"We've been in the business for about 45 years. My mother, whom I am named after, started the business in the 1960's. My father was a stamp collector, so my mother would go to a lot of stamp shows with him, where they always had postcards. It was during that time she became interested in the cards. She first started as a collector. Then, she eventually started selling them and that's just kind of how it happened.
Postcards are a true peek at history; no matter who comes in or what they are looking for, I can always show them something interesting, meaningful, and sentimental. If someone comes in here and doesn't know anything about postcards, I ask them where they're from, the exact town they were born in, or even what their hobbies are. We have millions of postcards here, so I could track one down that will have the town the person was born in over 100 years ago.
I'm from Baltimore, so, of course, I have a huge Baltimore collection and a massive Maryland assortment. Pertaining to Baltimore, I have a lot of Inner Harbor cards, which people find so interesting because of how much the Harbor has changed in the past 100 years. I also have many cards with images of smoking ruins taken just after the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904—which are very hard to find. I collect cards that include anything different or unusual. This includes messages from the 20's or 30's. My favorites include messages that people wrote when they were visiting or passing through Maryland. I love to read the remarks: what the weather was like and how the crowds of people were.
I'm always buying new cards. With stamps and coins, there's a guide out there. So if you have enough money you know where to buy something, but with postcards, I'm always finding something new. I never get bored. Because you never know what's out there, what was taken by an amateur photographer. However, I mostly see new cards at the 30 shows and events we have per year.
The York International Postcard Expo is the biggest show in the country, if not the world. It's coming up this month, from November 21-22 at the York Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania and features over 75 leading dealers, representing over 30 states, and various countries. This show is particularly close to my heart because my mother started it 15 years ago. We had no idea at the time that the show would grow to be international. I find it funny that people know us in Switzerland, but not right around the corner in Salisbury!
My company alone brings about a half a million cards. Thousands of people attend and it's so interesting because the collectors and vendors are experts in their fields. People bring their very best cards to this show, like real photograph postcards. Real photo postcards are very rare, because they are actual photos that were turned into postcards; they weren't made on a press.
The last show I did there I sold a set of real photo postcards of the 1909 Cherry Hill Mining disaster in Illinois. It was one of the worst mining disasters in American history and it is responsible for getting the child labor laws changed. The photos are a little morbid actually. They showed a lot of the corpses of the children and men who died in the disaster. They were taken by a news photographer and he turned them into postcards and mailed them to one of the major newspapers.
I'm so proud of the fact that we have postcards from every imaginable place and about any topic you could think of ranging from motels to fraternal orders like the Elks and Masons to animals and holidays. My favorites are social history cards, like photographs of the suffragette movement and photos from inaugural parades going back as far as Teddy Roosevelt. We have a 10,000 square foot warehouse where we store the cards. We are close to capacity. I would say we already have run out of room, but we always make room for more. People probably come in here and think 'Oh my golly!' but I'm really good. I know where everything is. It's pretty rare for someone to come in or call and ask for something that I do not have. For example, people will make odd requests like they want a card with a couple chickens on it in front of a barn, and I'll have it.
My business is a family business. I took it over when my mother passed away. I have four kids and my 23-year old son works here everyday with me. All my children love postcards. I just had a baby boy in August and it was funny. I was at the doctor's and I was having a sonogram and they told me it was a boy and I said, 'Can you just tell me if he's a collector?'
I definitely send postcards from vacation. And I love to receive postcards. People always send me postcards from vacation. I say, 'Don't send me an e-mail! You better send me a postcard!'"