Groans and Grins: Collecting Punny Postcards


This postcard of interest (pun intended) falls within the Linen Comic genre, generally priced from 50¢ to $3. Just a bit risqué, with the lovely lady showing a lot of leg and the top of her nylon stocking.

Many postcard collectors have serious collections. They’re interested in preserving home town history, amassing and cataloguing every postcard printed by a particular publisher or studying the changes in technology over time. But sometimes, postcards are just plain fun!

Collecting humorous cards that tickle your fancy is a great hobby. A wide array of comic cards, both old and new, can be purchased in the 25¢-to-$2-range, so it’s an affordable collection for newbies.

My “fun” collections include local humor (cities and states poking fun at their unique foibles), funny faces (both people and animals) and cards that make me giggle for no apparent reason.

And I especially enjoy my collection of punny postcards. A pun is a trick of the word—a surprise in a sentence—a phrase that leads us down one mental path until our minds “get it” and appreciate its double meaning. A good pun (whether verbal or on a postcard) is just as likely to elicit a groan as a grin!

Puns on postcards have the advantage of the visual image to help the reader “catch it” more quickly. Even during the pre-1920s postcard era, like mild limericks, puns were often slightly racy or suggestive.

It’s this collection that’s most often enjoyed by my non-postcard collecting friends. If you set out a small album of these cards on your coffee table, or tuck a few in frames placed unobtrusively around a room, your visitors will reward you with smiles. They may even be reminded of funny jokes or incidents to share with you. This can make a visit from the in-laws much more palatable!

Here are some of my favorites:

“Carrying out your orders” had a totally different connotation during World War One, when this postcard was most likely published. The grocery deliveryman’s closed eyes, intent frown, no-nonsense long stride and smoking cigarette let us know he takes his job quite seriously. Pre-20s, valued at $2.

Bamforth Comics (generally $1-$3), published both in Holmfirth, England and New York City, were popular throughout the first half of the 20th century. This insurance man has caught his prospect when she was not “fully covered.”

This Bamforth is a lovely example of a purely visual pun. The words themselves are very straightforward. But the shopkeeper’s blithe misunderstanding of what the gentleman wants when he asks for something to keep his hair in creates the humor . . . when he holds up a rather large box. Was he misunderstanding—or was this the jab of a working class man to a high-class one? The store interior, with its signs and displays, makes this an especially nice card.

Sometimes, when it comes to puns, I suppose you just have to spell it out. This pre-1908 undivided back postcard was printed by several different publishers and must have been a favorite of teachers everywhere. I’ve found several of these at shows for 50¢ apiece.

Understatement can be exquisite. There were never any buffalo or bison known to inhabit the area of Buffalo, N.Y.. I snagged this 1903 postcard from a 25¢ box at a postcard show. Printed in Buffalo, it also fits into my “local humor” collection.

Another slightly risqué card, this pun gives us verbal permission to say something forward without using any untoward words. A modern, standard size chrome comic like this can often be found for less than $1. Matted and framed, this card would be a fabulous gift for your favorite bachelor golfer.

And last, but not by any means least, the consummate card for the collector of punny postcards . . . a “pitcher post card” of course! (groan . . .)


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