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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Buyer Beware - Warnings & Pet Peeves

We have been buying, collecting and selling postcards since the 1970s, so we have had plenty of opportunities to make mistakes - we hope to warn you against making the same ones.  Our thirty-plus years of deltiology have also given us many opportunities to gather pet peeves.  Here we present both

Buyer Beware
This old rule - that the buyer needs to have a healthy dose of self-protection - applies to collecting postcards as it does in any purchasing situation.  Dealers often fail to mention the imperfections on their postcards from simple soil to terrible tears.  Sometimes they have not noticed the flaw; sometimes they are choosing not to mention it. Look carefully whether you are buying online or at a show. 

At a show, put aside all the cards that you are considering buying from any given dealer and then, when you are finished searching, go over the cards carefully, taking your time.  If the cards are in sleeves, and they usually are, you may wish to remove the cards for a closer inspection; sleeves hide a multitude of flaws.

When buying online, search beyond the seller's description.  Even when you trust the seller, examine the card carefully.  The best sellers can make mistakes.  Plus, there is NO reliable way of evaluating the difference between grades of quality as they are used by sellers.  For instance, we have seen both VERY GOOD and EXCELLENT condition used to describe postcards with tears, ink stains, large creases, pinholes and other significant flaws.

IF the flaw cannot be clearly seen in the photo on the listing AND the seller has not mentioned the flaw in the listing, you may be able to return the postcard for a return - we encourage you to do so, as returning postcards that are poorly described helps to keep sellers honest.  You may have to pay the return postage, which doesn't seem fair, but is the usual manner of accepting returns.  At Postcardiva, we pay postage both ways if the error is ours but many sellers will not offer you this.

Pet Peeves - We always feel peeved when sellers use non-descriptions such as "over 100 years old!" (yes, we know)... "wear appropriate for age" ... "normal wear" ... "expected wear" ...  "typical wear" ... (there is no such thing...you can find a postcard of any age that is near mint, and the exact same card in a condition indicating it has been used to scrub the floor.)... "nice condition" or "great condition" without any details (what does that mean?)

More Buyer Beware
Your best bet in receiving postcards in the condition you expect is to ask questions and to examine the picture on the listing very carefully before you bid or buy.  If the photo on the listing is small or underexposed, we recommend skipping the listing...it's easy to upload a good quality photo of items for sale and we are suspicious of sellers who choose not to do so.  Also, we know that buyers can be at fault.  We have purchased desirable cards in a fit of excitement and found when the postcard arrived that a flaw was visible - but we missed it. 

We attended an eBay seminar where the speaker said "rare" was the most over-used word in eBay listings and we have noticed this is true in postcard listings.  If you have a good library of postcard guides, you will have a way to research if the postcard is indeed rare.  Another way to check is to look in the eBay Stores and Completed Listings to make a price comparison.  You may find several of the cards you saw in the Auction listing available in Stores for more or less than the Auction opening bid.  Shop both carefully and completely and you will find cards you want at prices you can afford. 

Today is Halloween, which reminds me of another odd problem.  We've seen labeling of postcards that is just wrong...for instance, European Easter witches flying on brooms listed as Halloween postcards.  Also, Thanksgiving postcards with pumpkins can be listed as (the more valuable) Halloween postcards.  Look carefully!

There are so many Buyer Beware points when purchasing Real Photo postcards that we will devote an entire post to RPPCs later.

More Pet Peeves - We are always irritated when sellers label ordinary cards as though they are the artwork of popular artists.  We don't pretend to know everything about every artist - there are fat books about this - but we do recognize how sellers try to glamorize their listings by attaching Flatscher, Brundage or Schmucker to listings of postcards with uninspired artwork.  We collect those three artists, and don't like to see their illustrious names attached to poor quality designs.  The fact that so many of their images are unsigned opens the door for unscrupulous or ignorant dealers to use the artists' names on designs that are not theirs.  Your best protection against this is to know the work of your favorite artists so well that you can recognize their style.  When in doubt, either question the dealer (we have sometimes learned valuable information this way) or refer to your guidebooks. 

More Buyer Self-care 
 We recommend you limit your collection with a few basic rules. Rules are personal - you will decide what rules you want to use.  The purpose in limiting your collection interests is to keep you from becoming crazy (or destitute) following up on every attractive card you see.  Because we consider our collection an investment, for instance, we do not knowingly buy cards that have flaws.  We will wait a long time to find a card we like in excellent condition, passing up those that appear with creases, bends, corner chips or marks to the front.  We have also chosen - arbitrarily - not to collect black and white artwork or state views (except California and Florida, our two 'home' states).  With these rules, we have managed to keep our collection to a workable number.  Most people find they have special interests and some collectors only purchase one specific kind of card, like Advertising or Indiana views.  We have been at shows and met people who only collect hospitals or images of people vomiting (true, I swear) and once read about a lady who only collected postcards of cows with one foot in the snow.  Now, that is a limited collection!

Do you have your own pet peeves, shopping experiences or buyer warnings to share?  We would like to hear about them!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lots and Lots of BABIES - Multi-baby Fantasy Postcards

In this post we look at the charming and odd multi-baby or multi-babies postcards...these were published in France, and are flat cards with lots of babies (and sometimes toddlers) placed in a variety of settings.  We begin with babies driving around in an automobile with a stork (probably from one home to another, dropping off babies along the way), and with babies perched, sleeping and seated in nests on tree branches.  

 A more unusual multi-baby card shows babies and some young children with an old-fashioned fire engine. The ladder is 'decorated' with children.  Some of the children have  dresses, suits, odd hats, a number with military flair. Others are dressed only in nightgowns or underwear. Each child has its own attitude, and, because these are collages, the scale is not always consistent.

Below, the babies are on a round amusement park ride, lots of babies squeezed into the seats.

 Here are children riding in a hot-air balloon far above the town, with lots of pretty girls, a child with a tophat and little babies in the rigging.  There's a big balloon, a basket, but no heater - keeping in mind the safety of the babies, no doubt.

One of the most fascinating themes in the multi-baby realm shows babies drinking milk from a cow - here is an example of four little ones and a placid bovine tolerating the feeding process. 

Below we see a bicycle race with little children riding and also filling the bleachers as spectators.  Again, the scale is erratic and the riders vary from tiny babies to children with Victorian outfits.

A later version of the multi-baby postcard is a real photo collage of babies on an airplane. Note the scale - the babies are either very large or the airplane is very small.  Nice tinting adds a healthy pink shade to the naked babies, some of whom have luggage.  What, do you suppose, is in those suitcases? 

 During and after World War I, a series of multi-baby postcards were produced in France that alluded to baby soldiers and to re-populating the country after the losses in combat.  Below are two patriotic multi-baby postcards - both tinted photo montages - with infant soldiers among flags and a chariot of Victory drawn through the sky by doves.   

We close with another early 1900s multi-baby image - one of my favorite printed baby scenes - showing the infants in an orchestra, each child with an instrument, and a baby serving as Conductor.  Delightful, humorous imagery to add to any postcard collection! 
Price Estimates:  Multi-baby postcards were made of flat, soft paper and often have noticeable edge and corner wear.  Finding them in Excellent condition is difficult. Therefore, this price estimate is for cards with some edge/corner wear but without holes, tears or significant creases.  Prices range from $5 - $18 depending on how common or rare the image is; pictures of babies in cabbages, women plucking babies from ponds or carrying babies in buckets are common and at the lower end of the price range.  Postcards of rare images and/or in superior condition are at the higher end.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mechanical Antique Postcards

This post focuses on MECHANICAL postcards - we define mechanicals as postcards that move, that change, that DO something.  Although some dealers use the word "mechanical" for cards that do not fit this criteria, we feel strongly that the term should be reserved for cards like those shown here.  Our first illustration is a risque mechanical - when you open the door a lady in the bathtub is revealed

The children on this Easter mechanical change to a lady with a dressed rooster when the tab is pulled.  This type of mechanical is sometimes called a "venetian blind" card. Santa Claus cards of this type are  a wonderful addition to a holiday collection.  This type of card is also available with risque scenes.  Children love mechanicals - the pull-tab type of mechanical postcard can be found in newer,  less expensive postcards.  One popular pull-tab postcard shows an alligator and the pull-tab opens and closes his mouth.  When you are shopping for postcards to give a child, we recommend you look for fun postcards that are low in price - children may enjoy their postcards without taking terrifically good care of them, and you don't want to be anxious about cost and care.     
The Thanksgiving Turkey postcard is an example of "kaleidoscope" mechanicals where the wheels on the side of the card allow a colorful striped disk behind the die-cut design to be turned.  This creates a wonderful moving effect, and these postcards come in many holiday and greeting designs - an Easter egg, a  butterfly, a dancer,  a lighthouse, some stunning Christmas and New Year images and more.
The lady standing outside a house with a pink flowering tree is an example of "calendar" mechanicals, where wheels allow the day and date to be changed for the occasion.  These are mostly designed to be birthday or holiday postcards, and there is quite a variety.  Although they are colorful and often embossed, these can be acquired quite easily. 
Here is a pretty girl on a calendar mechanical with a mailbox.  The colors and embossing are superb, yet this card can be purchased at a reasonable price.  The series includes an assortment of lovely girls.

This ship themed mechanical postcard has a fuzzy plush background and a die-cut ship that stands up from the background.  We show it flat and with the die-cut standing.  The colors are applied to the highly-embossed image by airbrush with brilliant blue forget-me-nots and gold details. 
 The last postcard in our selection of mechanicals is a French postcard for the soldier to keep track of how many days he has remaining to serve.  In other words, it was an early count down device!  Very colorful, with wheels for the date today and the remaining days at the bottom. 
Price Estimates:  Prices for mechanicals vary according to the rarity, condition, and theme.  At the most reasonably-priced end of the spectrum we find the calendar and stand-up postcards, which may be purchased for about $10-$15 each, or even less if you are a careful shopper.  As we move up the value scale, the kaleidoscope postcards cost between $30 - $50 each. All the pull-tabs (including "venetian blinds") range from $15 up to high prices for the rare images - risque, Santa Claus, etc.  These estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


This post focuses on Gibson-published Halloween cards, with brilliant colors on flat designs.  Art deco cards,  produced from about 1915-1920s, are becoming more popular as the competition among collectors to purchase top quality postcards from 1898-1915 becomes more intense.  Also, art deco styling is growing in appreciation and value in every form, from artwork to furniture, and that increases the prices of these fun Halloween postcards, also.  The Gibson postcards with Halloween designs can be whimsical, such as the series shown here with spooky jack o' lanterns and surprised children with their pets.  The children wear court jester costumes in bright colors - we love the color palette used in these designs! 

Another series has a bright orange and black 'checkerboard' trim around the edges; here is an example.  In this image we see the same pumpkin with a surprised child suited up in a traditional clown costume.  The color scheme is more subtle and restrained, relying on the images for impact.

The cat border marks one of the most highly valued Gibson Halloween designs - these cards cost over $100 each and any purchase of them below $100 should be considered an excellent bargain for any collector.

The two cards here with little girls show off the same humorous artwork combination...jolly pumpkins scaring the kids on vibrant backgrounds with bright - even startling - colors.

In a slightly more sinister vein, a black cat blows a holiday horn and appears to dance with a ghostly character sporting a jack o' lantern head...
We finish this post with a witty Gibson Halloween design that uses a spider web as a background for our tumbling little girl in her jester-clown outfit with pointed hat.  A witch rides through the orange sky, or may have become entangled in the web, while a belltower holds down the left side of the image.  

Price Estimates:  Like all art deco design, these vivid postcards are increasing in price.  Expect to pay from $25 - $40 for the orange designs, and (as described) over $100 for the designs in the popular cat-border series.  These prices are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Whitney HALLOWEEN Postcards

Whitney published postcards, as I have mentioned in a previous post, seem to suffer from being too new, too simple or just too sweet.  For whatever reason, they are priced lower than other antique postcards.  Some of the Valentine, Christmas and Easter images are certainly less imaginative and elaborate than the works of other publishers, often lacking embossing.  And those Whitney holiday postcards frequently feature cute children, with the emphasis on cute.

While collectors who treasure fine artwork may focus on postcards published by Paul Finkenrath Berlin, Meissner & Buch, Faulkner, Winsch and other publishers, I urge you to examine Whitney postcards more closely and evaluate whether there is a place for some of them in your collection.  In this post, we look at some Whitney Halloween postcards, all of which are embossed.  Above is an image of the Whitney little pumpkin heads bobbing for apples in a night scene lit by a big yellow moon.  A black Halloween cat arches its back - probably scared of children with jack o' lantern heads. 

Here is one of my favorite Halloween images from Whitney,
with a cheery child in a jack o' lantern clown costume, standing between two tall metallic gold candleholders,  an art deco design with bright colors and shining gold details. 

A wonderful series of owls and cats communing in the woods offers huge yellow moons surrounded by shining golden spatter.  Here is one of this series, where the two well-known Halloween icons appear to be comparing claws.  The blue sky and misty leaves make a fine contrast with the other colors that light up this design.

The impish rascal on the right plays in a soft blue evening sky with a big pale moon, shining gold stars and white fireworks above dark trees and a house, outlined with shining gold lines.  This design includes nearly day-glo colors on the imp, with turquoise skin and brilliant orange cap and shoes.  Is this a true Halloween design?  We choose to put it in our Halloween collection, based on its greeting:  Stay at home though the moon shines bright, for Elves are floating around in its light.     

Below is another charming pumpkin head design, with the black cats feeling much more playful in this scene.  The lettering is in gold and it says, The blackest cats that ever were seen wish you good luck this Halloween.  Looks as though one pumpkin head has carved a pumpkin head for the cats.  One cat is already sporting his costume, and another is about to be slipped into his feline pumpkin head.  I don't know any cats that would tolerate this sort of hilarity, but this is a fantasy postcard after all.

We close with an example of an unusual fun series from Whitney that pairs the usual black cats and pumpkins with an unexpected group of dressed mice, all celebrating together like Halloween holiday pals. 

Price Guide:  Whitney Halloween postcards are rapidly increasing in price.  We paid $18 and up for the ones shown in this post, but they have about doubled in price since then.  You may still be able to get some bargains in the $20 - $30 range.  On eBay, you can put in a Search for Whitney Halloween if you are interested in being alerted when new listings appear.