The Postcard Time Machine: Using Postcards Creatively

“Gee, these old postcards are cool—but I’m not really a collector,” say several of my friends. Some tell me that they have a few old postcards that were sent to family members, and they just don’t know what to do with them. Let’s explore some ideas for interesting things can you do with postcards.

Create a Unique Display for your Home
It’s easy to buy a picture from a department store to hang on the wall. But here’s how to create something that no one else will ever have; an heirloom that you can pass along to your children.

Pick out three to six postcards that touch on the interests of each family member. Decide how you want to lay them out in a pleasing manner, taking into account color, subject and balance.
For example, my friends Scott and Mary Ellen have a teenage son, Josh. Mary Ellen has an extensive clown collection, while Scott likes nothing better than to be out on the Gulf of Mexico fishing. Josh loves animated TV shows and is an avid Family Guy fan. These are the postcards they selected for a small postcard collage in their hallway.

Pick out some postcards that touch on the interests of each family member, such as fishing, a love of clowns or television shows. Decide how you want to lay them out in a pleasing manner, taking into account color, subject and balance.

Pick out some postcards that touch on the interests of each family member, such as fishing, a love of clowns or television shows. Decide how you want to lay them out in a pleasing manner, taking into account color, subject and balance.

Then take them to a local framing shop to have them made up into a wall hanging. While custom framing can be expensive, having a mat cut is not. Make sure that the overall size of the mat fits into a standard size frame that you can buy inexpensively. And, voila, a piece that tells your visitors about your family and is a wonderful conversation-starter.

Create a Thoughtful Wedding or Anniversary Gift
You can use the same technique to put together a special gift for the person (or couple) that has everything. You can bet they won’t have one of these!

Marie’s grandparents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Grandpa was raised in DuBuque, Iowa, while Grandma grew up in Spartanburg, S.C. They fell in love when they both attended Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Grandpa was a career Army man, while Grandma loved arts and crafts, and sold Tupperware at home for extra money. Marie found the perfect postcards for their special anniversary collage.

For a 50th wedding anniversary, postcards related to different parts of the couple’s history was combined for a trip down memory lane: DuBuque, Iowa, Spartanburg, S.C., Florida Southern College in Lakeland, a parade at Fort Bragg, N.C., and a Tuppercraft advertisement postcard are all part of the couple’s history.

For a 50th wedding anniversary, postcards related to different parts of the couple’s history was combined for a trip down memory lane: DuBuque, Iowa, Spartanburg, S.C., Florida Southern College in Lakeland, a parade at Fort Bragg, N.C., and a Tuppercraft advertisement postcard are all part of the couple’s history.

Collage Souvenir Box
This is a great project for adults or children, or to work on together. Using postcards (old or new) and other items, you can make a family keepsake box in which to store souvenirs of family vacations.

First, find a large shoebox, or any type of box with a lid.

Next, cut out images from the postcards you want to use. Don’t forget to include the names of the places you’ve visited. You can use photos, maps and pictures from travel brochures as well, to mix it up a bit. Experiment with different shapes and edges (such as rough tears or pinking shears).

Lay out the images where you want them. Overlapping them and using several angles and orientations will make your box more interesting. You may want to create a background first, using wallpaper, wrapping paper or even tin foil.

White glue is best, though some prefer rubber cement so that items can be moved for a short time after placing them, without damage. Let the collage dry well (at least overnight) before touching it.

This keepsake is box made from photos, but using postcards works just as well. If you’re a purist, think of this as a fun way to recycle damaged or bent postcards.

This keepsake is box made from photos, but using postcards works just as well. If you’re a purist, think of this as a fun way to recycle damaged or bent postcards.

Last but not least, fill the box with your travel souvenirs!

You can make a similar box, using postcard cutouts of your favorite things. A place to store sewing supplies? Use postcards showing vintage clothing or advertising. Handy storage for important papers or grooming tools for your pet? You guessed it—cat, dog, fish or bird postcards are out there, just waiting for you to find them.

If you have old postcards with wonderful messages on the back, you can display them so that both sides show. Of course, there are pocket photo albums that allow you to do this. Or, you can purchase an inexpensive clear standing plastic photo frame, pop in your postcard are set it on a shelf where admirers can view either side.

Let your imagination run wild, and create one-of-a-kind displays and storage for yourself, or as a wonderful gift for a friend or family member. Postcard are for everyone— not just for collectors!


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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