Friday, December 14, 2018

In the late 1800s, postcards were the text messaging or social media of the day. People sent these inexpensive salutations especially for major holidays. Most of these postcards were originally printed in the years between 1905 and 1918. This is often called the “Golden Age of Postcards.” The peak of the Halloween postcard craze lasted roughly until 1918. About 3,500 different postcards were created during that time. When they were most popular, some believe that billions of postcards were being sent between relatives and friends.  

These Halloween or Hallowe’en postcards show to us what the celebration was like before the candy and costume-crazed Halloween of today. Postcards did not begin depicting the tradition of trick-or-treating until the 1930s. They also illustrated a variety of Halloween traditions and beliefs that may seem odd to us today.

Postcards from this era seem to focus more on romance than the crude or grotesque Halloween cards of today. You will find lots of postcards with girls and mirrors trying to decipher their true love. Others trying to figure out their mate by throwing an apple peeling over their shoulder to land in the shape of the alphabet letter corresponding to the true love’s first initial.

These early Halloween postcards highlighted charming, plump jack o’ lanterns and adorable cherubic children. Black cats were presented with witches that were often illustrated as very pretty young ladies.

There are large collections of Halloween cards that depict vegetables other than the pumpkins that we have settled on for today. Many veggiepeople were given human characteristics with exaggerated features.

The popularity of Halloween postcards began in the USA with the Private Mailing Card Act of 1898. Many of these postcards were designed and published in the USA by names like John Winsch, International Art Publishing Company, and Raphael Tuck & Sons but the cards themselves were printed in Germany. The Germans had superior lithographic techniques and also inexpensive wages and as such it was the place for printing up until WWI. German printing never was quite the same after the war. Several publishing houses also existed in England.

Vintage Halloween postcards are VERY collectible. These Halloween cards were produced in smaller quantities than other holiday postcards and as such are more rare. Plus, many of these cards have really exceptional graphics and illustrations.

Halloween postcard designs tend to be more cute than scary. Some are even quite romantic. Those that feature traditional Halloween images such as jack o’ lanterns, witches, and black cats seem to be the most sought after. 

If you explore vintage Halloween postcards on eBay or other online sources, these cards are often the highest priced postcards listed on the current auctions. Postcards with an artist’s name signed on the front go for even more than others.

Halloween postcards are entirely different from picture postcards that one might collect and send from London, Paris or Switzerland. They are highly sought after collectables. They are a reminder of the changes that have happened to the holiday over time. Today we still relate to the carving of pumpkins, spooky witches, cats and skeletons. These little masterpieces are a wonderful look back at old Halloween traditions.

My Postcard Obsession:

In the fall of 2017, I discovered Halloween postcards. I also discovered that most of them were very far out of my price range. I started collecting digital versions of my favorites and loaded them on a digital frame to enjoy during October.

In 2018 I started watching my collection on the digital frame and again remembered how much I really liked them and started finding others. I got kind of worried when I read that there are over 3000 cards to collect but I continued on, not knowing if I would ever get to the end of my obsession.

In my journey I soon found that there is not a website with a comprehensive list of publishers and artists. I could just find bits and pieces here and there. I give credit to Flickr sites that had huge collections and other commercial sites that started to give me a method to organize my findings. Many of my pictures come from Flickr, eBay and various museum collections.

In order to bring order to my Halloween postcard world, I have created this website. It is not in any way a finished product but a work in progress. I know that there are many mistakes. It is probably not entirely the way professional postcard collectors would display and organize the cards and they will probably be laughing at many of my mistakes. But, it is a start.

Fellow Postcard Collectors! If you think I have a good thing that will help other collectors and give credit to publishing companies and especially to individual postcard artists, please let me know. I need your help and information to make this a complete and comprehensive endeavor.

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