Collecting old postcards is a lesson in history, geography, cultures and photography. Private postcards were first invented by John P. Charlton in 1861 and lasted until 1873 when the government created their own postcards. The more common non-postal cards in use across the globe today require a postage stamp to be affixed to the back of a pictorial card. Emmanuel Hermann invented this variation in Austria in 1869. Postcards need to be preserved, displayed and protected properly to maintain the image and quality of the card and prevent unnecessary deterioration.
Choose acid free, archival quality materials to mount and display old postcards to keep them preserved and undamaged for a longer period of time. Look for products labelled accordingly to ensure the best preservation of the postcards. Pick a scrap book or photo album, mounting backings or corners and separation sheets that fit these qualifications.
Clean your hands or wear soft, clean cotton gloves to handle the postcards, particularly valuable or historically significant postcards.
Clean the postcards gently with a soft, clean cloth before putting them on display on your album. Do not rub the cards. Wipe them lightly on both sides. Writing, pictures, attached postage stamps and special signatures need to be handled with care.
Arrange the cards on each page before you attach or mount them to the pages to make sure you like the placement and to prevent having to move them around once mounted.
Use either permanent sticky mounts or try mounted corners that allow you to move the postcards when needed. Make sure either of these are also archival quality.
Attach the sticky mounting pieces or the corners carefully to the postcards before you put them on the page. Do not bend the corners of the old postcards. If you use the sticky mounting pieces, attach them to areas that do not have special stamps or writing. Press the cards with the attached corners or sticky pieces carefully on the album page.
Put a sheet or page of Mylar, glassine or acid-free paper between each page of old postcards to keep them from touching each other.
Store the albums in temperature, light and moisture-controlled areas of your home, office, museum or store.
- For storage not on display, put postcards standing up in a file system, not piled on top of each other. Keep them in temperatures between 10.0 and 23.8 degrees C. Display and store them away from the sun and sources of moisture. For wall displays choose an interior wall for hanging and a museum quality mounting that protects and preserves the postcards.
- Anything touching the old postcards while being preserved and displayed should be archival quality, including the method of attaching the cards, the mounting pages and the sheets between each card or page of cards.