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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


Ephemeral Assays: Face Cards

In the glorious pantheon of postcard production, glamorous nameless head shots are not usually valuable or noteworthy. They certainly liven up my refrigerator though, clinging poly-protected to the polished white slopes amid an avalanche of magnets, child artwork, contact info, stickers, reminders, and more modern graphics. Of this assemblage, only five of fourteen are postally used, and all were either picked up in box lots or purchased very cheaply.


Group One. Are one or two of these the same person or what? I’ve been trying to decide for years now. Two different French publishers, one Italian. Nicely composed and hand-colored, bobbed, be-flowered. The one in the middle is by the door handle, always saying something like, “Do you really need that sandwich and cold beer at two in the morning?”


Group Two. Beautiful half-tones, radiant skin, natural hair, lips that have not been reshaped, earthy, wistful. A numbered series, probably early Russian movie stars. Translating the Cyrillic, one is named something like Vlyublennaya, and the other also looks like a mouthful.


Group Three. Maiden with sprigs. Sent to Mrs. L. Mason, 2 Bramley Road, The Fosse, Leicester. Can’t quite make out the cancellation date on the green half penny stamp. “Dear Laurie. So many thanks for the magazines. I like it very much indeed. I hope that you have not had too many pancakes today. I feel that I should like one now. I have not had any for many years. I have been to see Mrs. H. and she was out. Mr. Hargrove is much better I am glad to say. I hope to have the pleasure of your company soon. I am about the same. I hope you are quite well. Ever your loving friend Lizzie.”


Group Four. In a blue mood. “Vive Marie” card made in France and sent to Brussels by one Georgette dated 1923. “Gladys Cooper” is perfectly composed on her bench. She has fallen off the most, and needs a better fridge magnet.


Group Five. Miss Queen Vincent and Miss Isabel Elson. Both by Rotary Photo read, “This is a hand-painted real photograph of a British beauty.”


Group Six. Fully framed in pearls. No. 1170 in some unidentified series, the caption is cryptic, the word “postcard” printed on the reverse in fifteen languages with no publishing information. But there she is, as she once was.


Group Seven. Two more flower girls. I don’t like the 1906 pink shouldered one so much and she is in imminent danger of losing her spot. Too gloomy, and the tinting is clumsy. The other includes this message. “If ever you should send me any books at any time, please only put A. Ogden or Alice Ogden. I don’t mind at all & would rather you did not put Miss, if you don’t mind.”


Group Eight. The menacing Jwan Mosjukin is on hand to remind everyone who the fairer sex is, and to keep a piercing eye on all of the above. “Reproduction verboten,” his face card commands. Maybe it’s time Jwan moved on as well.

Shawn Purcell operates Balopticon Books & Ephemera and can be contacted at

IOBA Standard, Summer Edition 2007, Volume 8, No. 3.




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