Member Blogs > Words In The WindCollecting Interests Change With the Times

  • Sat, 20 Jul 2013 11:43:44    Permalink

    Recently I have had several discussions with various antiques, ephemera, and book dealers about changes in collecting interests. Antiques dealers cite the loss of interest in Victoriana, carnival glass, pressed glass, china, and many of the 1970s-80s collectibles that were issued for collectors. Booksellers note flagging interest in Western Americana, reference books that have been digitized online, and a slump in the collectible childrens books market. The last generations nostalgia moves along with the generations. Its a constant trend, and a sharp seller will not only note what is coming on, but will try to see what will be sought after in future. 
    As a dealer in ephemera including  postcards  -- I have, over the years, seen many changes in collecting interests involving  these little pasteboard artifacts. 40 years ago there was an earnest group of collectors seeking Pioneers (the earliest postal cards), Gruss  Aus (greetings from) as well as late 19thand early 20th Century artist-signed illustrated cards and cards on specific topics and holidays. Christmas, New Year, and scarcer holiday cards such as July 4th, President birthdays, Labor Day,  Groundhog Day, and Halloween were popular. In the 1940s, linen cards appeared and until the 1980s or so these were pretty much despised. The 1950s saw chrome (color cards with shiny surfaces) replace linen, and these are still mostly shunned.
    There was little interest, coming into the 1970s era, in Easter or Thanksgiving cards although some of the best-collected illustrators designed many of them.  I had a personal interest in cards depicting poultry, and I bought a considerable number of Easter and Thanksgiving cards during the time when they were sold for 25 cents, or five for a dollar, or some few special ones were even a dollar or so. I favored cards with chickens and other barnyard fowl, which led to rabbits and hares and other offshoots, such as anthropomorphic versions of the same subjects animals dressed in human clothing, playing human games, driving vehicles such as autos and trains. Another sidebar was animals pulling carts. (These were for my personal collection, which I still retain.) Beware that collecting postcards can lead to expanded interests! 
    These days, some of  these cards are priced at shows for up to $35, even in these recessionary times, while Santa cards and Halloween, once the hottest of illustrated cards, now sell for half what they did a few years ago.  I also purchased the despised linen cards by the boxful. They are colorful, they reflect a post-war era in which Americans began to travel freely and frequently, and while many modern conveniences were in various increments of development. Social and gender attitudes were shifting. Many cards sported Art Deco and Streamline Art Moderne  graphic  styles, such as the World Fairs cards from 1933 Century of Progress, and the 1939-40 fairs in New York and San Francisco. Mid-Century autos, buses, trains, furniture, architecture, airlines, and recreational activities were depicted. Well lo! those cards are now also desirable.
    Moving into the early chrome era, there is a strong market developing, especially for Roadside America, motels, transportation, and other topics of a society on the go.  Images of movie stars, celebrities, and other personalities are sought.
    Be assured that post-1970 cards will be moving up in the collecting market. There are already some collecting clubs and websites specializing in modern cards. Some are there to spoof the extremes of advertising and imagery, such as Bad Postcards:
    A new eBay store (GoCatchEmCards)  features similar material: 

    Interior with piano and sheet music, decorated
    for Valentine's Day
    Another category that was largely ignored until the past few decades is Real Photo cards. There was a time when these (often sepia-toned) cards were considered to be boring. Small town street scenes held little interest.

    Portland Oregon Rose Festival, 1905 (real photo)

    Real photos of events, vehicles, occupations, architecture, disasters, and other subjects of historical interest did not catch on until people began to realize that these were often one of a kind, or that they depicted places and lifestyles and so forth as little time capsules of the past. They are about the hottest collecting area right now. 
    Poster cards like these for the
    New Orleans Jazz Festival will
    be collected for their graphics, as well
    as for their association with music,
    jazz, and New OrleansThis barely touches the subject, of course. But bear in mind that what is disregarded by one generation becomes interesting to the next. Look around for some minor or overlooked collecting areas for hidden gems or merchandise that could appreciate. Look at other collecting genres for ideas. 1970s fashions, changes in gender perception, automobile images, environmental and social movements, hippies and flower children, rock star icons and concerts, racial issues, even riots and recent wars could yield some compelling collecting areas. There are collectors of cards depicting sports (golf, baseball teams, and bullfighting are popular topics), fishing, humor (of many shades). Interiors of hotels, restaurants, diners, groceries and other establishments are of increasing interest. 
    The point is, desirability (of anything collectible) changes with the times, frequently moving forward as nostalgia inspires newer collectors. Hence Mid-Century Modern, a style that was of little interest 20 years ago except perhaps for some high-end furniture by regarded designers, or some Swedish Modern styles in glassware, furniture, etc., is now a hot collecting area. Postcards that depict this visual vocabulary will not be far behind.

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