Postcards are a fun way to let someone know you Wish They Were There, no matter where you are. Because of the artwork on the front, they also make great souvenirs. But did you know that old postcards can have value outside the sentimental factor? Depending on their age and other qualities, your old postcards sitting in storage might net you a buck. Keep reading to learn more about the value of old postcards and how to determine whether or not they’re rare.
Why are there so many old postcards?
Ah, the golden age. What does that phrase bring to mind? Your favorite era of music? The decade in which the best films of all-time were released? Or postcards, maybe? That’s right — there’s actually an official Golden Age of postcards. According to the Chicago Postcard Museum (another thing you may not have known existed), most “antique postcards” are from the Golden Age, which was between the years 1893 and 1920.
This time period was the postcards’ heyday: The US Postal Service delivered over nine hundred million postcards in the year 1913 alone, say experts Gary and Melissa Miller. Some reasons for their boom in popularity include advances in printing, the prevalence of postcard collecting, and the fact that they provided a quick and easy way to stay connected without needing to write an entire letter. They were like the text messages of their day.
How to Determine an Old Postcard’s Value
Postcards’ popularity waned after World War I due to advances in communication technology, like radio and telephones, say the Millers. But because there were so many postcards sent in the past, there are a wealth of antique postcards available — some of which may be worth a lot of money today. Here’s how to tell whether or not your old postcard has monetary value.
Establish its age.
The auctioneers at Warwick & Warwick note that an older card will have more value; ones printed after 1960 will be worth less than those printed before. To determine a postcard’s age, look at its printed postmark — is the year there? Also, take into account the post card’s size. If it’s noticeably old and larger than 3 ½ by 5,” it is likely older than 1898, say the experts at the Texas Antique Mall.
Observe its subject matter.
The type of image on the front of the postcard may make it more valuable. Postcards that feature a photo of a specific place or scene, like a local train station or children playing in a park, are worth more than printed versions of the same scenes, says Warwick & Warwick. Postcards that feature a subject instead of a scene, like comics and animals, are typically worth less, unless the artist of the subject is notable.
Consider its condition.
The better condition a postcard is in, the more valuable it is, says the Texas Antique Mall. That being said, since old postcards have more value than new ones, auctioneers and collectors may still pay top-dollar, even for pieces with minor signs of wear and age. Unused postcards are usually worth more than ones that have been written on, however.
Well-Known Valuable Postcards
Do you think you have a valuable old postcard somewhere in your house? Or maybe you’re determined to find one at your local antique store. Either way, it’s worth a look. In the meantime, check out some of the most famously valuable postcards of all time, according to VIP Art Fair.
The Penny Penates Postcard
This is the world’s oldest picture postcard, and it was sent by British writer Theodore Hook to himself — most likely as a practical joke on the postal service — in 1840. On its front are twelve post office writers gathered around an inkwell, and on its back is a Penny Black stamp, the first adhesive postage stamp. In 2002, this postcard sold for an equivalent of $81,859 USD, adjusted for inflation.
African American Mother and Son Postcard
Known as America’s most valuable postcard, this real-photo card depicts a mother and her son holding an American flag. It was produced in the 20th century, and an original in good condition is worth around $20,000 USD.
Cleveland Baseball Postcard
This postcard, released in 1902, features 20 baseball players from Cleveland’s local team. An original has sold for over $13,000 USD.
Enjoy Your Search!
Before you quit your job to sell vintage postcards for a living, keep in mind that finding one worth a lot of money is extremely rare; many won’t be worth much money, if they’re worth anything at all. But collecting them is a fun hobby, nonetheless. Enjoy your search!
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