Published: August 19, 2003
Postcards Earn Top Prices in Iowa
– Jackson’s recent auction featuring the lifetime collection of postcards and ephemera from the estate of Abe Samuels (1928-2002) drew 287 registered bidders representing 39 states and five countries.
The sale totaled $854,611 in sales, including 15 percent buyer’s premium, which more than doubled the high presale estimate for the entire auction.
The top lot of the sale was an inconspicuous-looking box lot of 600 postcards with a presale estimate of $750/1,000. Bidding opened at $500 and slowly inched its way to the final winning bid of $9,487.
The top single rdf_Description sold was a rare 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings real photo baseball card. Generally acknowledged as the first baseball card, this particular example suffered from a myriad of condition problems including losses, folds, creases and staining. Nevertheless it sold for $6,037 against a presale estimate of $3/5,000.
Born in western New York State in 1928, Abe Samuels was a surveyor for the city of New York. Samuels, a recluse and lifelong bachelor, had an unquenchable thirst for printed material of every kind and was a lifelong member of the Metropolitan Postcard Club in New York. None of the dealers from whom Samuels purchased rdf_Descriptions from over the past few decades had any idea as to the breadth of his collection.
“As it turned out, there really wasn’t a great amount of ultra-rare or important material; however, there was a boatload of really good virgin material, along with a few rarities,” said auction house vice president Jon Crisman. “The real challenge was how to catalog so much material in a manner that would be easy to manage and interesting to potential buyers.”
The sale opened with Halloween cards and saw competitive bidding on each lot beginning with the first lot offered, a set of three Ellen Clapsaddle mechanical Halloween postcards, which sold to an in-house bidder for $1,380. That was followed by a group lot of seven “Tuck Schmucker” Halloween cards that sold $940. The trend of strong prices for Halloween cards never let up and thereby validated what is already known to those in the trade: good Halloween cards are hot.
Other well-established trends were also supported, such as the popularity of real photo postcards, particularly within certain subjects. This is an area that apparently has no end in sight as its cross over appeal to collectors of Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century American photo images increases the competition and subsequently the prices.
As an example, a real photo postcard depicting ACLU founder Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, speaking at an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) rally in Patterson, Mass., sold for $1,265 whereas a pair of real photo postcards depicting interior scenes with a man surrounded by Native American objects and images, circa 1900, sold for $1,063.
More than a few examples of real photo postcards are truly “one-of-a-kind.” Toward the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century and the beginning of the Twentieth Century, itinerant photographers crossed the country producing images printed on photographic paper with postcard backings. It was common, for example, that a photographer would stop by any given small town and print real photo postcards of various well-known local scenes, or perhaps simply Main Street or children at play. Scenes were sometimes only printed in very small quantities making these unique glimpses of everyday life into America’s past quite desirable.
Christmas-related cards all sold well above their estimate; however, there were many comments among the dealers that suggested Santa postcards are not as hot as they once were. Any attending the sale would probably have thought otherwise, however. Take for example the single Wiener Werkstatte Santa postcard; it sold to a Kansas City collector for $1,150.
“Auctions like these are unique,” gallery president and CEO James Jackson said. “In contrast, had all of this exact same material been consigned to us by say eight or ten different active dealers, the sale would have only brought half as much. But such is the nature of true estate auctions, which offer ‘virgin’ material with inviting estimates.”
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm