Postcard Collecting - The New Wave

Mucha card Postcard
Collecting is a fantastic hobby. Got limited space? You can fit a collection of hundreds of postcards into a few three-ring binders, using pages that you can buy from your nearest photo or hobby shop. You can point out to your partner that it's a lot better than collecting vintage cars, juke boxes, old cash registers, or anything else if limited space.

Whatever your working background, wherever you live, and whatever turns you on, you can find a postcard topic that relates to it. Art in the style of, or by, Alphonse Mucha or other famous poster artists was produced in postcard format. You can only hang so many posters on your walls beside pictures of your kids and your holidays, but you can fit hundreds of postcards into a few binders! Shipping? Wars? Cars? Airplanes? Movie stars? Baseball? First Nations? Halloween? Gas Stations? Post Offices? Banks? Yes to all of these. You can even build a collection of 'pretty girls' on 'naughty' postcards (but you probably won't find any in a 'dollar box'!)

Postcard collecting is reportedly now the #3 most popular hobby ?after stamp collecting and coin collecting. Affordability, availability, variety, entertainment value, and the excitement of the never-ending search for that special card will move the tide of postcards even further up the collecting ladder in coming years. Here's why.

First Nations card

You want to be able to build a meaningful collection at a price that doesn't require you to further mortgage your home. At postcard shows, there are thousands of offerings between a dollar and five dollars, and you will also often find 'dollar boxes' of cards at shows, where you can spend hour upon pleasant hour looking through 'neat' images that you don't collect, while looking for specimens of the subject that you do collect.

Kyle Jolliffe, President of the Toronto Postcard Club (, began collecting cards of New York City as recently as six or seven years ago. Kyle now has more than 500 different cards of New York images, with many views dating back a hundred years or more. Kyle notes that "I can follow the development of architecture, cars, clothing styles, restaurant interior design, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and a many other New York trends ?all at my fingertips." Most of these cards were acquired at a cost of only a dollar or two each. Bill Carveth, a long-time member of the Toronto Postcard Club, collects Toronto and vicinity postcards. He recalls that "When I began collecting, cards that were 50 years old were from the early 1900s. Now, 50-year old cards have some great images from the 1950s. And if you're into 'retro', a 1950s postcard sure costs a lot less than buying a vintage '55 Chevy automobile!"

Stadium Card
Yes, there are cards that can cost you a hundred or two hundred dollars ? or even more. They may be woven silk cards, 'Real Photo' images of high profile subjects like the Titanic, or old photos of sports teams. But there's also a chance that you may find one or more of these cards in a general dealer's 'dollar' item box. With the detective instincts of a 'Sherlock Holmes' and a bit of luck, you never know what treasure awaits you.


A neighbour recently gave me a box of several hundred cards that she had found in her late mother's belongings. They ranged from views of European vacation spots to 1950s and 60s images of Florida. In today's market, these cards are so common that if she had tried to sell them to a dealer, they would have brought little more than a few dollars. But there were some pictures of Holiday Inns of the era, and there are people who collect 50s and 60s cards of hotels. And 50s and 60s views of their home town. And a wide range of other 'retro' images, from the early 1900s onward. When you consider that in the period prior to 1914 there were billions of cards produced, you can easily understand why there are many really interesting cards, greetings, images, and others - readily available at prices to suit all budgets..

Toronto (Simpsons interior) card
Sure you're eventually going to find that there's a card that you absolutely must have that you can't find, but there's lots of postcard and paper shows right across the country that you can attend to look for them. And there's probably a postcard club in your area.

Then there are modern free cards. Some antiques shows and a number of retail stores offer promotional postcards, such as the four IKEA postcards that were free on a rack at the exit of the IKEA store that I visited recently. In looking at a batch of free cards in front of me, I note liquor brands, book dealers, restaurants, travel, clothing shops, bars, garden shows, and other topics all with a lot of great pictures.


Holiday Inn card
Shirley Avery, Past President of the Toronto Postcard Club, collects nursing and hospital images. As a nurse, she is fascinated with the background and history of hospitals and the nursing profession.

Gary Peck, a Sudbury resident, collects Northern Ontario cards ?disasters, hotels, restaurants, buildings, events, and so on. Gary sees his collection as a profile of the history of the Northern Ontario region, and a heritage for his family and community.

The list is endless. Some of the more unusual topics which people collect? How about black bordered cards to record a national death (e.g. presidents, royalty). Or defunct major league baseball stadiums? Or shipping disasters (better have lots of money with you if you're buying Titanic cards!) There's something on this wave to suit every swimmer in the hobby.

Red Star Line card Entertainment Value
Postcard collecting is a hobby that's like the sport of hunting. There's the 'hunt' for interesting items, there's the 'kill' when you find them, and then there's the 'feast' when you come home and add your finds to your collection and contemplate your success. Who says that we're no longer a hunter/gatherer society?

Postcards can also lead you into research. Some 'Real Photo' and other photo cards have images that were taken by a photographer who is not identified. Searches of images in local, provincial and even national archives may lead you to an identified and attributed image identical to the one on your card. You tend to find that when you collect postcards, you flow into other branches of ephemera.


You never know what you're going to find. At a recent Buffalo show, I found four gorgeous Red Star Line ocean liner cards of the 1920s that I had never seen before in 20+ years of collecting. The art nouveau images were delightful and almost erotic, and the colours were equally compelling.

Yes, I confess, I collect 'Ocean Liner' postcards. Part of the excitement comes from some of the messages (stories of seasickness and skipped meals, but also of shipboard romances ?would you write racy comments that you might not want the postman to read? ?as well as more routine messages.)

Hesperian card
One of the most interesting messages is a 1915 one describing the boarding of troops at Montreal onto the passenger liner Hesperian. She was torpedoed and sunk later in that voyage, by the same German submarine that, later in the same year, sank the Lusitania (which also sailed as a civilian passenger liner). Does that mean that the Lusitania, despite all the subsequent denials, was also carrying tools of war?

So I guess that you could say that I have jumped on the 'ocean liner postcard wave'. It's been a long and satisfying ride. Why don't you join the thousands of postcard collectors on whichever postcard topic's wave turns you on. You'll have an ocean of pleasure in your hobby.

John Sayers is a member of the Executive of the Toronto Postcard Club and the Board of The Ephemera Society of America. For more information about postcards check out