Are your sheds getting full and you haven’t yet
finished collecting? You might think about collecting farm
equipment postcards. They require little storage space, you can
keep them in the house, they don’t have to be dusted, and they cost
less than the real thing.
The people who collect farm equipment postcards aren’t going to
be happy that I tell you this. They want to keep it their little
secret. But I think there are enough cards to go around: You just
have to look for them!
Dallas Petersen of Villisca, Iowa, is sold on postcards. He has
been collecting for five years and has 115 Allis cards, 90
miscellaneous cards and 18 farm equipment cards. He also has cards
to trade. “I have 14 pieces of large Allis equipment, but cards
don’t take up much room,” he says. “And when you find a different
card, it doesn’t take a trailer to get it home.”
What kind of postcards are you going to find? In American
Advertising Postcards: Sets and Series, 1890-1920, by Frederic
H. Megson, the following categories are identified as being among
the earliest of farm equipment and farm-related cards: steel fences
by American, Corbett, DeKalb, Pittsburgh and Union companies; horse
blankets by Ayres and Phoenix companies; horseshoes by the Phoenix
company; fertilizer by Buffalo, German Kall, Hubbard and Royster
companies; cream separators by Empire, Melotte and Sharples; gas
engines by Brown, Bruce-MacBeth, Huber and Aultman & Taylor;
machinery/equipment by Hart-Parr, International, Rumely and Case;
and road rollers by Kelly Springfield and Monarch. You’ll also find
a lot of single cards from the years leading up to 1920.
After the 1920s, when Allis-Chalmers bought out Rumely,
Allis-Chalmers continued Rumely’s postcard promotions. That period
also is the time when John Deere, Ford, Minneapolis-Moline and
other manufacturers began producing postcards. Since no one has
documented the cards available, surprises are found every time you
Brad Carlson, Janesville, Minn., has a varied collection
numbering more than 2,000 cards. Brad’s dad has been an
Allis-Chalmers collector since Brad was a boy. About 12 years ago,
Brad’s father got into Allis postcards. Five years ago, Brad
started looking for cards for his father … but he didn’t limit
himself to Allis. His father, though, remains a specialist. “To my
dismay, he was not interested in them if they were not
Allis-Chalmers,” he says. “I found many interesting tractor cards
of other brands, and it sort of took off from there.”
Where do you find postcards? If you have limitless time and
energy, they can be found at antique malls and shops, flea markets,
auctions and garage sales. They’re also available at online auction
sites. The best place to find them, however, is at a postcard show.
You’ll find dates and locations of shows on flyers posted at
antique shops and malls. A typical show features 10 to 75 dealers
who handle nothing but postcards. Some carry a large stock of
cards, as many as 50,000.
At postcard shows, each dealer’s card inventory is carefully
organized. Save time by searching specific categories, say, farm
equipment, or farm-related headings such as specific manufacturer
or item name. Visit with the dealer; tell him what you’re looking
for, and ask him where he files cards in that category. Since all
dealers have their own filing systems, this will save you time and
frustration. Most dealers, if they’re not busy, are glad to help
Little information is available on postcard press runs, series
components or distribution methods. Most of the equipment
manufacturers that produced cards have merged or gone out of
business, and if records pertaining to card production ever
existed, which is unlikely, they are unknown of today. Equipment
manufacturers understandably focused on promoting their products,
not on recording data relating to promotional efforts.
Once you begin your collection, start a checklist of the cards
you buy. It’s a useful reference at shows, and helps prevent
duplicate purchases. Use a three-ring “D” binder to store and
display your cards in clear plastic, four-pocket pages. The plastic
pages protect your cards from damage. Don’t try to economize and
put two cards in one pocket: There is a lot of information on the
back of each card, and it’s easy to see when you put just one card
in a pocket. Messages written by the sender can be entertaining and
informative, and printed information (such as artist, photographer,
printer and more) is also of interest to the collector. Many cards
within a series are numbered; you may want to see how many of them
you can find.
For more information:
Barr’s Postcard News: bi-monthly
publication, includes directory of collector organizations,
classified advertising, events schedule, auctions. Barr’s
Postcard News, P.O. Box 601, Vinton, IA 52349; (800) 397-0145;
Postcard Collector: monthly
publication, includes classified advertising, events schedule,
forums. Postcard Collector, Krause Publications, 700 E.
State St., Iola, WI 54990; www.postcardcollector.com
Books on the topic: Many titles are available,
including this sampling: Collecting Picture Postcards by
Geoffrey A. Godden; The Postcard Price Guide 4th Edition, A
Comprehensive Reference, by J.L. Mashburn; and Collector’s
Guide to Post Cards by Jane Wood.
In the 35 years that I’ve been a collector/dealer, I find that
almost every postcard is a collectible to someone. Price has a lot
to do with which card is purchased. If the price is too high, be
patient. You may worry that you’ll never have a second chance at
that card. That’s the chance you take, but remember, prices vary
from dealer to dealer. Most cards start out at $2 to $3; rare cards
in mint condition can sell for hundreds of dollars. Early steam or
gas tractor cards, in particular, command a good price, mainly
because of the scarcity of the card.
What do I collect? Rumely. And I have four cards. Thirty-five
years and only four cards? Yes, but they’re really neat
– John Cole is a 35-year postcard collector and dealer from
Minnesota, and a contributor to Barr’s Postcard
A Matter of Quality: Collectors should hold out for best
As with all paper ephemera, when collecting postcards, quality
matters. “It is far better to spend a dollar on a card that is in
pristine condition than to invest in 10 cards that cost 10 cents
each, but are in poor condition,” advises John McClintock. Widely
considered the “Father of the American Postcard Business,”
McClintock offers advice to beginning collectors in an article
found online at www.barrspcn.com “A used card with the subject (or
‘view’ side) in mint condition is just as desirable as an unused
Identifying Picture Postcard Grades:Source: www.barrspcn.com
? Mint A perfect card; no marks, bends or
creases; seldom seen.
? Near Mint Like mint, but very, very light
aging or slight discoloration resulting from years of album
? Excellent Like mint in appearance. May be
used or unused with writing and postmark on address side only.
Clean, fresh appearance on picture side.
? Very Good Corners may be slightly rounded.
Almost undetectable crease or bend that does not detract from
overall appearance of picture side. May be used on address side. A
very collectible card.
? Good Corners noticeably rounded with
noticeable though slight bends or creases. May be used on address
? Average Creases and bends more pronounced.
May have writing in margins on picture side. Postmark may show
through from address side but not on main portion of picture.
Corners more rounded.
? Poor Card is intact, but soiled or stained;
cancellation may affect picture; writing on both sides.
? Space Filler Poor condition; corners torn or
missing; breaks. Least desirable card.