When Robert D’Avia first became interested in lighthouses, he found them on stamps, which he almost immediately began collecting. Soon, he discovered postcards offered a wide variety of different lighthouses. Soon after that, he made the switch to collecting postcards that feature those beautiful structures that serve ships at sea.
In a recent telephone conversation with Robert, he said he became fascinated with lighthouses in the late 1990s. “Since I began collecting, I’ve probably got about 1,500 postcards of lighthouses in my personal collection,” he said. “My favorites are the ‘hold-to-light’ postcards.”
Robert does a lot of his postcard purchasing by attending auctions –both online – and real time as well as shopping at local estate sales.
In addition to being a collector, Robert segued into selling postcards. “I needed a way to pay for the online site, and that is how I began selling postcards.” He sells duplicate copies of lighthouses from his personal collection.
“And I also sell other topics and scenics.” He has amassed quite a collection of standard sized postcards as well as linens and chromes, he noted.
Originally from Rochester, New York, Robert moved to North Carolina in the early 2000s and is currently selling postcards online only. “The last show I did was in Richmond in the spring of 2018,” he said. “The timing hasn’t worked out for me to attend shows recently.” Robert’s bucket list includes selling as a dealer at a future show as well as visiting the state of Michigan, which he said boasts the largest number of lighthouses in the United States.
Robert’s postcard inventory (for sale) numbers between 1,200 and 1,500 postcards, not counting lighthouses, he added.
“I have lighthouses and lifesaver postcards,” he said. Robert explained that the lifesavers patrol the beaches to save survivors of sunken ships. He went on to explain that the lifesaver postcards depict various work of the lifesavers, including boats over the breakers as well as lifesaver drills.
“In the late 1800s to the early 1900s the lifesavers had long poles that simulated the mast of a ship.” He said those poles had a line connected to the pole that crews would pull on to bring them to the rescue boats. There are also Lyle guns that look like mini-cannons that shoot the rope out to the sea for rescue purposes.
Another interesting collection Robert has are a selection of postcards of the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where hidden beneath the large hotel was a secret bunker. The bunker’s location was kept under wraps for several years, before being made public in the 1980s. The bunker was set up for the nation’s politicians and members of Congress to be sequestered in case of a national emergency. Robert said the Washington Post printed a story “outing” The Greenbrier as the spot of the bunker, which effectively was the end of the “secret” bunker. “They have tours of the bunker now,” Robert said.
As an online postcard dealer, Robert joined the International Federation of Postcard Dealers approximately 5 to 7 years ago and finds the organization quite beneficial to his business. “It’s a great networking tool, and I appreciate when Barr’s publishes the IFPD roster.”