if you can get them for a few dollars each, which may be possible at postcard shows. When bidding, you may have to go as high as $10, or you may be lucky and win the auction for under $5. The anthropomorphic pinecone man and animated toy series is more expensive, doubtless because it’s so unusual. Expect to pay between $20 - $40. These are prices for postcards in EXCELLENT condition and they are only estimates of current prices.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Angels - Sacred, Secular, Whimsical

Angel postcards are abundant, and often undervalued.  Last year I attended a West Coast postcard show where one dealer had dumped all his embossed Angel postcards in a shoebox marked 50% off - that was a happy find.  If you like this particular segment of what's called the Fantasy category, you can create a colorful and varied collection of angel postcards without spending a lot of money.

Angels were produced and sold all year on greeting postcards.  For instance, Guardian Angels protect children from being run over by trains, falling off bridges and suffering other dangers, and the postcards come in a range of types from real photo to elegantly embossed gilded artwork.  But Angel designs really blossom at Christmas and Easter.  Here is a selection of Christmas Angels that illustrates three main types - religious, non-religious, and what I think of as whimsical - angels performing fantasy tasks or in fantasy settings.

Let's begin with a whimsical Angel arranging ornaments and sugary treats on a Victorian Christmas tree.  This is an embossed postcard with lots of shining silver added throughout the design.  Another whimsical design shows an angel dropping holiday apples from a basket - a gift to the townspeople below.  Again, this is an embossed postcard and it has a silver border.  One of the most appealing aspects of Angel postcards is that they are often elaborately decorated and add sparkle to a holiday collection.    

Angels with children decorate many Christmas postcards.  Often, as in this example, they come bearing toys.  These 'Santa's Helper' Angels may be cute or elegant, and this postcard with very detailed embossing and lavish gilding definitely falls into the latter group.

Below, we see another helper Angel packing a crate full of toys with the assistance of a baby Angel.  They both have solid gold wings on this embossed design. 

Religious designs have a special place at Christmas - and they come in a wide range of images, from Angels guiding the shepherds or holding the Christ Child, to  Angel designs where the religious nature of the artwork is more subtle.  We have some examples here, such as the Angel playing the harp on the balcony of the bell tower (notice her pink wings), the gold-wing Angels singing hymns in the sky below a bright golden star, or the dramatic design of an Angel in a dark blue nighttime setting, crowned with a glowing halo, the guiding star prominent in the sky...this design nicely combines the sacred and secular themes by giving her a little decorated Christmas tree.

The last three postcards are all examples of unusual artwork.  The first is a richly embossed design set against a deep green background.  The Angel has been airbrushed with vivid pastels, and there are cloud shapes embossed in the dark green below her feet.  The Angel standing at the crossroads (where the sign resembles a rustic cross) wears applied fabric clothing.  The last Angel is a hold-to-light postcard made of several layers - the die-cut holes in the front layer make the candles glow blue, red and yellow when the card is held up to a light.  Hold-to-Light (HTL) postcards are very desirable and their prices reflect this.

Price Estimates - Beautifully embossed Angel postcards can be found at eBay auction between $5 and $10.  Also, look for them at postcard shows where they are often priced very reasonably.  Unusual cards with exceptional artwork can cost $12-$15.  All Christmas holiday hold-to-light cards generate lively bidding on eBay, with the simple scenes of houses or churches in the snow going for $15 - $20.  Hold-to-lights with Santa can cost well over $100.  Angels and children will typically go to the high bidder between $25 - $60. These are prices for postcards in EXCELLENT condition - they are only estimates of current prices.