Happy Easter! At the last stamp show I visited, I thumbed through some dealers’ bargain boxes and found four cute Easter post cards I just couldn’t resist. This gave me an opportunity to learn a little more about post card collecting. Vintage post cards are collectable items outside of philately, as unmailed cards are often bought for their pretty designs and historical value. They make wonderful display pieces that can be easily kept in albums or displayed in frames.
During what is considered the “golden age” of postcards, from around 1900 to 1920, picture postcards were an affordable way for working class people to own and share art prints or views of faraway places. Around this time the rate to mail a post card was 1₵, and most cards were only 1₵ to purchase. (Note: 2₵ in 1913 would be roughly equivalent to 50₵ in 2016.)
Postcard companies produced thousands of designs, hiring many different artists and designers to make cards for every holiday or occasion. Although most of the English language cards were designed by American or British artists, the printing was often done on mainland Europe (particularly Germany) and then exported to shops in the United States. Designs on the cards are sometimes enhanced with embossing, metallic inks, or even glittery elements.
Easter cards from around this time often featured somewhat anthropomorphic animals partaking in springtime activities. My favorite card of the group I purchased is of the chicks going for a Sunday drive.
These postcards were all sent through the mails. The driving chicks card is the earliest, sent in 1908 with a “series of 1902” Franklin 1₵ stamp. The other three were sent with stamps from the Washington-Franklin series, showing the series 1₵ change from Franklin to Washington portraits.
One of my favorite things about old, used post cards is that as long as you have the card, the message is included. While old, collectable covers (envelopes) are often empties of their contents, postcards allow a sneak peek at the conversations of their senders.
A sending picture postcard in the early 1900s could be somewhat compared to how today we send a text or post a tweet. A picture representing where you are or how you feel, along with a short message (limited by the small space on the back of the card). Because of the small space, writers had to be very to the point, but it also meant they could send multiple cards.
Of course, if you did want to send a longer message, there were ways around that. A floral greeting postcard I purchased had a miniature envelope affixed to the front. (And lucky for me – the note was still inside!) Apparently this was not an uncommon, novelty way to send mail, so I’ll have to keep my eye out for other examples.
According to US postal regulations, affixing anything extra to a postcard disqualifies it for a postcard rate. I’ve seen examples of newspaper clippings glued to the front of cards that were uprated to first class mail and charged an extra cent due. Thus the novelty of these envelope cards – they aren’t technically postcards.
This card, however, caught a lucky break! It was sent through the mails at the 1₵ rate with no due markings. Looks like some postal workers in Michigan either didn’t know the rules or just played along.
Here’s wishing you all a lucky and happy Easter holiday!
If you’d like to learn more about collecting postcards, I recommend The Encyclopedia of Antique Postcards by Susan Brown Nicholson as a quick and easy starting book.