How To Value Old Postcards: Do You Have Hidden Treasures Worth Thousands?

About The Author

I’ve been a collector my entire life. I started collecting baseball cards as a kid and spent many lazy Saturdays sorting, organizing, and enjoying my collection (and ripping off my brother in trades from time-to-time).

Like many kids that collect baseball cards, my hobby withered away as I entered adulthood and was replaced by more sophisticated hobbies, like gardening and doing puzzles. Until I discovered the hobby of postcard collecting.

How do you value old postcards when the price difference can be so significant? Some are worth no more than a couple dollars on a good day, and some old postcards may be worth more than a new house, like the Babe Ruth postcard that recently sold at auction for $564,000.

While determining the value of a postcard is difficult, it is very important. If you don’t know what a collection you are selling is worth, you could potentially lose out on hundreds or thousands of dollars. In my time reselling and collecting postcards, I have come across hundreds of thousands of unique postcards and sold over 15,000 old postcards in my online store

This article will teach you the basics of valuing your postcard collection without being an expert. I’m always happy to provide free value estimations for any postcard collection, large or small, by email.

Are old postcards worth any money?

Old postcards range in value from a few dollars each to thousands of dollars and up. Postcards from the Golden Age of Postcards, around 1905 to 1915, tend to command the most money. In the United States alone, one billion postcards per year were mailed during the Golden Age. Most of the postcards produced during this period are widely available today and not worth more than $5. However, some postcards are more difficult to find and much more expensive.

Real photo postcards, or RPPCs, are some of the most valuable postcards produced. Photographers in the early 1900s commonly sold their work on postcards. These photo postcards were often sold in lesser quantities and were more expensive than lithographic postcards, which is why they command more money today. The appeal, and value, of real photo postcards lies in the image’s intrigue. Scenic views of dirt roads or lakes typically sell for much less than busy street scenes or a team photo of a professional baseball team.

A black and white image of a train depot in the early 1900s. When trying to value old postcards, images like this are on the higher end of value.
This is a real photo postcard (RPPC) of a railroad depot in Port Royal, Pennsylvania. The subject (railroad depot) and smaller town make this an expensive postcard.

Lithographic or printed postcards can sell for good money, too. There are two main categories of printed postcards: views and topical. View postcards show cities, towns, and places how they were over one hundred years ago. Smaller town postcards tend to sell for more money because there are simply less postcards to go around. Millions of postcards were produced of bigger cities, while smaller towns may have only ever had a few hundred postcards produced of the area.

Topical, or topic postcards, feature almost anything: animals, holidays, comics, advertising, social issues, people, and so much more. Halloween postcards and those depicting social issues, such as prohibition and women’s suffrage, tend to be more valuable than most. Some topical postcards are artist signed, and in many cases the artist’s work only exists on postcards. Some artists are more collected than others, but in any case the artist’s signature gives you a starting point to research the value of the postcard.

Entire books have been written about valuing old postcards, and I won’t pretend to comprehensively cover the subject in this article. If you are interested in learning more about how to value old postcards, please read my article “A Complete Guide to Collecting and Valuing Old Postcards.” If you have any questions about the value of your collection or would like a free valuation, email me directly.

Which postcards are the most valuable?

It’s not uncommon for postcards to sell for $20, $50, or even $100. Some special postcards can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Whether you are collecting postcards or reselling postcards, knowing which postcards are the most valuable can help you determine which postcards to buy to resell or how to value your own collection. I published an article showcasing 20 of the most valuable postcards that have sold in the last few years. Below is one of the most valuable advertising postcards that has sold over the last few years, an advertisement for sparkling grape soda that sold for $1,126.

How and where do I sell my old postcards?

If you are a longtime collector looking to downsize or you inherited a collection, the natural answer for what to do with all your old postcards may be to sell them. Selling a collection of old postcards for a fair price isn’t easy. Unless your collection has one theme, such as postcards of Georgia or postcards featuring cats, you will likely be selling to a postcard dealer or reseller instead of a collector. There is nothing wrong with selling to a reseller, but some resellers are willing to pay more than others and give you a fair price for your postcards.

Many resellers will look to acquire your collection as cheaply as possible. I highly recommend gathering multiple opinions about the value of your postcards. I am always happy to give free valuations by email and I am always buying great collections. Postcard shows are a great way to get your postcards evaluated in-person by dealers that have typically been selling for decades.

Is there a website to value old postcards?

All collections are unique and it is impossible to estimate the value of a collection without looking at postcards in the collection. If you want to self-evaluate your collection, my complete guide to collecting and valuing old postcards will give you an understanding of which postcards have value and which are not worth much. To determine the value of specific postcards online, research sold prices on eBay or a paid price research service such as WorthPoint.

Determining the value of a postcard collection can take hours or days of research if you aren’t an expert, but knowing what you have can help you sell your collection for a fair price.

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