Locals Go Postal Over Cards

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If it hadn't been for a single childhood event, Karin Gilbert of Payson may have spent a good chunk of her life collecting ... oh, stamps, maybe. Or antique cars. Or gold doubloons.

Instead, a twist of fate led her into a life and love of ... postcards?

"Yes, postcards," Gilbert said with enthusiasm. "They are absolutely fascinating!"

We'll get to that fascination quotient in a moment. First, Gilbert explains how she was led to her hobby and how that led her to form The Postcard Club, a Payson organization created for Rim country residents with a passion for cards postal.

"Around 1959, when I was in junior high school, my mother was a nurse, and she took care of these two old men who lived next door to us," Gilbert said. "When they passed away, she was named in their will, so we went over and were able to pick and choose whatever we wanted.

"Well, I found boxes and boxes and boxes of postcards. My mom said 'Toss 'em,' and ohhhh, this is so hard for a postcard collector to say I did toss them. All except for one shoebox containing about 800 postcards.

"The backs of those cards told me a lot about the histories of those two old men. As far as we knew, they'd never had wives but these cards told about their wives starting from the days they'd dated! It was fascinating."

Still, Gilbert didn't become a bona fide collector until 10 years ago, she said.

"I just started picking up collectible cards, learning a bit about them ... and now I have about 4,000 postcards in my collection."

The majority of those postcards feature depictions of life and architecture along the old Route 66, because Gilbert grew up along that thoroughfare in Winslow.

History in the mail

The picture postcard which is different from government-produced "postal cards" printed with prepaid postage was given birth by an Act Of Congress on May 19, 1898, when publishers of privately printed mailing cards, or postcards, were granted permission to sell cards to the general public that could be mailed at the same one-cent rate as penny postal cards.

Although some cards depicting America were printed in the United States, the majority sold here were printed in Germany, where lithography was an art.

Besides colored lithography, many postcards were produced as photos directly from negatives. These are referred to as "real photo" cards. Unlike their more colorful lithographic cousins, real photo cards were produced in black and white or sepia tones. Because these real photo cards were true photographs, postcard collectors usually consider these as more collectible than lithographic cards for their unaltered presentation of the life and times of the early 20th century.

The Postcard Club

Gilbert originally started her postcard-collectors' group in 1999, she said, and continued until about six months ago because members started to get involved in other life pursuits.

"But now I'm ready to try again in February, to get the word out, because collecting postcards can be very interesting," she said. "You can collect your hometown postcards. Some cards are worth money, especially if they're the 'real photo cards.'"

Although the most Gilbert has paid for a postcard is $50, she said the price range can reach as high as $13,000 which was the price tag on a late-1800s postcard featuring the work of a once-famous painter named Mucha.

This time around, Gilbert is lining up speakers for the Postcard Club including, tentatively, Fred Tenney, a Mesa resident and one of the most knowledgeable postcard-collecting professionals around.

"You can show him what you have and he can tell you what they're worth," Gilbert said. "He's even bought some cards from me."

Starting Saturday, Feb. 16, The Postcard Club will meet from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month in the dining room of the Pepper Tree Apartments located on Longhorn across the street from Manzanita Manor.

"If people have cards they want to bring, great. If they don't, that's fine," she said. "During the meetings, we trade and sell cards, or just admire them. If anyone has kids they want to bring, that's fine too. My grandchildren love the Barbie cards, the Britney Spears cards, all those kinds of things. It's just a lot of fun."

For more information about the Postcard Club, call Gilbert at 472-8756.

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