What is a rare card?
Rarity, in card
collecting, is a relative term, modified by a multitude of considerations.
The most basic meaning would infer only one or very few in existence. As
an example, an actual photo card is rare by its very nature. Only one of
each was made. Typically, a box camera in the early 1900s was used to photograph
a scene. Then, the negative was used to make one copy of the picture on
postcard stock.....thus, an actual-photo card. If multiple copies had been
made by a card producer, it would have
to the Green Door Menu
been called a real-photo
To continue with
our discussion of rarity, let's assume that someone in the early 1900s
took a picture of a small pond and had an actual photo postcard made of
it. Over time the postcard ends up in someone's collection. It is an extremely
rare card, because only one was made.
The question now is; is it collectible?
Let's put it this way.....would you pay $5 for an actual photo postcard
of an unidentified pond with no information as to when or where the picture
was taken? If you would, please contact me. I've got quite a collection
of rare cards of that type. However, information about a given card increases
its value. If the person who took the original picture had dated it and
detailed the location as "The pond in back of the John Doe residence in
Hometown, USA" and the current owner found that the property had been converted
to The Hometown Mall, it would have historical, and perhaps personal, interest.
When we think of
rare cards in postcard collecting, we assume much more than basic rarity.
We think of the desirability of an image: its beauty, when it was made,
what it represents, how fully it represents what we look for, how available
it is, and how much it costs. These considerations, plus hundreds more,
constitute what we really mean by the term "rare".
I collect rare airline postcards.
But what is rare to me may not be rare to someone else, and what is rare
to someone else may be very common to me. There are many postcard producers
that currently make, or in recent years made, airline postcards. These
producers include: Aironautica, Avia Products, Aviation World, Inc., Avimage,
DPR Marketing, Editions JP, Flite-Line Fotocards, International Airlines
Museum, International Airline World Publishing Co., Manche Postcard, Mary
Jayne's Railroad Specialties, O.K.C. Praha, Plane Views, and Team-Druck.
There are many more.
The advantage to
the collector of such producers is the abundant variety of readily available
cards at inexpensive prices. While you may see such cards at postcard shows
priced at $2 or $3, most of those same cards are available at under $1
directly from the producers. To me, a card that is readily available at
inexpensive prices cannot be considered as rare.
As producers of such cards recede
backwards in time, the cards themselves become more collectible. John Proctor,
a contemporary pioneer of mass-produced airline postcards for the collector,
stopped producing postcards under Aviation World, Inc. in 1986 and under
Flite-Line Postcards in 1988. A few collectors of "modern" airline cards
are trying to collect the entire line of Aviation World, for example. To
these collectors, a card they don't have may seem "rare".
So the term "rare"
is relative to what one collects and what that collector already owns.
I like to collect airline postcards that pre-date most of what I call the
"subscription airline postcards", which are those listed a few paragraphs
ago. But even then, my collecting interests are not well-defined. American,
Eastern and United Airlines each produced and distributed postcards showing
their aircraft during the '50s through the '70s. Some of their cards were
produced in prodigious quantities, making such cards readily available
40 years later. These cards, to me, are not rare. However, some cards produced
by these giants are rare.
The only way I know how to determine
whether an airline postcard is rare or not is to spend a couple of decades
collecting, buying, and selling such cards. Experience is the best teacher,
but is not infallible. So when someone contacts me about an airline postcard,
I usually require a detailed description, an image (attachment, photocopy,
scan, fax, etc.) or the card itself on approval.
The best way is
to receive the card on approval so that it can be examined for condition
(which is very important), publisher, age, availability, subject matter,
demand, and appeal. All these criteria are discoverable by experience.
And all these criteria help to determine rarity.