Wish You Were Here!
By Randy Mallory
Long rows of tables line the spacious meeting hall, each covered edge to edge with boxes of precious paper. Thirty-somethings sit beside octogenarians at the tables—like old-fashioned librarians at card-catalog cases—perusing box after box. Frequently, someone pulls a plastic-wrapped piece from a box, holds it up to better light, and checks the other side for a telltale postmark or message.
Dedicated deltiologists—postcard collectors—join the merely curious in Austin at the Capital of Texas Postcard Club’s annual show to search, find, dicker, and plunk down a few dollars for a colorful 3-by-5-inch piece of history—a vintage postcard.
Several local collectors are on specific missions. Bob Gray watches for picture postcards of
Robert Brown of
Across the hall,
“What keeps us going,” says Debbie’s husband, Ken Wilson, who is a postcard dealer (www.ken-wilson.com), “is looking for a needle in the haystack—that wonderful, even rare postcard that others missed.”
The ultimate haystack sprawls across the front of the hall at Norman Porter’s display of 70,000 postcards, some 10,000 of which are real-photo cards of
Several tables over, another dealer-author, Wallace O. Chariton of
Picture postcards are such valuable research tools that the Texas Historical Commission has a database of several thousand cards to help with architectural restoration. “Postcards offer a visual timeline,” explains Mark Cowan of the THC’s Architecture Division, “to document the historical development of a building.”
Vintage postcards and their messages also offer compelling views of how towns and lifestyles changed, especially during the Golden Age of postcards, roughly 1900 to World War I.
From the January 2007 issue.