When it comes to collecting pre-war baseball cards, there is no shortage of issues to seek. But one of the era’s types of collectibles often goes overlooked. While slightly larger than traditional baseball card sizes, collectors shouldn’t forget about postcards. Several things make collecting postcards a great option.
Postcards are slightly larger than your average, everyday baseball card. Often measuring around 3 1/2″ x 5″, there’s no denying that these are oversized cards. But the size also isn’t so drastic that it presents storage options.
For collectors using binders, these collectibles easily fit into 4-pocket pages that are specifically designed for them. If you prefer some added protection, postcard-sized top loaders are easily available, too.
While a bit larger than most baseball cards, collectors can accumulate large numbers of postcards without running into significant difficulty in storing them, which is a plus compared to other types of collectibles such as photos or newspapers.
While a variety of subjects can be found on postcards, many feature real players. In terms of cost, you’ll generally pay more for these. But if you’re not a fan of generic issues, you’ll be happy to know that many postcard sets with actual players are available. Some of these featured artwork of players while others used real pictures (those are called Real Photo Postcards or RPPCs).
Some are team issues and one of the more notable ones are the 1907-09 Dietsche postcards, which included Cubs and Tigers team sets. This issue is particularly notable as it produces a Ty Cobb rookie issue with his 1907 postcard. As you would expect, that doesn’t come cheap (even low-grade ones can cost about $2,000) but you can find decent copies of other players for under $50.
Others were releases focusing on individual players from a number of teams. Perhaps the largest and most notable is the Rose Company Postcards (PC760) set, which features around 200 cards of players. There’s also the 1915 Sporting News M101-3 set, which was a six-card set featuring some of the game’s heavy hitters, including Cobb and Walter Johnson. Many more exist.
And if sets are too daunting, consider that there are numerous individual issues as well. Some of these feature individual players and many also featured entire teams.
If it’s real players you’re after, there are numerous rewarding and challenging postcard sets available.
Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of expensive postcards out there. The Rose Company postcards, for example, are extremely rare and can run into the thousands of dollars. But the majority of baseball postcards available are extremely inexpensive.
When looking for the most affordable alternatives, generic issues are usually the cheapest. The American Card Catalog-designated PC798 Comic Sports series is a good place to start. Several sets are cataloged there featuring a variety of baseball subjects. Many of those postcards can be found for around $10.
Postcards that are more than 100 years old for $10 or even less? What’s the catch? None, really. The simple fact is that because these issues were produced in abundance, a large amount of them are out there. That’s not to say that you’ll see them in large quantities at your average card show. And even when you do see them, dealers are often to charge a premium on them just because they’re so old. But you can find them pretty easily on sites, such as eBay, at low prices.
One of the best things about postcards is that they can give you a glimpse into another time in history. That’s not only true because of the pictures on them, but also the messages.
While the most valuable postcards are generally those that are unused, you’ll also find many that were sent through the mail and, more importantly, contain messages. Most of these messages are inconsequential. You may find Aunt Gertrude’s short message to Tommy about coming to visit in the fall. Or Jimmy breaking up with Susie. Or a sender delivering a postcard while on summer vacation. However, interesting messages about national or international events can be spotted from time to time.
Finally, most postcards are quite durable, making them ideal collectibles. Remember, these were designed to be sent through the mail. They had to be on a material strong enough to survive journeys of hundreds, or even thousands of miles.
Most postcards were printed on a thicker stock, typically more durable than the paper used on baseball cards of the same time period. While things such as strip cards were printed on low-grade paper, postcards were significantly stronger. That’s led to their preservation being much easier and damage is less worrisome.