Today I ran across some old postcards I purchased years ago. I don’t have an extensive collection, but as I thumbed through them, I was thinking how interesting it is that we human beings like to collect things. From the bizarre to the mundane…Why are we drawn to certain things?
I’m not a big collector just for the sake of collecting and displaying items. If I do own more than one of something, it is most likely going to be something that is functional––such as my collection of pitchers.
I have no idea why I am drawn to them, all I can tell you is that I am inexplicably happy to see them on the shelf in my kitchen: glass, pewter, stainless steel, ceramic and porcelain.
Fortunately, they happen to meet my criteria and are functional as well as beautiful. Thus, my rationale for the fifteen I own and my guilt-free plans for more.
My fascination with vintage postcards is probably easier for most people to identify with simply because they are a bit of history. They reflect the lifestyles of the era and even world events of historical significance.
Postcards are intriguing to me because people are confined to such a limited space for their message. Much like when you know very little of another’s language and are reduced to just the basics.
You are forced to reduce your communication––everything you wish to express to another person––to just a few lines of text. This snippet, this brief peek into another person’s life makes for a bit of a mystery leaving one much room for musing:
What was their story? Were they young or old? Were they in love and pining for the other?…Maybe taking the opportunity while afar to express feelings not as easily conveyed in person?
Were they away from home for school?…Visiting relatives?…Exploring the world for the first time?
What was their relationship to the recipient?…Friend?…Lover?…Parent?…Child?
Some of the old cards I have date back to the times–the early 1900’s–when it was just a penny to send across the country and a mere one penny more to send across an ocean.
The addresses (or rather the lack thereof) tell a story, too. Often, the earlier cards have just the name of the person and their city. No street address required when the local postal clerk knows every resident in town!
True to form, I didn’t want to collect just for the sake of collecting. I wanted to come up with some way to use them. One day it occurred to me I could make color copies of the originals and construct beautiful unique gift cards.
With that concept in mind, I was thrilled when I ran across some vintage Christmas postcards with wonderful coloration and charming homespun sentiments––perfect gift tags!
Christmas postcards copied on card stock. With a simple hole punch and a bit of rustic twine, they became little treasures––A personalized touch for virtually pennies.
Vintage cards have such interesting history to them, but I also like to buy new postcards. Occasionally, I do actually use them for their intended purpose and I’ll drop them in the mail here and there as I’m traveling. However, when I come across postcards with coloration I love or interesting art or architecture, I buy multiples of them to have on hand. I find they add a wonderful artistic touch to the top of any package.
No need for an envelope or even elaborate gift wrap. Just simple brown kraft paper, ribbon and perhaps a lovely “Venus” gracing the top.
I am inspired each time I look at the art and architecture captured on a few select cards above my writing desk and framed and sitting on my dresser.
One of the best places to find beautiful postcards is the gift shop of an art museum. My inaugural post for my first blog showcased the work of Luis Melendez. I purchased postcards of his amazing still life work at the Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.)
I find the glorious colors of the food and drink exquisitely captured by Melendez to be a perfect gift tag for a housewarming basket of goodies or attached to a bottle of wine or olive oil for a dinner host.
Each time I’m in Firenze (Florence, Italy) I make sure to replenish my supply of some of my favorite postcards found in the Uffizi Museum and sold at stands just outside in the Piazza della Signoria:
Giovanni Signorini: Panorama di Firenze dal Monte alla Croce
The works of Raphael, Michelangelo and Botticelli are favorites and anything by Leonardo always ranks high with me.
Just looking at these now reignites my ardor for Signor Da Vinci and his prolific work. Perhaps a future feature on this Renaissance polymath? I’ll save any further accolades ’til then.
Over the years, antique shops and flea markets in France––places like L’ Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and other lesser known villages and towns––have offered many opportunities for sifting through boxes of vintage postcards.
Sometimes I become a little melancholy as I read about the life and times of the people who have long since passed but mostly I find the cards enchanting. They take me away to a time when life was much more simple and carefree…dancing the night away in the streets of Paris or discussing philosophy ’til the wee hours at Café de la Rotonde.
Okay. I know that’s only a romantic notion….a fantasy I’ve spun from a scene out of an old movie. I know that these people had their trials and tribulations and “real life” too. It wasn’t all parties and late nights at cafés with famous authors and artists at every other table.
But still. Doesn’t it sound fun? Just a little time travel?
I’d start with a quick trip to 1952. I’d love to see what prompted Bob to dash off this message to Mary:
ahhh! Wish I was there.
Note: Originally published 2009, reformatted for linenlavenderlife.com, 2024.