Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I am...a Deltiologist (postcard collector) Part 1

Yes, a Deltiologist.  It is such a formal name for someone who collects and studies postcards.  Though most people who collect things will need to study and do significant research on what they are collecting and how to find it, clean, categorize, etc.  So, Deltiologist it is but I prefer to just be called a postcard collector.

I have always had a deep passion for travel.  And, like most other children I was limited to the travels that my parents embarked on.  Unfortunately for me this meant that we traveled within the state of Wisconsin and if I was lucky Minnesota.  I adore my home state but my mind was always wondering off on adventures.


In the dead of winter (which for those that don't live in the Midwest lasts 7 months of the year) I would take trips to warm exotic exciting places.  I went to places like Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Miami...NOT.  But with help from travel magazines, National Geographic and my precious postcards I would be able to take imaginary trips to anywhere.  My favorite postcards were what are called "Linens."

Linens came into circulations around 1930 because they developed a method of creating cheaper paper for cards.  They have a rag like textured from all the fibers and publishing companies would print them with bold bright colors.  I loved these cards because everything looked more exciting with those accentuated colors.  For a long time and still today many prefer to collect anything other than those Linen cards because of their "cheapness" but personally I still enjoy them very much and do collect them.

Although I have my favorites, I have always been an indiscriminate collector.  This has advantages and disadvantages; you are just starting out it may be to your benefit to focus on one subject or type of postcard to collect. 

Collections that focus on a specific characteristic of the card are specialized, everything flows and often they can be easily displayed in some kind of natural order.  A person that has a specialized collection also has the advantage of getting to know that certain type of card very well, they know what to look for and what to look out for.  They also have the "thrill-of-the-hunt," meaning that finding their specific card is much harder and when they do the satisfaction is much greater.   There are too many different subcategories of postcards to include all, but I would like to list some to give you a sense of why I enjoy postcards so much.

Collecting postcards based on what is on the back.  Some collections will include only undivided backs.  Prior to 1907 postcards had only one side to write the message on; the picture side.  The back side was only to be used for the address and the postage.  Note: collecting cards that have writing on the front of them from this period is acceptable since that was how they were designed.

Undivided Back
Note that there was plenty of room left on the front to write the message

After 1907 they started the divided back leaving room for a conversation on the backside of the card to preserve the image on the front.  Unfortunately you will find many of the earlier divided backs still have writing on the front of the card; old habits die hard.

There are many collections based on how the card was cancelled.  Briefly; some postcards sent from rural locations were cancelled by hand with a pen, Source Marking meant it was cancelled while traveling by rail, ship or steam boat, fancy cancelation marks are just like they sound - Fancy, and Killer which completely covers the stamp with a black ink.  There are many more not mentioned.  People may also look for specific post offices that are no longer in existence making it more rare.

The US Flag used to cancel the postage

Applied by a duplex handcancel devise

Postcard backs can be ornately decorated.  As publishers competed for a notable backside the card became more and more detailed.  Art deco and Art Nouveau are two periods in which this is commonly seen.
Postcard collections have also been built based on the medium used.  There are many but a few popular ones right now are Real photo, Linen, and Photochrome.

Real Photograph

Real Photograph

Collecting cards based on subject can be extremely broad to very narrow.  There are many clubs and places to swap postcards with others that collect based on subject.  Yahoo has some good online groups.  Currently some of the more popular subjects are:

History of transportation; People are collecting cards related to the rail system, aviation, the automobile

First Car...  LOL!!!


Social events; Fairs and Expositions are and have always been highly collectible


 Collecting cards has become a international past time.  There are many card collectors because this is one collection that is easily stored or displayed.  The popularity of scrapbooking has given collectors many options of acid-free materials to use.  It is very important to store your collection with acid free materials, do not to glue them to anything and to make sure that they will be able to lay flat or in a manner that will not curl the card.  Here are some examples of cards that have been significantly damaged by how they were stored.

I suggest investing in a package of postcard sleeves they come in many different sizes and will accommodate most cards. 

Finding and collecting postcards has become relatively easy since the dawn of the internet.  At one time the only means was through mail order, swap meets, yard sales and auctions.  You had to physically find them but now most are a click away on the computer.  When looking for cards online make sure that the seller has a good reputation.  No one is perfect but if they have a lot of complaints be wary.  Also make sure that the seller’s description is good and/or their pictures provide a lot of detail.  There should almost always be a photo of the backside of the card or a verbal description of what issues it may or may not have.  When I sell my cards I try to always include a good verbal description, a photo of both sides, and a rating or grading of the condition.  But most of all Have Fun!

Our store Butterfly In The Attic currently has 40% off vintage postcards for a limited time.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I love postcards. I'll have to take a look around! :]