Values for some Real Photograph Postcards
Stefano Neis of SCVIEW gave me permission to reprint his Real Photo Price Guide. There is a lot of excellent, up-to-date information here, which I thank Stefano for letting me reprint it ~ Ron Playle.
As far as what type of Real Photo (RP or RPPC)
postcards sell best... well ... read below for a brief listing of
#1) Older cards sell best.
#2) Small towns are MUCH better than cities.
#3) The US market is crazy about social history. They will get you
your best prices.
#4) Many US view collectors also collect RPs by topics all 50 of
Examples : Library's ; Masonic Temples; Elk's halls ; Court Houses
; Train Stations ; Airports ; trolley cars & Stations, Main
street views (Especially dirt streets)
#5) Regionally Western & Southern US postcards get the highest
values (Excluding major cities)
#6) Delaware postcards (older) are very hard to find.
#7) Advertising signs add much value to US RP postcards:
Signs for KEEN KUTTER, MOXIE, Coca Cola, Dr Pepper, VIN FIZ, on a
postcard are very desired.
#8) Automobiles where one can see the make of the car are
#9) Native Americans (Non Tourist type; generally pre 1910) are
#10) Derogatory anti-black themes can command $1000.00 and up (look under ETHNIC and SOCIAL HISTORY below) .
#11) Early (Pre 1918) Baseball Stadiums & players are HIGHLY
desired. Black Baseball cards can got upward of $10,000 USD.
Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for a major Antique
publication that may help you price your better RPs
Values for Better Real Photograph (RPs or RPPCs) Postcards
Why are real photograph postcards now so pricey and so hard to
find? This quick guide below will attempt to explain both questions
and provide a current prices realized overview of the Real
Photograph postcard (RPPC) here in the US.
Postcard collecting is the third largest collectible hobby in the
USA. Since the 1980s this "new" hobby increasingly garners a
rapidly growing field of passionate & informed collectors. At
the top tier of the hobby is the format known as the RPPC (Real
Photograph Post Card).
If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a photographic image
conveys endless essays on what we as Americans are, where we came
from and what we have the potential to become. The
turn-of-the-century RPPC documented the transformation of an
agrarian society with the advent of the automobile, the telephone,
the airplane and an endless stream of modern inventions and
resulting changes to American life.
History itself is on display in RPPCs. And collectors will pay to
own a piece of history.
Example: If while searching in a family trunk, one found an RPPC of
a woman holding a banner reading "Woman Voters!" while she was
riding a Harley Davidson motorbike up the gangplank of the Titanic
in Ireland, one could easily surmise a sense of value to such an
image. If that image were proved to be one-of-a-kind, or at least
at most one of a few hundred, the value rises even more. Since this
mythical image also incorporates 3 high demand collecting areas
(Woman's rights, early motorcycles, & the Titanic), 3
aggressively active collecting groups would want to own it. It is
these types of factors that drive the value of RPPCs.
RPPCs are valued by the 1) AGE of the image, 2) the CONTENT in the
image, 2) the RARITY of the image and 4) the DEMAND for the
1) AGE. RPPCs can be dated by both their front and backsides.
Comparing the two to one another determines the age of the image. A
helicopter in an image dated 1903 would be an obvious fake, but
knowing when hoop skirts were in vogue would date a street scene to
within 10 years. Cars, buildings, attire, advertising signs and
city backgrounds all give clues to the date of an image.
On the backside of a postcard, one will find marks made in the
stamp corner by the maker of the photograph paper. A detailed
listing of RPPC marks and their dates of use are available at
QUICK Dating Guide USA RPPC's stamp boxes;
Some common stamp box corners noted here:
ANSCO 1940-1960 2 Stars at top &
AZO 1926-1940s Squares in corners
AZO 1904-1918 4 triangles pointed up
AZO 1918-1930 Triangles 2 up, 2 down
AZO 1907-1909 DIAMONDS in corners
AZO 1922-1926 Empty Corners
DEFENDER 1910-1920 Diamond above & below
DEFENDER 1920-1940 Diamond inside
Devolite Peerless 1950-
KRUXO 1910-1920s Xs in corners
SAILBOAT 1905-1908 Sailboat in circle
SOLIO 1903-1920s Diamonds in corners
VELOX 1907-1914 Diamonds in corners
VELOX 1901-1914 Squares in corners
VELOX 1909-1914 Triangles: 4 pointed Up
Study the image, study the usage, and study
the format of the postcard to date it properly.
If the Titanic image we found had a KODAK stamp box, it would have
been a 1950s reproduction of an early image. If the stamp box had a
CYKO stamp box, the image would be off to an auction, quite
possibly achieving tens of $1000s. Knowing how to compare the front
to the back of an RPPC is crucial to determining its value.
2) CONTENT. Unidentified images where the location is not known
have FAR less value than identified images.
Be sure to look closely at an image and scan it for interesting
items such as advertising signs (FORD, Moxie, Coca-Cola, KEEN
KUTTER, Gold Dust Twins.); early transportation (steam-driven cars,
trolleys, biplanes, rigid balloons); ethnic groups (Black
Americans, Shakers, Native Americans, Jewish Americans, Gypsies,
Immigrants); famous people; or social history events in
In general the smaller the town or location an image comes from,
the more valuable it is. If you recognize the place in an image as
a tourist spot, the value diminishes greatly. For the value of
RPPCs, smaller is better.
3) RARITY. Think Pre-WWI. Earlier images were made far less in the
RPPC format. Early RPPC cameras only allowed 6 or 12 copies of an
image to be made (Kodak 1A camera) or even just one (Personal
Brownie Camera). Commercial Photographs would make 12 copies and
then use those copies as "contact" negatives to make more copies;
as the process was duplicated the original image itself became
damaged. At best only a few 100 of an image could be made in this
"larger Volume" manner. Not until after WWI did large Volume rotary
photo processing machines made RPPC images readily available in
1000s per run.
Another new trend in RPPC collecting is the rise of photographic
art collecting by individual photographer. Clear and sharp examples
by early identified photographers command their own following and
generate much higher values in auctions.
Condition is a major part of rarity. Well cared for images are much
harder to find than well "viewed" images. A superb non-damaged
image has the greatest value potential.
4) DEMAND. RPPCs are the most in demand of all types of postcards
for collectors & historical societies.
Pricing Guide List for RPPCs
So just what do Real Photograph postcards go for? How much are they
worth? The following price list is but a sampling of values and
prices realized in the last few years.
All price ranges below reflect images where clarity and sharpness
are superb, the overall condition of the RPPC is EXCELLENT
NEAR MINT and the image dates to pre-1940. It is also assumed that
the physical location of the card is verified by writing, postmark
or photographer caption on the postcard itself. Images that are
blurred or damaged should have their values cut by two-thirds off
the lower range value stated below. For more example adjustments
both Positive & Negative to the prices see notes at end of
price guide list.
Automobile Identified Make $20-$50
Barbershop interior w/barbers $40-$75
Barbershop interior w/0 barbers $20-$45
Bus stops w/bus $15-$45
Cigar & Tobacco Store Interior $175-$220
Coca Cola Plant Interior $300-$1500
Coca Cola truck $500-$2600
Coca Cola Wagon $1,800-$3,000
Gas stations $50-165
General Store Interior $75-$125
General Store Exterior $45-$90
Grocery Store Exterior $75-$100
Hearse Wagon $200-$300
Ice Cream Stands $150-$300
Ice Wagon $125-$200
Kodak Girls $75-$100
Medicine Remedies Wagon (Watkins) $100-$400
Medicine Remedies Wagon (other Co.) $200-$800
Milk Wagon (Borden)$100-$150
Milk Wagon (other)$150-$250
Oil Delivery Wagon $100-$150
Telephone Company Wagon $225-$300
Trucks- Identified make $30-$60
Trucks- Delivery w/advertising $50-$150
Trucks- Service(Mail/Fire/Dump) $65-$200
Wells Fargo Wagon $150-$250
Black Baseball regional $1200-$1500
Black Doctor $100-$200
Black Baseball Negro League Pro $4,500-$25,000
Black Band Jazz $100-$250
Black Band Circus $100-$250
Black Band Minstrel $100-$125
Black Face Minstrel $40-$65
Black Chain Gangs $700-$2200
Black Lynching (No ID)$2000-$5500
Black Lynching (with ID)$4000-$11,000
Black dead remains(Mob action) $2200
PEOPLE & OCCUPATIONAL:
Billboard Hangers $50-$75
Blacksmith w/anvil $100-$175
Fire men horse drawn $125-$175
Firemen Truck $150-$200
Ice Delivery Men $150-$350
Logging Crew $35-$65
Quilting Bees $400-$500
Salesman portrait w/product $100-$150
Tatoo Artist $1,000-$3,000
Teddy Roosevelt $40-$65
Drug abuse related $200-$250
Racist anti black $450-$1,250
Segregated Buildings $90-$330
Flu Epidemic $250-$350
Socialist Party Wagon NYC $2,500-$3,600
Labor Leader Eugene Debs $1000-$2000
Strike related $150-$300
Patriotic US Flag Dress $300-$400
Suffragette Speaker USA $100-$130
Prohibition Party Candidate $250-$300
Sweat shop work scene $40-$80
Klu Klux Klan $200-$1500
Third party political $200-$350
Man-Woman sideshow $200-$300
Uncle Sam $50-$150
Baseball Team Pro $900-$2,000
Baseball Stadium Pro $125-$300
Boxing-Professional, Black $200-$350
Baseball Stadium Regional $30-$75
Female Basketball Team $35-$55
Baseball Regional $90-$150
Covered Bridges $8-$12
Post Offices $4-$8
Schools Exterior $7-$20.00
Schools Interior $15-$50
Skylines Cities $12-$25
Stadiums Football $12-$25
Stadiums Baseball $50-$500
Main Streets $25-$45
TRANSPORTATION: (larger images command higher values)
Air Planes Air shows $50-$125
Air Planes Commercial Pre-1920 $200-$400
Air Ships/Dirigibles $125-$175
Balloons Ascensions $125-$200
Farm Tractor $35-$45
Female Aviator $200-$500
Train Wrecks $20-$45
Truck-Delivery w/ads $60-$125
NOTES ON PRICING:
All of the above are pre-1940 images and all are at identified
All are EX-NM condition.
D&H (dirt street w/horses). Unidentified images command
two-thirds less in value. Small or blurred images command 2/3rds
less in value.
+&- Price adjusting factors to items on list above.
D&H add $25
Southern add $30
Trolley add $10
Advertising sign add $10
Storefront add $10
Ethnic add $25
Political add $35
Private Mailing Card Back circa 1898 add 100%
Horse & car together in view add $10
Known collectible photographer add $30
Occupational in view add $10
Small Image subtract 66%
Blurred Image subtract 66%
Parade subtract $10
Flood subtract $10
Fire subtract $10
No readable signs subtract $10
Northern State View subtract $5
Bernhard, Willi: Bernhard Picture Postcard Catalogue: Germany
Bogdan, Robert and Todd Weseloh: Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People’s
Photography. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2006.
0-8156-0851-9, 288 pages, 367 black-and-white photographs,
appendixes, bibliography, notes, index.
Morgan, Hal & Brown, Andreas: Prairie Fires and Paper Moons:
The American Photographic Postcard: 1900-1920, David R. Godine
Publisher, Boston, 1981 (1st), ill., 192pp
Sante, Luc: Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo
Postcard 1905-1930, YETI Books, 2009, ill., 159pp.
Smith, Jack H.: Postcard Companion: The Collector's
, Wallace-Homestead, Radnor, PA, (1989), B&W and
color ill., 374pp. Good source book on all aspects of postcard
"Dating Post-1920 Real Photo Postcards," by Ernest G. Covington, in
Postcard Collector, July 1986, pages 26-28.
Harvey Tulcensky and Laetitia Wolff: Real Photo Postcards
(Princeton Architectural Press, 2005) Vaule, Rosamond B.: "As We
Were: American Photographic Postcards, 1905-1930," David R.