One of my friends collects vintage postcards, and I must admit, I'm fascinated by her hobby. I didn't know much about vintage postcards--I've always found them interesting and I've come across the occasional one that I loved. Anything with a cat or Paris is a sure winner for me!
And then I started wondering, could a vintage postcard inspire me to write a book? Not as far-fetched as it may seem. I love time travel books, ever since I read Time and Again by Jack Finney. And let's face it, as a writer, everything is material.
In Finney's book, the main character goes in and out of present day and "old" New York. He never knows where he's going to end up on any given day. He looks out his window in the early morning hours and glances at the lamp posts on the street below to see if he's in the present or back in 1882 New York City. When I look at vintage postcards I find myself fantasizing about writing an historical novel, or maybe a time travel book.
I think vintage New York postcards are my favorite, but I also love old timey Florida postcards, the kind that show orange groves and touches of "old Florida" with stucco houses in pastel colors and beachfront hotels.
Some are a little kitschy but that's okay and just adds to the charm.
I asked my friend for some tips, in case I decide to start collecting them. First of all, decide what you'd like to concentrate on. A geographical locale? A topic? A certain time period?
Next, you may wonder how to date a vintage postcard. Well, if there's no postmark date, the easiest thing may be to observe the clothing worn by people in the scene. If the women depicted are wearing one piece bathing suits and have bouffant hair-dos, you can probably be assured that the postcard is from the 1960's. Here's one from Ft. Lauderdale. It looks like something straight out of the "Where the Boys Are" movie.
This card is from Rockaway Beach, New York, around the turn of the century. Check out the bathing costumes. I wonder how the women even managed to swim with all that material wrapped around them!
Sometimes architectural details help. Remember all the cabanas you used to see on Florida beaches?
And the cars are a giveaway in this card from the 60's.
You can also determine the age by the postal rate. The cost to send a postcard in 1963, for example, was just four cents! Another thing to keep in mind is that it wasn't until the late 1800's that photos were allowed on postcards. And if you find a vintage postcard with a white border, it was probably from the 1915-1930 period of time.
Collecting vintage postcards is a fun hobby (even if it never leads to a book deal) and I think I may take it up. How about you? What do you collect?