US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Feb. 19, 2024: Collectibles can be anything

Postcards can provide collectible opportunity, especially when they have a numismatic theme.

Images provided by Fred Weinberg.

Whenever I encounter a story that delves into the way things used to be, a series of thoughts begins, leading to the point of distraction. It happened again with Jeff Starck’s cover story for the March Monthly edition of Coin World, dealing with postcards.

Like many, I come from an era where we once did things differently, and communication is high on the list of those things. I have paid massive phone bills for long-distance calls. I have required the assistance of an operator to reach out to loved ones. I have bought stamps by the roll from waiting in line at the post office. I have sent postcards, where the world could read my newly learned cursive handwriting in my messages to my grandparents. I have even written “Having a good time. Wish you were here” on the back of a stamped piece of cardboard with a funny picture of a dog wearing sunglasses on the other side.

Postcards still exist, but the so-called “penny postcard,” named for the amount you had to pay to mail your message, has another purpose as well. While there’s nothing stopping you from doing it, they are no longer mailed in the volume of the days gone by. Today, however, the most practical purpose of the postcard is as a souvenir keepsake. The collectability of the postcard has not changed. It still provides an economic reminder of a special place visited or a special occasion, and that only solidifies the collectability.

That’s where the message begins to resonate. We have heard that collectors collect, even if one doesn’t understand the attraction. In the case of our cover story, the attraction is clear — there is a numismatic connection for these postcards. The images themselves offer the tie-in to the collector’s intent.

Many classify postcards in the category of ephemera, defined as “vintage printed or written items which originally served some specific purpose and were not expected be retained or preserved, but which are now cherished.” Hobbies like coin collecting and stamp collecting tend to get the most attention, but collectors can be found wherever you turn.

The collecting realm can be general or, such as this case, specific. Clubs are formed when like minds gather. Postcard societies are found around the world. They keep the fire burning about the value of the postcard as a means of preserving history. Many times, at collector shows, you’ll find vendors offering postcards. If you ever want to take a serious stroll down memory lane, this is the place to start.

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