Antique Appraisals

Find an old postcard? It may be worth something.

What’s It Worth?

by Terry Maurer

Some postcards even had studio posed actual photos.
Some postcards even had studio posed actual photos. Courtesy Terry Maurer

Postcard are a popular category of collectibles, with many divisions that make it easy to find an area of interest for just about anyone.

Q. My brother-in-law was a dealer in antique and collectible items and had quite a “stash” of early postcards. Included was this scene of St. Peter’s Dome in Colorado, along the line of the Cripple Creek Railway. Does it have any value? — Alice in Richland

A. Postcards, especially old ones, can be very collectible. People are often surprised at the high prices some can command.

This printed color postcard is a scenic view along the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek Short Line Railroad.

Values of postcards depend on not the condition and the general collector’s interest. Any postcard having to do with transportation will appeal to some segment of the market. Early aviation views, cards of ocean liners, railroads and cars all have avid collectors. Generally, the older the better for postcards of this type.

Extremely valuable examples would include postcards dealing with the Titanic, the ill-fated Hindenburg dirigible or any early view of a transportation disaster.

This Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek Short Line Railroad will have good value, but is affordable to most postcard enthusiasts.

The rail line itself operated on about 45 miles of track, serving the region’s mining districts from 1899 until 1920. It was a beautiful area and many postcards like this were produced.

This card, postmarked 1908 from Pueblo, Colo., is worth $10 to $20.

Q. When we cleared things in my late uncle’s estate, we found about 100 old postcards. Many were mailed in the early 20th century and they appear to be actual photographs. Can that be right? — John in Prosser

A. Yes, collectors call them Real Photo Postcards or RPPCs.

RPPCs were extremely popular In their day. In any collection, you might find pictures of the family, an exterior of their home, scenes of daily life; just about anything you could take a photo of.

They were done by both professional postcard manufacturers and private individuals. Apparently, when you sent the film in to be processed — or took it to the local drugstore for developing — prints in postcard form could be ordered, as well as regular pictures.

There were even commercial studios where folks could dress in costumes, use props and stage their own postcard scenes.

Among the most popular RPPCs are those showing times long past. That is, historical images of how things used to be. And, there is a hierarchy within those image types.

For example, a real photo postcard of a delivery truck might be worth $10. That same kind of postcard, showing a Coca-Cola delivery truck with the logo in very sharp focus, would be worth quite a bit more. Add a driver posing by the truck with his daughter and a dog, the value goes up more. It can get better.

If that same postcard shows the telephone company office in the background and the name of the town is very readable on the building and next to that building is a tavern on one side and the local newspaper on the other — well, you get the idea.

The more identifiable the image, the higher the interest and value.

Enthusiasts also want perfect cards. No folds, tears, bends, cancellation stamps that show through to impact the image on the front — nothing that detracts. Not even a slightly “bumped” corner. Perfect means perfect, and perfect will always command the premium price.

This card of the studio-posed “bear hunting scene” has some condition issues. It is not fully centered on the paper, rather out of focus, there is light staining and the two lower corners are slightly folded back.

Still, it would be classified as very good condition. The image is unusual and appealing and the value is $20 to $30.

Terry K. Maurer, 15 year Senior Member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, is a personal property appraiser in the Tri-Cities. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by e-mail