WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR?

Many postcards, postal cards, trade cards, and photos that are truly rare and/or exceptionally interesting go untraded for years amongst collectors, or unsold for years in auctions, or at websites, or in dealer boxes at shows. The principle reason why good cards do not move is ... lack of research!

My last column dealt with a way to solicit illuminating criticisms from folks that you did not even know. Today's subject concentrates on enlisting your friends to comment knowledgeably on the postcards you imperfectly understand, or simply do not understand at all. After all, no one knows everything; but almost anything can turn up on one of your postcards!

EMERSON'S PRINCIPLE

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that one should consider anyone as if he or she was a book, surely with an enlightening sentence or paragraph within -- if only you would look for it, and then appreciate it. Your friends may know quite a bit about subjects you do not know well, simply by virtue of their education. Find out what their degrees are in, or what coursework they took. If you have friends without much educational attainment, find out where they lived; they may have fascinating local knowledge about places you have never lived in or even visited. So those are the two major possibilities: topical knowledge through education, or localized knowledge through life experiences. I will concentrate on topical knowledge in this column.

ENLISTING HELP

But first a word of caution. Not that many people collect postcards. It is likely that many of your friends do not, and do not wish to start. When you ask a friend for help on a stack of topical cards or a stack of geographically specific postcards, preface your request. State in plain English that you do not want to sell your friend any cards, nor do you want to interest him or her in the hobby. Simply state that you know very little about the stack of cards you are about to present them with, and you would appreciate any comments they might have about them due to their educational background or knowledge about the locality. [Get your slips of paper ready; if they agree, it will go fast and furious.] State further that if your friend sees any postcard that is of great interest -- for whatever reason -- then you will make a gift of it as a token of your thanks. That is how to maximize your chance of getting a "Yes" to your plaintive request.         

Now, from my own limited group of friends, I will illustrate with actual friendly topical research "finds".

MUSICAL TOPIC

While I am reasonably well educated, I still have several areas of abysmal ignorance: music, for example. I have never had so much as one course of any type in music. One of my friends is in stark contrast, however; he is an expert in several areas of music. Just to give you a quick idea of what I mean: He corresponds in fluent German with the Bach Institute in Europe about his attempted completions of Bach's incomplete works, and his transcriptions of Bach's complete works from one original instrument to another! In short, he is a musical heavy-weight. And I, as a dealer, just happened to have a big stack of music postcards, about which I could not even guess what types of instruments I was looking at, let alone say anything else of descriptive interest.

I prefaced my topical request to my musical friend as noted above. He agreed, and we got right to it. I took copious notes. At the end, my descriptions of the music postcards had the authoritative ring of someone with deep knowledge. And I was relieved, because I really wanted to sell those cards! Let me give you a few for-instances.

This uncaptioned hand-tinted real photo with embroidered flowers & dress, is of Spanish origin. It got the following remarks appended to my description, despite my musical ignorance: "The cello is real, not a photographer's prop & the cello music showing is difficult." Explains the look on her face, does it not? [Before friendly commentary, I could not have even told you for sure what instrument it was!]

Speaking of cellos ...

This postcard is a real photo of a painting, captioned in Russian ... so back to my friend for much needed help. He did not know Russian either, but here is what he came up with just from seeing the image: It is a cello, so I added that information to its once-sparse description and closed with a bang writing "The depiction of the bow, peg & posture is well done; however, the model is not using the best technique to grip the bow." [To this day, his commentary brings a chuckle to me.]

I cannot resist one more musical example that, if truth be known, stumped me unaided.

 This "Die Obersteirer Alpensänger und Tänzer" 1905 carte postale of Swiss manufacture depicts ... haaalp ...  "an Upper Styrian (Austrian) song

& dance ensemble, with a guitar, small

recorder & a remarkable zither."

Sure, knew it all the time. Not!

You get the idea: amazing and authoritative research can be done in a matter of seconds when you tap into friendly topical knowledge.

SUMMARY

Chances are your friends have some topical knowledge or some location-specific knowledge that you do not. Ask politely if they would comment on the postcards you own which have mystified you for years. Such commentary will help you appreciate what you already have, and sell or trade what is of little remaining interest to you.

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 postcard@judnick.com. Or you may write to: Bill Judnick, Judnick Postcards, PO Box 12248, Columbus OH 43212-0248.