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Postcards By Euphrates
(Please note that my knowledge about this subject is limited to my collecting experience. There
are other websites available that can provide more information about history, rarity, prices etc.)
I began collecting vintage postcards as a resource for my website which hosts vintage images of Northern Virginia. I was especially interested in small local businesses - restaurants, hotels, amusement and theme parks, government buildings, schools, stores and aerial views of towns in that area. Postcards have proven to be an excellent source for images as they are widely available and despite being very popular (second only to stamp collecting), are quite affordable. I have a nearly a thousand cards and generally pay between $2-$12 for rare cards in average condition. Generally speaking, you can still buy many postcards from the late 1800s for under five bucks.
Postcards, like other advertising collectibles - pens, callendars, banks, matchbooks, business cards etc., come in a variety of sizes and formats. The most common modern era cards are chrome and are generally 5-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches. There are several other common sizes and compositions including linen and real photo cards. You can actually date your postcards by the composition and design of the card. The most popular types of cards (sorted from early, about 1900, to now) are undivided back (whole back of card is reserved for writing), "divided back" (1907-1914), "white border" (1915-1930), "linen" (1930-1944) and "photochrome" or "chrome" (1940 - current). One of the more popular and harder to date card formats is the "real photo" or RP. Like the name suggests these are actual glossy photographs printed on a card stock. Many people restrict their collections to a specific composition, size, subject or geographical area.
Postcards of small businesses that were only around for a brief amount of time are some of the hardest to find, though because of the limited distribution and interest, can still be quite affordable. Images of historic buildings and monuments are very common and are priced accordingly. There are many postcard sales sites so do not restrict your searches to auction sites.
Before pursuing this hobby in earnest you would be well served to buy a book or visit some other information websites to learn more about how to date cards, care, condition and scarcity.