Christmas postcards at auction
  • Missing: Vintage black baby greeting cards
  • Short-lived frenzy over leather postcards
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    Auction Finds

    Vintage Halloween postcards more sweet than spooky

    Looking at the images on the postcards I could see why so many people like to collect all things Halloween. The witches, black cats, lots of jack-o-lanterns and other symbols were quite colorful and innocently drawn.

    There were a stack of Halloween cards at auction recently. I wasn’t around when they sold – I wouldn’t even have dared to bid on them – but I’m sure they went for a pretty penny. There were so many that they had to have been someone’s collection.

    The postcards were likely from around the early part of the 20th century, and most were printed in Germany (which at that time had some of the best printing houses, and was the place where most cards were printed and shipped elsewhere). Most of the postcards were invitations to Halloween parties, and a few were greeting cards. None had been used.

    Postcards are said to be the most collectible of Halloween paraphernalia; they’re at least the most portable. The late 1800s were the best years for postcards in general – with around 3,500 images said to have been designed – and that enthusiasm lasted up until the time of the first world war. People of means in this country and England would hold Halloween parties to one-up each other (One site noted that some were matchmaking parties for young people). Meanwhile, Halloween cards were also sent as greeting cards. The cards featured jack-o-lanterns, black cats that for years had been linked to witches and benevolent witches with kind messages.

    Halloween postcards

    Halloween postcard that’s an invite to a party.

    But the sending of postcards extended to those without lots of money. During the height of the postcard era, according to one site, billions of them were sent to “kin and friends … and into boxes and albums.” The golden era of postcards was also the period when folks earnestly began collecting them. Most of the cards were printed overseas; the first Halloween postcards were printed in this country in 1908.

    One of the cards at auction was signed by Ellen H. Clapsaddle, a renowned postcard designer who did illustrations primarily of children for the world’s most well-known printers, including Raphael Tuck & Sons and International Art Publishing, both based in London, and Wolf Publishing, a subsidiary that she started herself with International. Deemed a “prolific” illustrator, her work is considered the most prized among collectors.

    Postcard collecting is not child’s play. Some of the rare cards can sell for hundreds of dollars. Others are more manageable: I found several Halloween postcards for sale on one retail site for $15 up to $60 for a single card. Two from the auction were selling for $35 and $40 each.

    Here are some of the postcards from the auction:

    Halloween postcards

    An array of Halloween postcards with greetings, and one turkey card.

     

    Halloween postcards

    Halloween party postcards.

     

    Halloween postcards

    Halloween party postcards.

     

    Halloween postcard

    Halloween party invitation.

     

    Halloween postcards

    A stack of Halloween postcards.

     

    Halloween postcards

    Halloween postcards with greetings.

     

    Halloween postcards

    Halloween postcards featuring stylized witches.

     

    Halloween postcards

    German Halloween greeting postcards.

     

    Halloween postcards

    A postcard by Ellen H. Clapsaddle, well-known card illustrator.

     

    Halloween postcards

    The back of a postcard.

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