As I work with clients in preparation for downsizing, one of the most common things we come across are boxes of old postcards.

These old cards can be beautiful, funny and can often provoke sentiment, but are they of any value? There is really no simple answer to this question. Age, topic matter and condition all definitely come into play but so does subject popularity, which can change at a moments notice.

While postcards require many years of study to fully understand, there are some basic points to watch for to help you know if your collection merits an appraisal. Keep in mind that 90% of all postcards have little monetary value. However, there are those that surface occasionally that can be quite valuable. While postcards date back to the 1840's, it is the cards from 1900-1960 that are the most popular to collect. Here are some pointers on what to watch for.

One determinant of value is age. The 5 recognized age groups are: The "Golden Age" {1901-1907} The Divided Back Era {1907-1915}, The Early Modern or White Border Era {1915-1930}, The Linen Era {1930-1945 } and The Modern Chrom Era {1939-Present}. It is also important to note that cards that are 5' by 3" or larger were only manufactures in the US from 1960 forward.

Collectors are particularly found of subject cards including animals, children, glamour and comics. Watch for artist signed cards bearing the maker's full name, initials or monogram. The cards themselves were not actually signed by the artist but are reproductions of signed works. Values of these vary greatly depending on the artist who's work is represented.

English artist, Louis Wain was known for his pictures of large-eyed cats. Collectors of animal cards love these unusual depictions of our feline friends as evidenced by their going price of $90-$200. In the glamour category both Art Nouveau and Art Deco cards are in demand. Watch for the work of Austrian pin-up illustrator, Rapheal Kichner. His more risque cards are currently bringing as much as $300. Margaret W Tarrant and Frances Brundage are names to watch for on cards featuring children. Ellen Clapsaddle is considered the most prolific postcard artist of the 20th Century. Her illustrations of children and animals as well as her holiday cards have an appreciative following.

Everybody loves a good laugh and postcard collectors are no exception. Comic postcards from the early 1900's are highly collectible especially those with a political theme. Cards mocking those running for office, war time enemies and the American suffrage movement were common topics addressed in this era. Many of the suffrage cards featured men doing what were perceived as "women's" tasks like doing laundry or giving a baby a bottle. You will find most of the political cards void of a postmark as the topics illustrated were so controversial that they we usually exchanged in person rather than sent through the mail.

Condition is crucial in valuing postcards. Cards are graded according to their condition, as follows. M-Mint --without wear or flaws, as though if just came from the printing press. Ex-Excellent-- with no obvious defects or soil on the picture side and no writing on the back. VG-Very Good- Only minor defects with no soil, wear or writing. G-Good - having light damage and wear, writing is acceptable if done neatly. F-Fair Excessive soil, wear and damage. Cards in "Fair" condition are not considered collectible.

Just when you think you have the valuation of postcards all figured out, rarity falls into the mix. A good example would be railroad cards which are normally found for $5 or less. A exception that recently surfaced was an early 1900's card showing a black Chain Gang in Ashville, North Carolina. This little gem, that was purchased for a few dollars at an estate sale, turned out to have a value of $520! Until next time...Linda

Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or lkennett@indy.rr.com.

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