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Benefits of Selling Postcards (all types, not just topographical)


Vintage postcards are among the most popular of all collectibles on eBay and the basis of my own business selling at the site.  Let me tell you why they represent such a profitable and easy to run business: 


*  In the early days of postcard collecting almost every family had its own album, sometimes several.  These heirlooms were cherished and passed through the generations, and postcards were rarely destroyed or lost.  Consequently many very early postcards remain in undamaged condition today, the vast majority belonging to descendants of their original recipients and still in their original albums.  


*  Postcards are usually very small and incredibly easy to store close together in boxes stacked high one on top of the other.  When I traded at postcard fairs, for instance, my entire postcard stock, once the biggest in the north of England, occupied a tiny corner of a spare bedroom.  Compare this to space needed by sellers of larger, more fragile, unusually shaped antiques and collectibles which need to be stored separately surrounded by bubble wrap and plastic chips, in varying size boxes which must be placed separately on the floor, not stacked one above the other.  


*  Postcards are usually all the same shape, roughly the same weight, making them extremely easy to pack and very inexpensive to post.  And that means you won’t have to be constantly looking for boxes of varying size to pack and post your products, as happens to eBayers selling oddly shaped items.  All you need are a few cardboard backed envelopes, or you could make your own stiffeners for everyday envelopes from empty breakfast cereal boxes.  Postcards also fit into any local post box, so you’ll make fewer visits to your post office compared to larger more fragile items that need to be individually weighed and postage calculated and stamps applied one by one.


*  Most postcards are similar in size and shape and so few features vary between consecutive postcard listings on eBay, usually just location, age, condition, publisher and postmark.  And that means you can create one listing template to suit every postcard you ever list from now to forever, where only title and illustration and a few other features need changing each time. 


*  People who collect one postcard typically collect lots of postcards, so you could develop a huge customer base of people who will watch your listings very carefully, and buy from you many times in future.


*  Postcards can very often be purchased in offline auction salerooms in big bundles at very low prices.  That’s usually because auctioneers don’t want to spend time listing hundreds of items individually.  You’ll often find few private bidders on big bundled offered this way, primarily because most collectors are interested in just one or two of those cards and don’t want to buy hundreds they don’t require just to get at those they do want to own.


Topographical Postcards and Why They Are So Profitable


Most importantly, you should know that not all vintage postcards are rare and some aren’t even worth the paper they’re printed on.  In fact, some postcards printed in the early 1900s are even more common than items printed today.  This is because the Victorians and Edwardians were prolific collectors, not just of postcards but of countless very different things, and during the Golden Age of postcard collecting, from the late 1800s to 1914 when the first World War started, many millions of cards were printed.  Many of those items were carefully stored away and cared for over several generations.


And that means right now many vintage albums containing thousands of postcards from more than one hundred years ago are in better condition than items being sold on the high street today.


Finally, don’t let any uncertainty about age, rarity or value bother you because very soon I’ll show you how to guarantee whatever you buy always fetches a profit, and sometimes a big one!


The Two Most Important Words in this Business and Why You Must Use Them in Every Listing


Two words must go into all your eBay titles.  Those words are 'POSTCARD' and the topographical location of your postcard, namely the PLACE NAME.  This is because most collectors search on eBay by place name sometimes accompanied by ‘postcard’ and don't always look under individual eBay postcard selling categories. 

Those two words, 'postcard' and 'place name' are enough to generate most early visits to your eBay listings.  But there are other things that might influence a person’s decision to buy a postcard.  Such as:


*  Date: You should be looking for old postcards, the older the better, preferably pre-1939.  The older your postcards are, the more chance places they depict have changed their appearance or changed their name.  And by implication, that usually means the more bidders you’ll attract and the higher your finishing prices will be.


*  Publisher: Some people collect by publisher and so you'll find people collecting postcards of Newcastle and Gateshead but only those created by Johnston and Son of Gateshead who were renowned for quality, highly detailed postcards under their trademark name 'Monarch'.  Other famous publishers include Brittain and Wright who worked in Stockton-on-Tees and were famed for the ‘Phoenix Series’ and have a popular following today.  You’ll usually find the publisher’s name printed on the back of your postcard, and you should mention it in your product’s title and description.  Additionally, many photographers and publishers numbered their images to make them easy to access later and that number should also go into your eBay listings, preferably in the title to make searching easier for your potential buyers.


*  Condition: Condition is important to purist collectors, people who collect postcards per se, but less important to people for whom the scene depicted is the main motivation to buy.   To satisfy both collector types you must give an assessment of condition backed with a clear and detailed image of the card from both sides.


*  Print and Production Type: Some people collect only photographic postcards, some only collect printed items, others seek artist impressions of their topographical area.  This should not over concern you right now because plentiful collectors exist to buy whatever topographical postcards you list of whatever production type.


*  Format or Size:  The earliest postcards were 'court' size and smaller than most postcards printed from about 1900 onwards.  Very early postcards had undivided backs, that is devoid of a line down the centre to separate message part from address section and the undivided back helps date a card in the absence of other clues.  Postcards were and still are produced in other sizes and formats, such as bookmark size, giant or midget, lettercards like a concertina of pictures, and so on.  Again, don't worry about any of this right now; you’ll learn all of these things with experience, until then what you omit to say about a card will be obvious from a clear illustration, preferably several illustrations.


To make the highest profits possible you should focus on getting the maximum number of postcards uploaded at any time, based on creating a template for your topographical view postcards which suits every item you list and requires only the TITLE and ILLUSTRATION and a few other minor features changed between listings.  Get this right and you can easily list fifty or more postcards in a few hours at most.


Which Topographical Postcards to Buy and Which to Avoid


There are catalogues to help you price vintage postcards, and modern cards, too, but since the advent of eBay those price guides are best viewed as that - just guides - because the only real guide to what a postcard is worth is the price someone else is prepared to pay for it.


And people are prepared to pay staggering prices on eBay for postcards they'd like to own.


So there's no way anyone can tell you to 'buy this, don't buy that!' because no one is ever sure what value another person will place on an item someone else considers virtually worthless.  In fact I've seen many tatty, really ordinary postcards worth pennies at most fetch hundreds of pounds on eBay and I've sold many such items myself.


A Simple Way to Determine Rarity Value


Let me tell you why you should always ask the following question before you buy any topographical view postcard to resell on eBay:


How often could this view be recorded on a postcard?



If the answer is hundreds, even thousands of times, the postcard is not rare and could in fact be worthless.  So a church that looks the same today as it did in the late 1800s will be worth just pennies unless some other factor increases its value.  The same goes for beaches, parks, cliffs, rolling hills and other common-a-garden views.



If the answer is 'only once' because this picture depicts the day the church caught fire, for example, or it shows the Royal Family who visited there once, or it features a close up tram or a shop owner standing outside the premises with his name showing above the door, then the view might have existed for just a few seconds and will now be quite rare or even unique.  That’s because many such events were spontaneous and few printers, artists and photographers - main creators of postcard views - are likely to have been present to record the event.  So few postcards created then, coupled with many having become damaged or lost or discarded over the decades, means few examples exist today and yours could be a solitary survivor!


Especially look out for named location mining disasters with family waiting outside to hear their loved ones' fates; specific location railway accidents with bodies and carriages lying crumpled at the scene; trams crashed with dead and injured still at a named location. 


Notice throughout that last sentence I have used terms like ‘named location’, and ‘location identified’, because a disaster scene without some means of identifying the geographic location is not strictly a topographical postcard at all but rather a ‘disaster’ card.




All articles provided in good faith and to the best of our research and writing capabilities.  Readers must not act on any information provided at this site without first of all contacting their medical advisors.  Information without medical back up must not be viewed as an alternative to seeking medical advice.


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