Is simply looking at pictures on postcards becoming humdrum? Maybe it’s time to investigate some more of the many categories included under the general heading of “novelty postcards.”
One of the more unusual topics to collect is add-ons. This refers to postcards with material attached to the card itself. You may have seen some of the more common add-ons already. Silk was often affixed to postcards as part of the clothing of women, children and, more notably, silk-suited Santa Claus cards.
Velvet and other textured fabrics were often used to create a different look and a nice tactile experience for the person getting the card. A very popular souvenir chrome postcard from the 1950s through the 1970s was an actual boll of cotton in a small plastic bag, attached to postcards from “down south.” Similarly, some souvenir cards from Salt Lake City came complete with a bag of salt from the Great Salt Lake.
The fun thing about collecting add-ons is that the sky’s the limit. You can build quite a collection, with each card containing a different type of item attached to it. Here are some examples from my collection:
At first glance, I thought this postcard (above) was a handmade one-of-a-kind. But a look at the reverse side shows a commercial postcard back, though no publisher is identified. The caption refers to still having the money stash—a major feat during the early 1900s when traveling or relocating from place to place.
The words feel like a felt or velvety fabric, carefully attached to the card. The red leather purse, unfortunately, is missing its metal clasp. Its flap opens, and a small note, or even a coin, could be tucked inside. I’m not sure where the sender, Florence, went, but the message on the back notes that, “Donna are I are having a hot time.” It was 1907, so I’m sure they were referring to the climate.
This is a very rare card, and I have yet to see one exactly like it in excellent condition. Even without the clasp and with the writing on the front, I would expect it to fetch $15 to $20 online or at a postcard show.
This metal dog is looking longingly at the game birds flying overhead. Due to their weight, metal add-ons are generally on heavier postcard stock. This pre-1908, undivided back, European-made postcard was mailed in the United States. While I don’t see metal add-ons often, I have seen some with elks, sent between members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Most of these are pre-1920 postcards.
I would expect to find metal add-ons in the $15 range online and at shows.
“This little football that I send, please do not kick about, my friend. ‘Tis not to exercise your shins, It’s simply meant to save your pins.” Imagine—a pincushion postcard! Sadly, mine is in only fair condition, with some of the red felt of the football worn away, possibly from the use for which it was intended. The fabric underneath is cotton, with the seam of the football sewn with green wool. The stitching outlining the football can be seen on the back.
Sent from a woman in Elkhart, Indiana, to her friend in Lake Mary, Florida, in 1908, this would have been a welcome surprise. While unusual, with some persistence you can find the occasional pincushion postcard online and at shows, usually in the $10 to $25 range, with condition being a major factor in the price.
Not politically correct to environmentalists today, you can still find some antique postcards with real bird feathers affixed. Often they adorn the bodies of the same type of bird or game fowl from which they came. Artist M. Kaufman created this image in Eastern Europe and adorned it with feathers. This pre-1908 undivided back postcard shows a publisher’s mark of “BK WI 764-10” on the back.
Feather postcards average $8 to $10. I’ve seen comic cards sell for $5 online, and postcards with feathers on the sumptuous boas or fans of beautiful women sell for up to $60.
Other add-on postcards include pre-1920 cards with buttons, usually as the faces of comic characters. These are quite expensive, generally selling for about $40, with some unusual button-faces going as high as $100 in excellent condition. Other pricey add-ons include pre-1920 European postcards showing beautiful women or children, with real hair affixed. A good selection of these can be found online in the $30 to $50 range.
More modern postcards from the 1940s to the 1960s, many crafted in Spain, show the traditional costumes of men and women with elaborate embroidery and fabrics attached. These can generally be found in the $5 to $10 range. These can be excellent buys now and can be expected to appreciate in value in years to come.
Can’t afford a Hawaiian vacation? Enjoy some actual sand from the Black Sands Beach in Puna, Hawaii, attached to this 1960s postcard. The plastic bag of sand is simply stapled to the card, which shows the beach from which it came. This is an A Nani Li’i (pronounced “Nonnie Le’e”, meaning “little beauty”) postcard, made by the H.S. Crocker Company. You should be able to find cards similar to this at shows in the $3 to $6 range.
Where were you when Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington erupted in 1980? After 123 years of dormancy, the disaster began with two months of steam venting and earthquakes. Finally, on May 18, 1980, the volcano exploded a hot mix of lava and pulverized rock. According to the description on the back of the postcard, the eruption had the force of a 50-megaton TNT blast—comparable to the largest nuclear weapon ever tested.
Not to let any opportunity pass by, postcard publisher Mike Roberts of California produced this card in 1980. It has a sample of genuine volcanic ash affixed to the front, covered with plastic for preservation. Not as common as you’d expect, you can sometimes find this card for sale in the $3 to $5 range.
And now for something completely different, we turn to postcards that have other uses. Though they’re modern, they’re difficult to find because people actually used them and then threw them away. These were all advertising postcards that were distributed free in public locations during the 1990s and early 2000s. You might find them as “sleepers” in dealer boxes of “rack cards” for under $1.
From Buena Vista Home Entertainment comes this paper-doll postcard. Advertising the VHS and DVD rental version of “Scary Movie,” this postcard was distributed by Boomerang of Great Britain in 2000 and 2001. Perforated for easy punching out, this stand-up Carmen Electra, starring as Drew Decker, probably graced many a college dorm room.
Another perforated punch-out postcard, this one doubled as a stand-up 1997 Christmas snow globe. From Maxracks cards, which had free postcard racks in more than 1,500 locations, the postcard was distributed to provide holiday wishes to eager fans.
Need a handy bookmark? The right side of this postcard is perforated and made to be torn off and used as one. NBC aired “The Odyssey” as a miniseries in 1997. Starring Armand Assante and Greta Scacchi, it retold the tale of Homer’s greatest epic, complete with state-of-the-art special effects. It was distributed by Go-Card throughout the U.S.
And I’ll leave you with something sweet and delicious—a recipe for pumpkin-pecan pie. Perforated so that you could remove the recipe-card box-sized instructions, this advertising postcard was distributed by Preferred Properties in Center Harbor, New Hampshire. The backside is a printed ad, touting the skills of real-estate professionals Rosemary Uicker and Ellen Mulligan. It’s a clever way to keep your name and contact information in someone’s kitchen for a long, long time.
Bonnie Wilpon, the author of “Postcard History of Sarasota and Bradenton, FL,” and “Postcard History of Hollywood, FL.” (published by Arcadia Books), is a Worthologist who specializes in postcards.
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