Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Discovering Postcard Collecting

By Christina VanGinkel

Collecting postcards has been a hobby of mine for as many years back as I can remember. It actually started when I was still in school and my older brothers were in the service. They kept in touch with my parents and the rest of us kids by sending postcards often. The notes were short, not requiring a lot of time from them to write. However, they were exactly what my mother needed to know that all was well. I saved these postcards, keeping them in a scrapbook, with other mementos my brothers sent home, including a silk scarf that professed their love for their sister!

Then one day, years later, I was at a sale out in the country at a farm that was closing. The owner had retired, and his children had no desire to run a dairy farm. Seemingly, everything was for sale, and if the price being offered was at least close to being reasonable, it was accepted. I was browsing through one old building that they had piled some house wares and miscellaneous items in when I came across and old cigar box filled with pictures and postcards. I inquired if they were for sale individually. The elderly woman asked what I was willing to pay. I offered her fifty cents a card, and she glanced at the box and told me I could take the whole lot for two dollars! I paid her up and was out of there before she could change her mind.

I went home, fixed my self a cup of tea, and proceeded to go through the treasures I had purchased, and treasures I did find. Old black and white and sepia toned postcards, with many of them blank on their backs. Maybe they were bought to be used, or just collected. Several had been stamped on the back with the name of a now defunct photography studio that had been closed some seventy or more years before. I found this out through research at the library. Old microfiche files offer a plethora of information about local businesses from the past, if one is willing to take the time to search through them. This made me think that portions of the postcards were actually family pictures and they might not have ever been intended to be used as postcards per se.

Also mixed in the box were postcards of whaling, travel postcards from various landmarks across the United States and even a few from England. A few of the postcards had writing on them and had stamps that had clearly been used, proof that they had been mailed. The postcards also portrayed things like the Pine Mountain Ski Jump in neighboring Iron Mountain Michigan, when it was a newly built jump, postcards depicting the a Hurley Wisconsin mine, several of ice bound boats going through the locks north of where I live, and many that were just your average picture postcard, portraying wildlife and fields of flowers. I also discovered a few early photographs in the box, including a train wreck and a lone cow standing against a fence in a field.

I have since collected older postcards here and there and always ask when stopping at a sale or antique store if they have any old postcards. I am not truly sure of the fascination they provide, just that they do. I have shared some with one of my brothers who also enjoys them. He ahs amassed quite a collection of his own. I have also sold a few on eBay to fund the purchase of others.

As a writer, I love looking through the postcards when I have moments of writer's block, as the pictorials have a way of giving my brain a jump-start. They almost seem like a window into the days of old, especially those that have snippets of writing on their backs. Notes about trips, new jobs, lost loves, and more, as a fan of old black and white movie reels too, maybe it is just the appeal of simpler times, when things moved at a slower pace. Whatever the draw, it is there. If you are looking for a hobby to take up, one that does not have to cost a lot of money, that gives you something to look for when you are out antiquing or stopping at sales this summer, or even browsing on eBay, consider postcard collecting. It is both fun and relaxing, and you never know what other treasures you might discover along the way!

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