A collector of old postcards will pay a nice price for a rare and excellent condition card. But what constitutes rare, collectable and excellent condition when buying or selling old postcards? There is no exact science for pricing since regional preferences prevail and trends come and go. Always the supply and demand theory applies even for the old postcard market. Age, rarity, printing quality and condition factor into the pricing of an old postcard.
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Turn your postcard from front to back and note key points for identifying the age. Historians have concluded that there are seven identifiable eras for postcards. If your postcard has a linen-like feel, then it was produced in 1930 to 1945. If your postcard has beautiful chrome colours, then the card could be dated as early as 1939 to present day. If the image on your postcard is a real photograph, then you need to take extra care in dating this. There are many modern day reproductions. Photographic Era postcards date as early as 1900 to present day. If the image on the front fills the image area (no borders) then it could be dated as early as 1907 to 1915. This time period is a great "boon" for collectors. During this same time, from 1900 to 1930, the Art Deco Era postcard came about. These designs have beautiful, deep, strong colours. The other era to note is Art Nouveau, from 1898 to 1910. The art of this movement for postcards was popular with its decorative curved designs. If the postcard has a white border frame around the image, then it is from the White Border Era, dating from 1915 to 1930.
Research the rarity or high demand of your postcard. Auctions and shows in your local area are a great resource for getting a feel for supply and demand prices on old postcards. Identify the age of your postcard and begin your research from there. Subject and time era play a large role in rarity. The more in demand, the higher the price.
Evaluate the printing quality of your postcard. Card appearance, printing quality, varied colours and sharpness of image can make a card more desirable and command a higher price. Raphael Tuck & Sons was the Queen's publisher from the mid 1800s into the early 20th Century. They were proudly known as the "Publishers to Her Majesties the King and Queen," with printing houses in London, Paris and New York. Their quality of printing and art is exquisite. The mention of a Tuck card usually creates interest.
Check the condition of your postcard. Postcards are rated: mint, near mint, excellent, very good, good and fair. A mint card is perfect. It looks the way it did the day it was printed with no writing or postmarks. This is very rare. A near mint card is like a mint card, except it has slight ageing and minimal discolouration, perhaps from sitting in an album. Excellent cards are near mint cards that have postal marks and writing on the back. Very good cards are still desirable. These cards might have undetectable creases or bends that do not detract from the postcard. A card seen as good condition might have blunt corners and noticeable bends and creases. Cards that are in fair condition are usually not worth much unless it is a scarce card that is difficult to find in any condition. The condition of a fair card would have excess soil, stains and creases.
Tips and warnings
- The best way to determine a starting price for your old postcard is to visit a dealer in your area. A good dealer can help. Good places to find old postcards is at Antique Shows, Flea Markets and Antique Shops.
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- "Postcard Collector 2003;" Antique Trader Publications, 2003
- "Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear;" Diane C. Arkins, 2000
- "The Postcard Price Guide;" J.L. Mashburn, 1997
- "The Collector's Guide to Post Cards;" Jane Wood, 1984
- "Vintage Postcards for the Holidays, Second Edition Identification & Value Guide;" Robert Reed, Claudette Reed, 2006