Friday, July 28, 2006

Why I Collect Postcards

Guys collect things. There’s just something about seeing a bunch of disorganized stuff out there that demands that some order be enforced. It’s human nature. It’s what makes us different. It’s what makes the “chaos theory” apply to geology, but not to the human soul.

Several years ago, I collected baseball cards. What a perfect hobby! There were hundreds of thousands of baseball cards out there and they were practically begging me to take them all in, place them in their proper place in an album, and give them a well-deserved home.

One thing in particular intrigued me about baseball card collecting: the hobby was somewhat finite. You could pick up the newest edition of Beckett and, within some reason, you knew exactly where you stood in your collection. You knew exactly what you had, you knew exactly what you needed, you knew exactly what it was worth.

Baseball card collecting was finite. Been there. Done that.

A couple of years ago, I discovered postcards. It was completely by accident. I was poking around on eBay and I stumbled on a postcard of the church I grew up in. A little more stumbling followed, and I was soon introduced to the hobby in a very serious way.

I discovered an interesting paradox. Postcards are at the same time finite and infinite. On the one hand, there is certainly some number which represents the total number of collectable postcards out there. On the other hand, nobody could ever claim that their collection of postcards — no matter how extensive — is “complete”.

Postcard collecting is one of the most satisfying hobbies I have ever found. Sometimes you find what you believe to be a real “gem”. And it is a gem simply because you say it is. Other times, you find a card that you believe to be “routine”, but a friend of yours will claim it to be the greatest find since the Dead Sea Scrolls! I have had both experiences, and they are equally enjoyable.

Every time you hold a postcard in your hand, you are holding a very, very private part of somebody’s life. Whatever was important to that person when they mailed that postcard is forever inscribed on that thin piece of fragile cardboard. Cherish it; it deserves honor and respect.

Just about every postcard contains two messages — the generic message of the picture on the card, and the very personal message of the person who sent it. That’s why I believe both the front and the back of the card are important. In them both exists not only the slice of life in the picture — but the slice of the person’s life who sent the card.

(Interestingly, postcard enthusiasts — deltiologists — say the “front” of the card is the side with the picture and the “back” of the card is the side with the address. Philatelists — stamp collectors — consider it the other way around; the “front” is the side with the stamp. But I digress...)

Most postcards can be picked up for a buck or two. I’ve never paid more than ten or fifteen dollars for one. But I’d never sell one of mine for a thousand dollars.

Collecting postcards as a hobby is not only inexpensive, it’s flexible. If you just buy a bunch of postcards, you don’t really have a collection; you just have a bunch of postcards. But most people don’t do that. They collect “themes”. I chose my hometown as my theme. But other people buy pictures of old buildings. Or bridges. Or trees. Or street scenes. Or churches. Or hospitals. The possibilities are infinite.

I encourage you to consider joining me in my pursuit of the perfect postcard collection. To learn about the hobby, go to your favorite Internet search engine, type in “postcard collecting” and start reading. Go to eBay and look for your favorite subject. You’re sure to find a postcard that can be uniquely yours.

You’ll soon discover, as I did, that collecting postcards is truly an infinite hobby.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I sell postcards from time to time. Some vintage, some modern, some from around the world. Stop by anytime to take a look.