Almost anywhere you travel, there’s almost one thing that you will always see at a local tourist shop — a postcard rack.
If you’re like me, then you usually just look at the rack to pick something out and send off to a friend or relative. Maybe you just buy it for your own personal collection.
Well, just the other day, while doing research for the website, I came across some listings on eBay where people were selling postcards, and I found quite a few postcards that were actually selling.
Kind of curious, I actually wanted to know if there was a market in selling postcards, and if there was, how much could you make?
Is it as simple as buying postcards on your next trip and listing them on eBay? Did I have to wait 20 years before making cash?
I really didn’t know, so that’s why I wanted to create this post and do some research at the same time. By the end of this post, I’m hoping we both learn how you could make money selling new and old postcards.
As yet another way to make money, let’s dive in and see how we can make some money in the postcard world.
The Value of a Postcard
First of all, you need to understand that not all postcards are created equally.
Selling postcards isn’t going to be as easy as heading to your local tourist attraction, buying all of the postcards off the shelves and profiting. If only it were that easy.
As with anything that has value, you first need to understand what factors affect the value, all of which I explain below here:
How old is it?
In the postcard world, the age of the postcard is often the biggest factor as to how much the card is actually worth. And to prove my point, the most valuable postcard ever sold was an 1840 postcard believed to be sent by the writer Theodore Hook for a whopping $45,370!
According to appraisers, postcards printed before 1898, referred to as pioneer postcards, tend to have the highest monetary value. These cards were commonly used as an advertising piece and were sent out to share information about a sale and/or shop, similar to what retailers still do to this day.
Figuring out the age can be hard.
Even if it has a postmark, it doesn’t necessarily determine the postcard’s age as this only indicates when it was mailed.
Usually, to determine how old a postcard is, you will either need to look for a date printed on it, do some research online and/or bring it to an appraiser for more details.
What kind of shape is it in?
As with sports cards or anything similar to that nature, the condition is so important.
Would you want to buy a postcard or anything for that matter that has a dent, smudge mark or even a tear? Probably not.
One of the very first things an appraiser and/or buyer will look at is the condition.
As long as there are no tears, discoloration or any type of damage will command the highest prices. This is not to say a damaged postcard could fetch some money; it’s just going to depend on the card you’re selling.
If you haven’t done so already, ensure that your postcards are properly stored in a plastic sleeve.
Is there a postmark?
Most postcards I found online do have a postmark, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it offers some sort of uniqueness.
However, like the condition of the postcard itself, the postmark’s condition can increase/decrease the price as well.
An easy-to-read postmark can fetch a higher-than-average value, whereas a “fancy cancel,” which is a postal cancellation that includes an artistic design can fetch even more.
Depending on the buyer, some may want a postmark as this is all they collect, while another may want a postcard in pristine condition that was never mailed.
How rare is it?
Like sports cards or any collectibles, a rare postcard will fetch the highest value.
So, going back to my other point, a postcard found at your local tourist attraction has probably been printed one million times, simply meaning it’s worth less than what you’re buying it for.
If only a few postcards were printed and it’s from 1899, then, of course, it could be worth much more than a 2019 Daytona Beach postcard with a sunset on it.
As people could print off their own pictures, this makes is one of a kind, and it could be worth quite a bit if the picture is quite unique.
What is it?
Postcards can be on just about anything, from touristy cities to holidays.
As yet another significant factor, the postcard’s theme can determine its value as it’s known that collectors will pay top dollar for certain subjects.
Researching online, the most watched postcards were vintage cats, Halloween themed and Santa Claus postcards. Transportation-related postcards seemed to fetch a high price tag, at least according to the Tri-CityHerald.com.
SellOldPostcards.com also notes that the following postcards tend to be the most valuable and often in demand:
- pre-1920 baseball real photo cards
- postcards from the 1800s
- early real photograph cards (older the better)
- pre-1930 with African American scenes
- old west scenes
- World War I
- railroad themes
- small-town cards
Citing SellOldPostcards.com again, they wanted real photo postcards, often displaying small towns, roadside views, Native American scenes, and color-tinted photo cards, to name a few. As I mentioned, there are a lot of unique postcards online that were taken by someone, so if your postcard has one of these themes, then there’s a good chance it could sell.
Warwick and Warwick stated that street themes, social history, the Titanic and anything transport seemed to do very well.
Having a highly desirable theme can bring in even more money, but this is dependent upon the collector’s interest. Look online to see what people are buying. I tried to include the most popular themes, at least according to the buyers, but as with any collectors, this can change over time.
Where is it from?
The origin is often a large factor that can determine the price as well.
In the past, it was well known that postcards were often shipped from populous countries such as Germany and America, but if you were to have a card from a country that never sent them in the day, then it could be something of value.
Generally, you can determine the origin by looking at the postmark, but this isn’t always the case if one doesn’t exist. In this case, more research may need to be done, such as researching the artwork, the language, etc.
Is there anything unique about?
There are other factors that can affect the postcard value, but these unique factors are just that — unique.
For example, if it were a postcard created by a famous artist, does it include his/her authentic signature?
The same can be said about the print. A unique print, with only a few printed, could be worth much more than a postcard that was printed 10,000 times.
In the past, as mentioned, people could take pictures of something and turn it into a postcard that could be mailed out. In this instance, that unique picture, much like an artist rendering, could command a high price tag.
How Can I Find the Value?
Okay. Now you know what determines the value, you may be wondering how the heck you can determine your value.
Well, there are a few things you can do to at least attempt to find out, all of which I explain below.
Check out eBay
Take a good look at the postcard you have and see if there are any indicators that you could search for. For example, is there a special number on the footer or a certain saying? What about the theme? Is it baseball related and you think it’s from the 1800s, then search for “baseball 1800s postcard” and explore.
Anything that you can find, you will want to use these clues and search eBay to see if anything comes up.
Now, even if nothing comes up, that’s fine as you can filter your results to show the most recently sold postcards.
To do this, you will want to refine your search, which, if on your desktop, you can see on the left-hand side menu. On mobile phones, however, you will want to click on the “filter” menu in the upper right-hand corner and scroll down until you see “sold items.” This is what you will want to click.
Scroll through these listings and see if you can find any postcards that look like yours. If you do, then that sold price could be the value, but this isn’t always the case because you never know if you have a replica version. Remember, like most collectibles, authenticity matters!
Even if you can’t find an exact match, at least explore the themes and see what others were selling for. If you’re seeing that most were selling for less than $20, then you could only assume yours is worth the same. I can’t say this for certain as you could have something very valuable, but it could at least give you an idea.
If you have no luck with eBay, a quick Google search could yield some results.
In searching, just make sure you explain the postcard in detail to see what comes up.
For instance, if your postcard appears to be from the early 1900s and has a picture of a grocery store on it, then search for something like “1900s grocery store postcard” and browse through the image results and/or websites to see if anything matches.
If you’re lucky, you may find a website that talks about the value and demand.
Consider Paying for an Appraisal Online
If you truly think you have something of value and want to know what it’s truly worth, then you may want to invest $20~ for an authentic appraisal through online appraisal sites such as ValueMyStuff.
This website, for instance, will simply ask you to upload photos with any information you have, and from there, they will assign an expert from one of the many specialists to help appraise your item.
Once they are done, they will then send the appraisal straight to your email, in which you can use for documentation purposes or even for insurance if necessary.
Personally, I think this is the best option only if you think you have something of value and are having a hard time figuring what it’s worth.
As a fair warning, though, many experts claim that a high majority of the postcards out there are worth less than $20, so there’s a very minor chance your appraisal will actually be worth the investment.
Consider a Free Appraisal Instead
I also found another company by the name of Warwick and Warwick, and according to their website, they are pleased to offer free advice as to what your postcards could be worth. There are many other companies that can help you appraise your postcards for free as well.
This could be a wonderful option if you don’t feel like paying for an appraisal.
I don’t know how much information they will offer, but they do ask that you simply email their valuations team, all of which you can find the information here. Most of these companies work in the same way, wherein you just explain what you have and they will then contact you with more information if interested.
Selling Old Postcards
By now, you should hopefully have an idea as to what your postcards are worth.
Again, if you can’t find much on eBay, I highly recommend you at least hire an appraiser if you feel the postcard is worth something.
Keep in mind that the vast majority of postcards out there have very little value, with very few selling for more than $100, so keep this in mind.
I promise you that if you follow the tips above, you should find a website/appraiser that’s able to give you an idea as to the value.
With this number in mind, you can then explore one of the many options below to make some cash.
eBay is Usually Your Best Bet
Almost all of your antique postcards will be worth less than $10, but sure, you can run across one that’s worth $100, $200 or even $300 or more.
Again, I would recommend you check out the themes and selling points I cited earlier. If your postcard falls into one of these themes, then there’s a good chance you have something worth at least $10 or more. Not always true, though!
If you feel your postcard isn’t worth more than $100 after all of your research, then I would just list it as you normally would on eBay.
eBay will have the most eyeballs and it’s the easiest way to ship something out.
Just be sure to take clear pictures and create a detailed description. If buyers have any questions, then they will more than likely ask.
Consider Selling to a Third-Party
Searching online, I came across a company by the name of SellOldPostcards.com.
As the name implies, they are more than happy to offer you a free no-obligation quote to buy your postcard collection off of you. You just need to fill out the form to explain what you have, and if there’s any interest, they will contact you.
At the time of this review, however, it appeared that they were only looking to by American and Chinese postcards pre-1940 as well as larger collections. So, if you’re only looking to offload one postcard, you’re probably going to want to look elsewhere.
This could be a great opportunity only if you have a large collection and don’t want to deal with the research.
Aside from SellOldPostcards.com, there are many other buyers online, such as CardCow.com. Search online to see what companies may be willing to buy your collection.
Visit an Antique Store
If you don’t want to pay for an appraisal and/or sell online, then that’s fine as there are other options as well, some of which won’t cost you a dime.
If you have an antique store in your area, and there’s a good chance you do, you may want to plan a visit and see if they can help you at least give you an idea as to what your postcards are worth.
To find these antique store, generally, a simple Google or even Yelp search can locate a few in your area. Depending on where you live, you may have more than one, which means you can get more than one opinion. I mean, I lived in a small city growing up and they had three antique stores downtown.
Antique stores usually are more than happy to help you at no cost, and in some cases, they may be willing to offer you a purchase price if they are interested in buying them.
As another option, an auction house may be willing to work with you, usually, if your collection is worth more than $500 or so. This isn’t always the case, though.
If you do choose an auction house, they will generally ask you to cosign your cards and they will then take a certain percentage of the profits, more than likely around 30 to 40+ percent.
An auction house will often have the highest fees, but they could reach some higher-end buyers in the case you have a valuable collection. It’s more of a “you do the dirty work” and I will take some of the profits.
From all of my research, most of your vintage postcards are worth less than $10 most of the time. Again, I can’t stress this enough as it isn’t always the case. If your postcards are from the 1800s or early 1900s, I would at least explore your options to see what you have on hand if you want to sell them.
To know for certain, you can learn a lot from eBay or even reaching out to third-parties to see if you truly have something special on your hands. A quick search can help, too!
Even if it’s dated back to the 1800s in pristine condition, you may be thinking you’re sitting on a goldmine, but in reality, it’s only worth a few bucks most of the time, so don’t be discouraged if they tell you it’s worth peanuts.
So, if you have a few older postcards and want to sell them, use a few of the tips I mentioned above to hopefully find fair value.
In the meantime, feel free to share your tips, strategies or even sound off in the comments below to help others who may be looking to sell their old postcard collection.
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