We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Old postcards reflect the American ambivalence toward alcohol and drunkeness - there are many images that make light of drunken men and their behavior.  We show a couple of examples here. 

 The colorful fellow in the barrel seems to be happy to be drunk, while the fellow with a candle stumbling toward bed illustrates another view of the inebriated citizen, befuddled and defensive. 

The camel quote below is a popular postcard theme, and is available with a variety of illustrations.  The sentiment is pro-alcohol, implying that no one in their right mind would want to do without.

On the other hand, the prevalence of alcoholism and the problems it posed to many families in the early 1900s, where the weekly paycheck was spent on liquor at the local saloon instead of paying for rent and food, was present in anti-alcohol images on postcards.  Here is a play on words using the popular image of a dog listening to a gramophone...instead of the musical horn, we see a large funnel set into a liquor bottle and the caption tells us the true meaning.  

If you have not yet seen the Ken Burns series on Prohibition, you may find it intriguing and educational.  The series outlines the ambivalence toward alcohol use, the conflicting factors on the political scene, and the unintended consequences of prohibition.  (For instance, did you know that Prohibition promoted the rapid growth of organized crime in America?)  On the side of instituting Prohibition were those concerned about the detrimental effects of alcohol on America's young men and their families.  Here are a few colorful images with that perspective.  A.T. Cook is the artist of these elaborate drawings.  In the third image, we see the comment, James is a drunkard, Henry owns a Handsome House

Although Prohibition was made law in 1919, the conflict of ideas did not cease.  Many postcards continued to show drunken men (not women!) as humorous, while the anti-drinking factions continued to promote sobriety and family responsibility. 

A pro-sobriety image offers one view of Prohibition as lovers cheerfully share a drink at a water fountain.

 Below is a humorous postcard about sobriety...which also illustrates the origin of the saying, "On the wagon."  A variety of Water Wagon images can be found relating to sobriety.

We also learned from the Ken Burns film the true impetus behind eventually repealing Prohibition - this postcard tells the hope of a positive result, where repeal would put the unemployed back to work and save the nation from poverty. 

Entitled Dream of Prosperity, the script at the bottom begins Last night I dreamed that the Volstead Law had been amended, permitting the sale of beer (Oh!  What a grand and glorious feeling!)  Immediately 100,000 carpenters, bricklayers and laborers went to work building and refitting breweries; 50,000 brewery truck drivers, helpers, vatmen and coppersmiths were hired; and 100,000 printers were put to work printing beer labels.  The Volstead Act, Prohibition, was repealed in 1933.
Price Estimates: Prohibition and alcohol-related cards vary widely in price.  Some of the WCTU - Women's Christian Temperance Union - postcards can be priced high, especially the real photo images of demonstrations and parades.  However, the cards in this post cost between about $5 - $15. These prices are for cards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Silk SANTA CLAUS Christmas Postcards

This post is about fabric-added Santa Claus novelty postcards, all with rich embossing.  We especially like the way the fabric added to these images intensifies the color on our favorite holiday fellow.  We also enjoy how friendly Santa appears in these cards, with his expression varying from a quiet gentleness to a truly jolly smile.

There's a wide variety of silk Santa Claus images, showing him with Angels, children, and with different modes of transportation.  Here we show a sampling of images, all marked Made in Germany on the back.

As with many valuable postcards, you will find lower prices at auction than in on-line stores or at postcard shows.  Because these Christmas postcards are so desirable, there can be lively competition for them.  While the prices are high, remember that the more valuable the postcards you collect, the more likely they are to appreciate in value significantly over the years. 

We love this image of Santa Claus in an old-fashioned imaginative dirigible with the earth far below him.  This dramatic image gives him more altitude than his task seems to require, but it's a lovely design with blue silk on the doll as well as red silk on Santa.  The embossing on the basket and holly is very detailed.


Considering how busy Santa is on Christmas eve, he can be forgiven a few shortcuts.  Here he meets little girls at their window to give them their toys.  Perhaps these children didn't have a chimney.  Apartment dwellers look forward to his visits, too!  One of the little girls wears a blue dress with silk added in this image.

This is an intriguing montage of Christmas images with Santa Claus and his reindeer on the snowy rooftop on the right side...and a scene of the sleeping children on the left.  Santa's sleigh is full of the usual toys and also has an American flag, indicating that this design was destined for the American market.

A whimsical design shows Santa on a big handsome rocking horse, perhaps testing this beautiful toy before he leaves it for a lucky child.  Santa seems especially cheerful in this image as he rides along under a bright moon.

In our last image, Santa holds up a flaming torch to light the way in a dark forest, with a crescent moon shining on the right side.  A group of Angels and children form a little parade with him, carrying toys, playing a drum, holding a sack...charming imagery with lots of action!

Price Estimates:  These highly-collectible postcards range in price from about $25 up to $75 and more. They are commonly priced over $50, but careful shopping may find quality examples for less.  The more unusual images cost more.  In this post, the most valuable postcard is the design of Santa Claus in his dirigible.  These prices are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

Friday, December 2, 2011

CHRISTMAS ANGELS on Antique Postcards

As the holiday season approaches, it's a good time to look at some of the antique postcards devoted to Christmas celebrations.  This post is about Angels, many musical, that graced greetings at the turn of the century.   The blond Angel above resembles art by Ellen Clapsaddle but appears on a nicely embossed postcard without a publisher's name on the back.  Since publishers often stole artwork from other publishers, it's hard to know exact histories for some of our favorite images.  This pretty postcard is Printed in Germany. 

These pretty singers appear on an early undivided back postcard.  The image is done in soft colors on a flat postcard, with lit candles on the tree.  Imagine having lit wax candles on an evergreen tree now - we'd consider it a fire hazard.  But at the time, it must have looked quite magical, especially in the evening as the light faded outdoors. 

These two heavily embossed Angels have airbrushed colors that make them stand out dramatically from their dark green backgrounds.    The card on the left has clouds embossed in the background, adding to the fantasy quality.  The publisher is not identified on these postcards, either.

A  silver background creates a lovely setting for this dark-haired Angel with a pink-trimmed gown and white feathery wings.  She is shown with mistletoe on this early undivided back flat postcard postmarked 1907.  Exceptional artwork and a mist of gold at the top of the background make this image special.

Here we see another musical Angel with giant wings, as she floats above a snowy landscape, her music in hand.  This postcard is nicely embossed with wonderful gold stars dotting the deep blue sky.  Our Angel finds her footing in a soft swirl of white cloud - a lovely image on another Printed in Germany postcard.  On the back is printed Post Card, Poskarte, Carte Postale, indicating the three markets where the postcard would be made available to buyers.

We close this post with a very unusual Angel on a poster-style postcard, protecting young women workers below her sheltering pink wings.  This is a holiday greeting with a social action theme.  Below, you will find the sentiment printed on the back of the postcard in the message section.  

Price Estimates:  Angel postcards range widely in price, from about $6 up to $25 or more, depending on design and quality.  Images of larger Angels, and images with lavish embossing and lots of silver or gold details added, usually cost more than plainer postcards.  Angels with children or shown with Santa Claus command a higher price. These prices are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition and they are only estimates

Saturday, September 17, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO CA Quake & Fire Postcards

The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in April 1906, in which about 3,000 people died,  is one of the most famous disasters in U.S. history.  At the time, it captured the attention of readers around the country as they read about the damage in their newspapers.  Many photographs were taken and postcards of the event are plentiful.   Postcards are available in black-and-white and colored versions; some are common and some are harder to find.  Here we offer a review of some postcards of this fascinating subject.  Above we see two images.  The black and white card shows a homeless man hauling his rescued belongings with a caption that points out the crack in the ground.  The tinted postcard shows one of the most popular images - City Hall in ruins. 

This colored printed image above shows the Opera House.  All the postcards in this post are early undivided-back postcards, so messages had to be written on the front as only the address was allowed on the back.

The fire actually caused more damage than the earthquake at it roared through the city devouring wooden buildings. About 3/4 of the city's people were homeless and tents were set up in the city's parks to offer shelter. Only the destruction of many fine homes in the path of the fires stopped the destruction.  Here is a colorful printed postcard showing flames in the sky, wooden buildings in the foreground.

The image above shows the Hamilton Hotel and the ruins of the Flood Building.  The detail is very sharp, showing the rubble piled up where buildings used to stand.  Published by Kropp of Milwaukee. 

 Below we see a real photo postcard (RPPC) of the destruction.  Real photo postcards are harder to find than the more common printed postcards.  This intriguing image shows a lady at the left, a background of partially destroyed buildings, and two signs.  One says, "D. Samuels Lace Co. will occupy these premises." and the other says, "Sullivan Contracting Co. Wrecking & Grading"

 This postcard has the caption:  Policeman on Duty, April 25, 1906.  We have also seen it with a caption that describes the distribution of flour to survivors of the earthquake and fire.    You can see the women holding big pans and the sacks of flour on the ground. 

We especially like the postcard scenes that include people - the San Franciscan citizens responded to the disaster with fortitude, and when we can see them in the postcard images, we believe we have a more accurate sense of what the event was like to experience. This scene shows people surveying the damage "looking up Mason Street".  After the 1980s quake, we had friends in San Francisco who went out walking to view the damage, too.   

The postcard above is from a series that was sold to shop-owners who could stamp their own name in the white space.  Here, Chase's Pharmacy in So. Braintree (we imagine in Massachusetts).  The series shows views not readily available, so it is desirable even though the pictures are not as sharp as some others available.  The caption on this card says, "Thousands of people stood in line daily, patiently waiting their turn for relief supplies.  St. Mary's Cathedral offered a convenient place."   You can see people lined up in front of the Cathedral and along the side of the building.

There are some rare postcards of the earthquake and fire - here is one showing a wonderful spotted dog with a caption that tells us he survived "Five days through fire and earthquake, without food, in the Hotel St. Francis wine cellars, San Francisco."

We also have a series of postcards, harder to find, that were made of reconstruction scenes once the quake was over and the city began to rebuild.   

Price Estimates:  Postcards of the earthquake and fire are easy to find, so you can afford to be picky.  Look for cards in top condition. Sometimes you can find a Lot of these postcards and that will usually decrease the price-per-postcard.  Be willing to pay more for unusual or real photo images.  Expect to pay $5 - $25 depending on rarity.  These estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Antique ALPHABET Postcards

Alphabet postcards from the early 1900s are fun to collect - you know you will have to find 26 postcards to complete your set, and you can choose one style or mix and match - in this post, we look at a variety of styles to introduce you to the possibilities.  Of course, there are other series of attractive alphabet postcards not shown here - you will find a lot to like in this area of collecting!    Our personal favorite series is an alphabet of flowers signed by C. Klein (Catherine or Caterina - a German artist of great popularity for her nature designs).  We open this post with a forget-me-not letter B above, and we will have a second Klein alphabet letter further on. These cards are flat with lovely floral designs for each letter.

 On the left is a charming design of little children inside of roses on a colorful flat postcard forming the letter D. 

The languid pose of the lady on the right could be considered a bit risque for the period - she is dressed in a classical Greek-style toga dress with her hair pinned up, posing inside a 'wood' letter C on a little bridge in a woodland setting.  This is a flat postcard series using bentwood for all the letters.  Don't miss the sprigs of leaves still green on the letter.  Part of the fantasy appeal of this series is that the letters are created out of live branches. 

Below is a pretty little Angel holding a letter I on an alphabet series with superb artwork by Ellen Clapsaddle.  The postcards are embossed, with shining gold added.  On each of the letters, the background is the same blue-green with swirls that resemble clouds.

Real photo postcards with montages of fantasy images are one sub-set of alphabet postcards.  Here are two different examples, for the letters E and Z.  The top postcard is black and white, the bottom postcard has a sepia tint.  These combined images of glamorous women with little children have no tinting.

On the right is a sweet child inside a large letter Q surrounded by flowers.  She plays music and wears a soft pink chemise. These postcards are flat, characterized by lovely colors in delicate shades.
The letters are outlined in gold.

Here are two little girls holding up a big letter N on a French real photo postcard.  The children wear wonderful dresses and have fancy hair-dos. This picture is "vignetted" - in other words, the image gradually disappears at the bottom of the postcard.  This real photo postcard has delicate tinting with colors and hand-painted details on the girls' gowns. 

We close with another beautiful alphabet letter postcard signed by Catherine Klein - as in some of her alphabet designs, the flowers coordinate with the letters, so here are orchids for the letter O.  As always, her artwork is magnificent,  blending natural flowers and leaves with the formation of the letter. 

Price Estimates:  Alphabet postcards are a good buy recently, with the more commonly-available series priced at about $5 - $10 each.  The two most expensive series in this post are the Clapsaddle Angels and the Klein Flowers.  These will cost $20 each or more.  Remember that these estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

D. GOBBI - ART DECO Postcards

This post shines a spotlight on six art deco designs all signed by the artist, D. Gobbi.  We were unable to find any information about this artist, although his/her designs are popular among deltiologists.  This design shows a flirting couple with a flowering tree covered with brilliant yellow blossoms.

Flat cards with vivid images, glamorous couples and ladies, designs with gold added are typical of this artist's work, which appears to have flourished in the 1920s.  We are particularly fond of Gobbi designs that feature Oriental or Arabic art deco imagery and we have chosen from that genre for this post.  The artist also created a range of pretty images in the Colonial art deco style which you can find listed for sale on eBay. 

This is our personal favorite, of a romantic couple beside a flowering tree covered in pink blossoms.  The design has vivid colors and comes complete with a dragon.  The couple wears gorgeous clothing and the man's outfit features a dragon motif.

Price Estimates:  Prices vary on the rarity of the design.  So far, the dragon design is the image we have seen sold at the highest price.  Expect to pay $20 - $50 per postcard, depending on condition and design desirability.  This estimate is for D. Gobbi postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and it is only an estimate.