Many postcards, postal cards, trade cards, and photos that are truly rare and/or exceptionally interesting go for unrealistic asking prices in auctions, websites, in dealer boxes at shows, and in trades amongst collectors.
The collector who buys a card at auction or at a show for an unrealistically high or fanciful price, is wasting hard-earned money. The collector who sells or trades a postcard to another collector at an unrealistically low price, will not get fair value in exchange. The collector who insures a collection of postcards at an unrealistically high value, is wasting money; in the event of loss, insurance will definitely not be paid on fanciful values. Instead the insurance company will want to see what they are paying for, and proof of its value. The collector who insures a collection of postcards at an unrealistically low value, should not be surprised if replacement for what is lost cannot be bought for the pittance paid out by the insurance company. Yes, the insurance company will in that case pay you every nickel, but what good is it if you cannot replace what you lost?
So, collectors should be knowledgeable in how to price any postcard with an unfamiliar topic and/or location by researching its value. As a dealer, I do such research on every postcard whose subject or location is unfamiliar to me. So today, you will look over my shoulder as I research some postcards whose value (or lack of it) is not at all apparent to me.
The tools that I use to research these prices are second-nature to me, and they should be well-known and practiced for you too--at least, if you want to get value for your money. Do not place a bid in an auction, or buy from a website until you understand these tools, and become practiced in their use. That would be my best advice. It is your money after all.
EXAMPLE ONE: INSURANCE ADVERTISEMENT
Consider this beautiful postcard advertising for an insurance company, of all things, mailed JUN 21 1907 at Thomastown Maine. As a dealer with well over three decades experience, I cannot remember the last time I saw such a thing; so research is definitely in order before I set my price.
The caption reads "The Travelers Insurance Company / Hartford Conn." There is also a notice: "Copyrighted 1906, by Travelers Insurance Co." The subcaption reads "The 'Pioneer' Accident Company of America". The art illustrates pioneering methods of travel: ship, railroad, balloon, and Conestoga wagon. Nothing on the back except an address, stamp & cancel. Handwritten message on the front tries to get more butter from a merchant in Appleton Maine.
I go to Google.com on the Internet. In the search box I type "Travelers Insurance Company" 1906 postcard. The first return finds another such postcard at a commercial site having the same image, mailed 1906, missing the stamp, for $26.00 + $3.25 postage & handling. Surprised, I look to the next Google return and find two such postcards offered by different dealers at a well-known auction website: one for $12.50 plus free shipping & handling; another for $10.00 plus $0.99 standard shipping. The third Google return leads me to another auction website, at which a dealer has place such a card for sale at $7.00 -- a 30% reduction from his first asking price; further investigation reveals that offer to be the same one as was offering at $10.00 at the other auction website.
I know at this point all I need to know. I have found, without much effort at all, 3 different examples being offered from $26.00 to $7.00 plus postage. The number of different current offers tells me this is a common card. So, if I want to sell it -- and I do, trust me -- I must undercut my friendly opposition. I set mine out for $3.75 plus postage. Anyone who shops around will see the merits of my offer, and it should sell quickly.
Now look at this example from a collector's viewpoint. Say you collect Hartford Connecticut postcards and do not have this in your collection. If you pay $26.00, and do not invest 10 minutes time to see if you can do better, have you not cost yourself a lot of money? $26.00 - $3.75 = $22.25 unnecessary expense for 10 minutes works out to $22.25 x (60/10) = $133.50 per hour...untaxed! When is the last time you made that kind of money for your own time? If instead, you saw the $12.50 offer first and succumbed to it, you overspent by $12.50 - $3.75 = $8.75, forgoing $52.50 an hour for your own precious time. That's a professional wage. If you were relatively lucky and found the $10.00 offer and accepted it, blissfully unaware that the same dealer was offering the same card at another auction site for $7.00 -- tell me how pleased are you with that result? A $3.00 loss on 10 minutes of time works out to $18.00 per hour recompense. Does it not pay to shop around?
EXAMPLE TWO: POET'S PATRIOTIC
Now consider this patriotic postcard with a short verse penned by "Robert Bridges, Poet Laureate". The verse is entitled "England!" The poem reads: "Through fire, air, and water, thy trial must be, / But they that love life best die gladly for thee."
It is an unused evenly-divided back postcard from the Dron Artistic Post Card Series No. 101.
Never heard of the poet, but I'm not an English major, so I look him up first. In my Firefox browser search box I type Robert Bridges, and ask for a Wikipedia search. It informs me that Robert Seymour Bridges was Great Britain's poet laureate from 1913 to 1930. So he is important as a poet, and this postcard is definitely a World War I postcard. Moreover, his work would be well known because of such long service. I bound to Google and type the first line of verse within quotation marks, followed by the word postcard, to see what I can find. Images are returned top-line because I put the word postcard in my query. Underneath a few selected images they offer to show me more images. I do not see my card in the first few so I accept their kind offer and click to see more. I look at all the images and still do not find my postcard. Now I know I am the only one on the planet currently offering that postcard.
To double-check, I put the first verse, still in quotes back at Google, but now eliminating the word postcard before I search. I need as much instruction as I can get; I am still on unfamiliar ground, in other words. The Google search returns that my poem is cited by the following: The Literary Digest of 1914; 'War and the Creative Arts" an electronic book; 'The Winter of the World: Poems of the Great War'; 'Pro Patria, a Book of Patriotic Verse'; 'Poems of the Great War'; 'Patriotic Poems'; the list of books goes on and on for pages! I have an important poem that is included in most every collection of poetry pertaining to World War I. And I know it is a 1914 poem. Now what do I do?
My definition of 'rare': there must be no other offer; there must be no other displays (say in a library or museum); and there must be no recorded sale in the history of the Internet.
My standard for rarity is a $20 bill. A rare local view will sell for $20 in collectible condition that is, having naught but trivial faults, even if it is a printed postcard. [Real photo rare local views are $50 bills, by the way.] This is not a local view, however. I am thinking more of a $10 bill now. It is attractive but unsigned art, just a little toning on the back does not detract from its merits. And it is an important poem from an important poet. I settle on $12.50. A rare postcard with an important poem from an important poet: a serious English World War I collector will consider it carefully.
Research postcard prices if they contain unfamiliar subjects or localities before you buy, sell, or trade. That is my best advice. You need to know Google. You need to know the Google trick of putting consecutive words within quotes to insist on that sequence of words. You need to know the Google trick of putting the word postcard outside those quotes so you get image results that you can scan quickly; after all, time is money. And a Wikipedia article will instruct you on most any unfamiliar topic. Not that hard is it? And the untaxed rewards of roughly 10 minutes of effort? If my first example does not persuade, you must have been born with a silver spoon your mouth!
To get the most out of these columns you can and should give me feedback. Your comments and suggestions are welcome by e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you may write to: Bill Judnick, Judnick Postcards, P.O. Box 12248, Columbus OH 43212-0248. On Facebook I am Judnick Postcards.