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Affordable Collectibles: Thanksgiving Greeting Postcards

Amass a Vintage Card Collection Most Anyone Can Afford


Thanksgiving Postcard Illustrated by Samuel L. Schmucker and Published by John Winsch in 1912

Thanksgiving Postcard Illustrated by Samuel L. Schmucker and Published by John Winsch in 1912

- Scan by Jay B. Siegel
While most collectors don’t think of Thanksgiving postcards first when contemplating a budding collection, there’s really no reason not to choose them as a starting point. After all, Thanksgiving cards are extremely affordable when compared to those illustrated with popular Halloween or Santa themes. They’re also cleverly decorated, most are quite colorful, and some of the same artists and publishers that produced more desirable cards in the world of deltiology worked on these as well.

Uniquely American Thanksgiving Themes

Other countries have their versions of Thanksgiving, there’s no question about that. But the themes on Thanksgiving postcards whether they were published in the United States or abroad are singularly American. The traditions of eating turkey and pumpkin pie, honoring pilgrims and Native Americans, and generally celebrating an abundant harvest season abound on these cards making them colorful and very expressive pieces of early 1900s Americana.

There are also some themes that don’t really fly as a greeting card by today’s standards, like a farmer with ax in hand contemplating which bird to butcher. When an object like this flirts with making a politically incorrect statement, it makes it all the more collectible to some folks. You’ll occasionally find a card depicting men or women donned in servant’s attire presenting Thanksgiving dinner in the Gilded Age manner as well. Most, however, feature proud turkeys in all their glory, harvest fruits and vegetables, and either beautiful women or charming children.

Thanksgiving Card Artists

One of the best parts about collecting Thanksgiving postcards is that the most popular illustrators of Halloween and Christmas cards also lent their artistry here. These include big names like Samuel Schmucker, Ellen Clapsaddle and Frances Brundage and they’re far less pricey than other holiday-themed greetings by these artists.

But even the cards that weren’t colorfully illustrated by the big names can still be fun to collect. Look for others by well known postcard publishers like John Winsch, Raphael Tuck & Sons, and International Art Publishing Co. and they’ll all be welcome additions to a collection.

Values for Thanksgiving Cards

Folks who want to build a beautiful postcard collection but don’t have a massive budget will find Thanksgiving examples to be perfectly suited for their pocketbook. Most cards in antique shops and at shows will sell for just $1-3 each, and occasionally you’ll find an examples by well know artists like Clapsaddle thrown in the mix at a very reasonable price. If a dealer knows those names, Clapsaddle cards might be priced in the $5-15 range and Schmucker cards are usually $25 and up. For even better deals, look to the online auction marketplace.

The first thing to be aware of is that online auction or “buy it now” asking prices vary widely. Some dealers list Schmucker Thanksgiving cards, for example, at prices comparable to Halloween cards. There’s no reason to pay that, however.

With some patience, there’s a good chance the exact card you have your eye on will come up for auction with a low starting price and you can get it for $25 or less. This tactic is especially true when shopping in the off season. That means looking to build your harvest postcard collection in months other than November will net the best deals.

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