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Antique postcard show draws collectors

Saturday, December 8, 2007 | 6:19 p.m. CST; updated 8:03 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — The front shows a picture of the MU Columns shortly after Jesse Hall burned down. The back bears a May 20, 1914, postmark and the faded ink reads: “Have seen Mrs. Osborne and a few others. Will be here two or three days. Love, Ma and Dad.”

The postcard, held by Boone County postcard collector Jack Horton, is one of many that could be found at Columbia’s third annual Antique Postcard and Paper Americana Show and Sale, a two-day event sponsored by Jim Taylor, owner of Courthouse Square Antique Postcards in Neosho.

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More than 100 collectors are expected to attend the sale, Taylor said.

He also said postcards, which date back to the turn of the 20th century, are “little glimpses of past history.”

Ma, Dad and Mrs. Osborne would have never imagined their simple correspondence would become a treasure for collectors nearly a century later. Their postcards sell for a couple of dollars each, and the extraordinarily rare can go for thousands.

“There’s a lot of folks in the area interested in history,” Taylor said. “We bring nearly a million postcards from small towns, the Midwest, areas all over the country.”

Customers came from a wide range of locales: one made the trip from Grand Rapids, Mich., but noted that he didn’t travel the farthest.

Vendor Rex Fliess, a retired Episcopal priest, braved blowing snow to drive down from from Bayfield, Wisc. — a town on the shores of Lake Superior at the state’s northern tip.

What brings people to these events is difficult to pin down. Some attempt to trace their familial roots. Others are purist collectors who look for rarities such as a DPO — “Dead or Deceased Post Office” — cards, postmarked on the last day a post office was open.

Like the letters and pictures on the cards themselves, each enthusiast has a different story to tell.

Taylor, who sponsors 12 shows a year, five of which are held in Missouri, said he first became interested in postcards when he wanted to open a Pizza Hut restaurant and used postcards to help with the design of the building.

“A lot of postcards are used for historical preservation,” he said, explaining that postcards display color schemes and give architectural cues.

Writer H. Dwight Weaver said he uses postcards to find photos for his books.

“In fact, it was collecting postcards that actually got me started writing about caves and about Lake of the Ozarks,” he said.

Retired in 2000 from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Weaver has published three books about the Lake of the Ozarks, and he has a sixth book about caves due for release in February.

Joe Sonderman, a radio broadcaster for KLOU/103.3 FM in St. Louis, scoured the stacks for Route 66 memorabilia to help him write a book.

“It’s no different than stamp collecting,” Sonderman said. “The only difference is people have a personal attachment to them ­­— it’s your town.”

Mike Rodemeyer of Hartsburg collects postcards of his hometown. His wife, also a collector, stayed at the hotel to avoid buying too many Halloween and Santa Claus cards.

“(It’s) kind of a social history of the country,” he said of the cards. “Anything possible has been made into a postcard.”

The cards are as diverse as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to photographs of shops that were used as advertisements. Some cards even cover the grislier sides of history. Rodemeyer said that if you look hard enough, you can find evidence of racism as well as photos of Nazi concentration camp atrocities.

But perhaps the main thing that attracts vendors and customers alike to postcards is nostalgia.

Weaver said he looks for photographs of old resorts and street scenes because, “That’s all vanished now. It’s gone.”

The last chance for potential collectors to attend the sale, which began Saturday, is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at Quality Inn, 1612 N. Providence Road. Admission is $2.


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