This week I’m looking at how to date real photo postcards, also known as RPPCs. These cards range in value depending on what it is portrayed on them. For example, cards that show old farm implements or blacksmith shops are worth much more than those that simply show people. Cards of people like the one on the right are only of interest to collectors if they include items like toys or interesting fashion items or have other unique qualities.
RPPCs have unique stamp boxes based on their publisher. What is great about these is that they allow collectors to put an approximate date on any card they might find, as long as they can see the stamp box. Ron Playle has an excellent site where individuals can buy and sell postcards and other paper items. One of the resources he has on his site is a guide to help identify the date a real photo postcard was published based on its stamp box. For example, the stamp box on the back of the postcard shown on the left looks like this:
By going to the Playle site, I can see that there are 12 different types of AZO stamp boxes. To determine the correct one, I need to look at the triangles on the corners. This one has two facing up and two facing down. That puts this card in the range of 1910 to 1930.
Real Photos are like little moments in history. Some can be quite funny like one I recently had of a heavyset woman. On the back, she had written, “What do you think of my weight loss?” Part of the fun is reading notes like this as we look back in time and realize that times really haven’t changed as much as we would all like to think.
World War II was fought between September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945. This global war pitted the Allies led by Great Britain, Russia, and eventually the United States against the Axis Powers led by Germany, Italy, and Japan. Postcard collectors can find a wealth of cards that give a number of perspectives on this global conflict. A number of people like to collect cards that feature Nazi Germany including Hitler cards and ones that contain propaganda and swastikas like the one shown to the right, or cards from the other axis powers. Other collectors focus on the war efforts against the totalitarian regimes of the Axis Powers. Scenes like the following of the scene at the Reception Center at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. As you can see on the back of the postcard, it is stamped “Avenge Pearl Harbor! We’ll set the Rising Sea.
Because the postcard was sent by someone in the military, they were able to mail it for free. That’s why the ‘Place Stamp Here’ box is marked out. The card is postmarked 1942 from Camp Crowder, Maryland.
Postcards are so fascinating as they capture moments in time from our past. Just looking through them deepens my connection with the past and the people who sent them.
Many of my friends have asked me if postcards are really worth anything. I cite personal examples of cards like one of the Danvers Insane Hospital located in Danvers, Massachusetts that I personally sold for over $100.00.The card brought a lot of interest because it has been the inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft’s Arkham Sanatorium along with being used in the movie Session 9. Its exterior even made an appearance as the insane asylum in the video game Painkiller. However, it is also known as the birthplace of the lobotomy. Finally, Danvers used to be called Salem Village and the home of the judge who presided over the Salem Witch Trials was once located on the same grounds. With all that background, it might not be hard to see why the card brought so much money.
However, cards worth over $100 are not very common. A number of cards do fall in the $15-25 cards. These include real photo postcards (RPPCs) that have unique images like blacksmith shops or include old automobiles They also include many Halloween cards and some Santa’s. However, a much greater number of cards can sell for $3-$5 apiece. Therefore, it is easy to see how a collection could quickly add up.
On March 22, 2016, 200 cards sold in an auction in England for £40,000. These were all real photos of small town life in Sussex County. Obviously, this is not the normal price for most postcard collections. However, it does show that postcards do retain value and can be worth quite a lot.