Published on July 28th, 2017 | by Michelle Roper-Shaw0
100 Years of Postcards
This week the Royal Mail has opened an online gallery of postcards spanning over 100 years. Originally a way for soldiers to send messages during the Boar War, postcards offer a personal representation of our social history.
Will you be sending a holiday postcard to your family and friends back home this summer? Chances are, probably not. In this digital era of smart phones and social media, the humble postcard is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Yet, this Royal Mail postcard collection offers a unique insight into our past.
The very first postcard was created as a practical joke back in 1840. Featuring a hand painted caricature of postal workers, it was sent to Theodore Hook in Fulham (probably by Hook himself). It was sold at auction in 2002 for £32,000.
However, it was during the period 1905 to 1915 that sending postcards became a national obsession. As the postal service grew in popularity, over 750 million postcards were sent every year.
During World War One, postcards enabled soldiers to send messages home to their loved ones. In the Royal Mail selection, one poignant card dated 1914 shows a soldier before he goes into battle. Another, from the trenches has the place name censored.
The Golden Age of the Postcard
In the 1930s, colourful postcards with fun comic images captured the imagination of the nation. At this time, postcard sales rocketed to 16 million a year. Many of us will be familiar with the saucy seaside postcards of this era, particularly the designs of Donald McGill.
Their popularity reached such a height that during the 1950s the government decided to crackdown on these postcards and their naughty innuendos. A revival of the genre in the 1960s was then followed by a decline once again in the 1970s and 1980s.
Postcards Worth a Fortune
If you have any old postcards stored away in a shoe box in the attic, you might have your hands on a fortune.
Postcards dating from 1902 to 1918 are particularly valuable. Hand tinted lithograph cards can fetch £20 to £30 at auction.
Postcards of historical importance are the most sought after. In 2002, a postcard written from the Titanic sold for £14,000, making it the most valuable postcard of all time.
Postcards at the Post Office Shop
Stamp cards feature the designs of Special Stamps which are released through the year by the Royal Mail. They cover an array of special events and anniversaries. Included in the selection are the Beatrix Potter Stamps Cards featuring the 10 Special Stamp Designs to celebrate her “Little Tales”.
You can view the full Royal Mail postcard gallery here http://gallery.royalmailgroup.com/historyofpostcards