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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jason: Shopping for Postcards

I was in Iowa this weekend for a wedding – Fort Madison – a little city on the Mississippi that has a river boat casino, a couple of dive bars and nothing else. It’s the perfect place to devote a couple of hours to postcard shopping.

I want to share a couple of the postcards I purchased but I’ll get to that later tonight. For now I wanted to fill you in on my postcard purchasing techniques. You do this enough and you get a system down, you develop some rules.

Antique Malls are the way to go – they’re these large structures that lease space to local antique dealers. The one I went to in Iowa was two stories and represented about fifty or sixty dealers. What’s nice about this is that a lot of these guys put a shoebox out filled with postcards. So, whereas you go to an antique shop and there may be a box or two of postcards, the antique malls will have ten or twenty boxes of postcards to rifle through. I can easily spend several hours in an antique mall.


Don’t bother with the display cases. The cards in the cases are there because they’re more than five dollars, are in great condition and usually have no writing on them. And when they do have writing on them, it likely won’t be worth the five, ten, twenty dollars you’ll be paying for it. Stick to the shoeboxes and have some patience, you can get 40 shoebox cards for the price of one display case card sometimes.

The most expensive card featured in the book cost me a $1.25. Tom Beland’s using it for his story. Everything else cost twenty-five or fifty cents.


At an antique mall you could find yourself with thousands of postcards to look through – you need to know which ones to avoid.

Avoid any box that’s separated by state, so they’ll be a group of New York postcards, a group of California, etc. Most of these cards will be a simple, “Everything’s great in New York! Wish you were here!” Whereas you may find a good story on one of those, it’s not worth going through all of the worthless ones.

Cards written by Americans visiting foreign countries, however, tend to be gold. One of our stories will feature such a card. In fact, here’s a little Parisian café to excite you:

You can usually tell how old the card is by the front, but I prefer to flip the shoeboxes around and flip through the cards by looking at the backs – this way you see the stamp. The stamp is a good indication of how old the card is and, more importantly, whether or not it was sent out. The shoebox will often have an even mix of mailed and non-mailed cards.

I will likely read any card with a one-cent stamp and most cards with a two-cent stamp. I scan it first before giving it a good thorough read to see if there’s something that jumps out at me. I probably missed a lot of good postcards by not reading them all, but I found a lot of good ones by being able to hit multiple boxes. It evens out in the end, I’m sure.


Like I said, I found some great cards in Iowa and I’ll be sure to share them later. I’m actually going to be going to a postcard show this summer in Pennsylvania if anyone wants to join me and learn the ins and outs of postcard hunting. Everyone there will be buying rare photocards for fifty bucks and I’ll be digging through the postcard world’s version of the quarter bins.


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