How to Value Old Postcards

Postcards were initially produced in the nineteenth century, but they took a long time to become widespread since many people disliked the thought of sending messages that everyone might see.
Today, many people around the world are completely hooked on collecting postcards. It may come as a surprise, but some of those postcards cost a fortune, While others cost nothing. But even those that cost less than $1 can offer you a precious glimpse into the past of different cultures.
Some people collect postcards as a hobby, while others turn it into a profitable business. You buy it for $1 today and sell it for $10 later. Consequently, understanding how to value old postcards is critical in this industry.

How to Value Old Postcards?

The most pressing concern on postcard collectors' minds is "How to determine the value of old postcards?". To properly answer that question, the collector should consider his cards' quality, rarity, age, and subject matter.

Condition

The one factor that has the most significant impact on postcard values is their condition. As with any other item, Damaged postcards are worth significantly less than those meticulously maintained in a safe place for decades.
However, there are times when a damaged card is the only option you have, and you may keep some in your collection to hold a spot until a better card is discovered.
Several condition guidelines have been published over the years, and they all use the same standardized terminology, which is as follows:
  • Mint: A flawless card that is just as it was when it was first printed. Without bends, folds, or writing, unposted and in perfect condition.
  • Near Mint: The cards show slight aging marks and minor discoloration from being preserved in an album. Unlike mint, nearly mint cards have been lightly used before storage.
  • Excellent: Without curves, folds, or holes, the appearance is close to mint. The corners of the card are square, neither rounded nor blunt. It can be used or unused. The address side may feature some handwritings, which may show signs of aging.
  • Very Good: Minor flaws include relatively blunt or rounded corners, album marks, minor creases or folds, and scribbles on both sides.
  • Good: visible blunt corners, folds, heavy handwriting, and postmarking. Although postcard buyers usually try to avoid these relatively low-quality (low grade) cards, they are still collectible by many collectors around the world.
  • Fair: A postcard with writing or a thick postmark removal that scratches the image and negatively affects its appearance. The worth of these cards would be greatly influenced by rarity, but not all collectors would be interested in cards in this condition.
  • Poor or Space Filler: missing corners and deterioration on one or both sides, especially if the picture was spoiled.
Mint postcards are generally more valuable than other grades. However, in some cases, lower-grade postcards can be more expensive than mint ones. For example, if a large quantity of high-quality pieces is kept, even though they are very old, they will lose their worth. Since collectors, after all, are looking for unique products.

Rarity

The rarity of postcards, as with all collectibles, increases their value. The card may be extremely valuable if only a limited number were printed or if only a few have survived. Rarity, however, is linked to other features; for example, if just one card was printed, it is rare.
However, if the picture is unimpressive or the postcard is a new release, rarity won't be of much value because it may be the only one, but no one is interested in it.

Age

Depending on the type of card, an 1880 postcard could be worth much more than one from just a few years ago.
Postcards from the pioneer era, which were printed in the US between 1873 and 1897, are regarded among the most valuable ones. There is nothing but the address on the backside. Up until the early 1900s, the postal office banned people from writing notes on the backsides of postcards.
The most valuable and oldest picture postcard in the world was mailed to Theodore Hook, Esq. in 1840 and was purchased by Eugene Gomberg for £31.758 at the London Stamp Exchange Ltd. Auctions in Heathfield, the UK in March 2002.

Subject Matter

Postcards can be either topographical or topical cards.

Topographical Postcards

Most postcards fall under the category of "topographical" or "topo" postcards, which depict an actual view. People collect topo cards for a variety of reasons. It could be a local area where they lived or photographs of churches where their past relatives were married.
Topographical cards are divided into two types:
  • Real Photographic Postcards: During the peak of the global postcard obsession, The Eastman Kodak Company invented the postcard camera in 1903. The machine generated a postcard-sized negative that could be printed directly onto a blank card, enabling the capturing of very detailed sceneries.
  • Printed Topographic Postcards: These were made as a printed pattern of dots on a printing press. These cards are more prevalent than the real photographic ones, and so they have far lower worth.

Topical Postcards

Topical cards, such as those created by the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, include advertisements and reminders of special events. In addition, topical cards were often used to illustrate tragedies like fires and entertainment events, and to promote politicians.
Many other factors can affect the value of a postcard, including the signature of the artist. For instance, Postcards by well-known illustrators like Ellen Clapsaddle, who is widely regarded as the most creative souvenir/postcard artist of her generation, are more desired than those made by other artists.The origin of the cards can also significantly affect their value. For example, unique cards from unusual areas can bring in large sums of money compared to those made in major countries such as Germany or America.

Conclusion

To value old postcards, you should examine your card and take a good look at the card's quality, the image on it, any distinctive features, the age, and the demands of the market. All of these factors will influence its worth.
Now that you know how to look at your cards with expert eyes, you are ready to create your own collection that may one day be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more.