Buying, selling postcards for 20 years

For Gretchen and Dale Biesecker of Cashtown, Pennsylvania, collecting postcards sparked a new career as vendors and suppliers. I spoke to the couple separately and who said they are doing business as Bill’s Antiques, Postcards and other Antiques, and have space in four shops in Pennsylvania. “We have space at the Black Rose in two locations, Hanover and Chambersburg, (both in Pennsylvania)” Dale said. The other two are in Gettysburg at the Gettysburg Antique Center and the 81 Antique Center located on Interstate 81, (also in Pennsylvania).

Gretchen, who is recovering from back surgery at a rehab facility, said they have been in business for just about 20 years. She was scheduled to return home October 19, when we spoke and said she was anxious to get back to her own home in Cashtown.

With an inventory of between 50,000 and 60,000 postcards, Gretchen said they their postcards cover a great deal of various subjects including quite a bit that feature Pennsylvania. Dale described how the couple got interested in postcards, and noted, “We got involved as an accident.” At a visit to Shoop’s Grove in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Gretchen saw two folders of postcards taken at an Ohio orphanage. She purchased both folders for a reasonable price and almost immediately put the contacts of the one folder on the Internet for sale. Dale said the folders featured multiple postcards that unfolded when opened. “Gretchen sold that first folder for a very nice price and the lady who bought it wanted more postcards from that orphanage,” Dale said. The buyer had been raised in that particular orphanage and wanted to show her children the pictures taken from where she was brought up.

“We’ve been buying and selling postcards ever since,” he said. The couple’s personal collection of postcards is centered on Cashtown, real photo postcards –some that are as old as the Civil War era. “We have postcards of Union and Confederate troops assembling in the town before the Battle of Gettysburg,” Dale said. Gretchen spoke of Carl Kuhns, a photographer who took pictures of almost every house in Cashtown and has them on postcards. Many of the older real photo postcards date from the early 1900s, she said.

The couple also has other favorites including Christmas and Halloween postcards, Dale said.

In the past, the couple attended as many as 18 postcard shows a year, but are scaling back somewhat recently. Gretchen has also sold many postcards on the Internet, but said her sales are somewhat lower for this past year, likely due to her surgery.

They find cards at the shows and have also purchased entire collections when dealers retire. “We’ve gone all over the country, vacations and shopping trips to find cards,” Dale said.  

Gretchen said they were hooked on postcards after visiting a postcard show in Richmond, Virginia and purchased a large collection. Later, they spent three days in Portland, Oregon looking through postcards in a lady’s home. “She was very hospitable –we stayed at her house, and she offered us meals –it was great,” Dale said. They ended up purchasing nearly the entire collection of the lady’s postcards and had a memorable time during that trip. Gretchen noted they were impressed with the roomful of postcards the woman had. “We bought a lot of her postcards,” she said.

The couple are both excited to be members of the International Federation of Postcard Dealers (IFPD) and said they’ve been contacted by quite a few postcard collectors through their membership in IFPD. “We’re pleased to be members of such a wonderful organization,” Gretchen said.  “And we’ve used the IFPD book to visit a lot of the other members over the years,” Gretchen said. Talking to collectors and buyers alike is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the business, both said.

Looking ahead to upcoming postcard and paper shows, Gretchen said they will be at the York show in November and they also run the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania show that will take place in March of 2019 and actually takes place in Linglestown, Penn.

For more information about Bill’s Antiques, contact the Bieseckers at P.O. Box 8 Cashtown, Pennsylvania 17310. They can also be reached via e-mail at adamsco@comcast.net; or via telephone at (717) 334-1674.