Kudzu Vintage Home News

Postcards From The ‘Zu

Posted on: January 23, 2012

It’s gonna be a crazy year this year (ya know – Presidential politics, Olympics, European debt crisis, end of the world), but Kudzu is ready! Thanks to you, we just had our best year ever, and you helped us find new homes, (yours!) for tens of thousands of The ‘Zu’s most fabulous finds. And for 2012, we resolve to search out even more delicious items to help make your home uniquely you.

We’re kicking off the New Year by introducing you to some of our most knowledgeable vendors and the unique items and expertise they bring to The ‘Zu. This month, we’ll chat with long time professional dealer Phillip Northman, who shared just one of his collecting passions – Postcards. Years ago, on a 9-month cross-country camping trip, he began sending postcards to friends – and got hooked on collecting them.

According to Phillip, postcards are, believe it or not, the most popular collectible.   More people collect postcards than coins and stamps put together — and their numbers keep increasing all the time, with clubs and shows that attract a very enthusiastic following. Postcard collecting even has a name – ‘deltiology’.

UK postal card, circa 1890

Postcards were first introduced around 1870, as a way for businesses to send bills and communicate with customers. Then, at the 1893

postcard from 1893 Chicago World's Fair

World’s Fair, someone got the bright idea to put pictures of the fair on postcards and sell them – and the modern picture postcard was born. Senders were required by law to only write the address of the recipient on the back of the postcard. It wasn’t until 1907 that the U.S. government passed legislation allowing ‘divided-back’ postcards. The phrase ‘weather is beautiful, wish you were here’ was invented soon afterward.

By that time in U.S. history, sending postcards had become quite the rage. In 1908 the country’s population was just over 88 million. The number of postcards sent that year? Close to 678 million — about 8 postcards for every man woman and child living in the U.S. at the time.

Postcards became so popular that people would buy handfuls – some to keep and some to send – and collecting came into vogue. That’s why many antique postcards have no writing on them at all-and for collectors those are worth more. (But personally, we always like to read about Cousin Louise telling Aunt Gertie what a lovely time she was having in Hot Springs.) This ‘Golden Age’ of postcards ended around 1915 and WWI.

The 1930’s saw the introduction of ‘linen’ paper, which gave postcards the look of being printed on cloth or linen. These are still some of the best and most collectible postcards you will find today, and they are recognizable by their finely textured surface and colorfully printed scenes.

After WWII, starting in the late 1940’s, modern ‘photochrome’ picture postcards began to dominate the market, and variations of that type are still in use today. The most collectible photochromes date from the late 40’s into the early ‘60’s.

Starting a postcard collection is fun, inexpensive, and easy. Many nice cards can be had for $2.00-$5.00, and even some of the best can be found for under $20.00. Many collectors start by focusing on one topic or area of interest, perhaps USA state cards from the ‘50’s, comic cards from the 30’s, or national parks from the 60’s.  And you can easily add to it from your own travels!

You’ll find hundreds of old postcards at the ‘ZU, including an always nice selection in Philip’s booth. Come have a look – maybe you’ll get lucky and Phillip (aka “The Prince of Postcards”) will be here. Ask for his advice, and then be sure to get his address and send him a postcard!


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