antique christmas card

Vintage and antique postcard collecting can be an enjoyable trip through time and space. American, Canadian, and European postcards are en vogue and are a lot of fun to hunt for at auctions online and in shops. The technical term for postcard collecting is deltiology. It’s one of the most popular collectibles. An antique postcard can give a glimpse into the society, culture, and economy of the time. The “penny post card” or “picture post card,” have been collectibles since their inception in the 1890s.

Picture post cards are interesting both as art and as historic photography. An antique postcard can be a snapshot of history – a photo of the Coney Island Boardwalk at the turn of the century or of downtown Chicago is not only a pretty picture postcard, but also a relic of a time past and of a scenery that has since changed greatly.

What are hot collectibles in the world of the picture postcard? Holiday postcards from the turn of the century through pre-WWII are popular. Halloween postcards are the most sought after with certain illustrations selling for as much as $300. Christmas cards with a Santa Claus illustration is also in demand and can be more expensive. Average vintage cards are priced below $10. If a card is by a well-known publisher or includes an illustration from a notable artist it can be considerably more valuable. Names to look for include publishers John Winsch, Raphael Tuck & Sons and International Art Publishing. Some popular artists are Ellen Clappsaddle, Samuel Schmuker, Frances Brundage, and Louis Wain. Picture postcards of your hometown or neighborhood, or of landmark buildings from your city can make for great collectibles. Collecting postcards of a vacation spot from other decades can make for a good collection as well.

There are many reproductions out there but an original will show age and might be embossed. A recommended guide to collecting is The Postcard Price Guide by J.L. Marshburn.

  • Jim

    I am a private post card collector/seller. I have a few (14) antique post cards that I am selling. If you think that you might be interested I will scan and Email them to you.
    Thank you,

    • Bonnie Wilpon

      Hi Jim –

      You can contact me at:

      Let me know what you collect as well – I may have some items of interest for you.

      Happy collecting – Bonnie Wilpon

  • Thomas….
    Please define “antique” and “vintage” when applied to postcards.
    By the old recognized definition of antique, it used to mean an article that was around 100 years old, anything less was usually considered a “collectible”.
    Vintage is a term that applies to the year an item was made or manufactured, not a very descriptive word without the year, like “vintage 1995”. You wouldn’t order a “vintage” wine without specifing the year.
    Everything, new or old, has a vintage, whether it be vintage 1888 or vintage 2010, so how does this vintage, as a description, apply to postcards?

    • Bonnie Wilpon

      Hi Richard –

      Like you, I’ve seen the word “vintage” misused, especially when it comes to postcards! It seems as though sellers hope collectors think the word means ‘really old and valuable’, when it just means ‘originally of the period, as opposed to a reproduction’.

      If I saw the correctly-applied term “vintage linen postcard”, I would know it was truly made during the 1930s-early 1950s linen era. There are some postcard repros out there that have the linen texture but were made this year… although they look like linens, they’re not “vintage”.

      Happy collecting – Bonnie Wilpon

  • I have a good size collection of cards been thinking of selling then its hard to make up my mind to do it. 🙂

  • I had a little difficulty getting the right word to describe my dated items displayed on my website. Collectibles might be OK but I’m thinking of them more as memorabilia in that they could potentially trigger memories of times when the items were actually used. My relatives have passed down a few “Niagara” post cards which surely must be vintage (post marked 1905). I keep these in plastic not really knowing what to do with them except bring them out and enjoy them; especially after I’ve read good articles like yours about postcards. Jim

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