Coins and stamps are the two most collectible hobbies in the world. But do you know what is third?
“It usually starts with seeing one at a yard sale, or flea market that shows a hometown or place of interest, says Ray Buckberry, a Bowling Green collector.
Buckberry, and Hodgenville residents Carl Howell and Robin Milby are among several other Kentuckians who have spent years accumulating a collection of cards that do much more than take up space boxed up in a closet.
“It’s not the numbers in a collection, but the quality that counts,” Howell is quick to say. “Postcards tell so many stories about people and a way of life.”
Another collector, Ronald Morgan of Frankfort, several years ago donated his 11,000 card collection to the Kentucky Historical Society. He told a Lexington newspaper his obsession with collecting began when a friend gave him an old picture postcard showing his Lancaster hometown as it was at the turn of the 20th century.
He was hooked. That’s the way it is about collecting anything.
For Buckberry and Howell, they share more than a collection of postcards. Both are retired attorneys and both are considered authorities when it comes to re-searching famous Kentuckians.
It would seem a natural for Carl Howell, since he lives in Hodgenville, to be locked in on Abraham Lincoln. And is he ever. Along with his thousands of post-cards Howell has what he refers to as “The Lincoln Room,” in his home on the outskirts of town in LaRue County. There’s even a sizable bronze bust of Lincoln in the entry foyer of his home.
“I’ve been doing it a long time,” he laughs as he points here and there for things to see on his well-organized book cases that probably hold more books on the sixteenth President of the United States than the Lincoln Library. “I was an FBI special agent for a while in the late 60s, but decided to come back home and practice law.”
A third generation Lincoln enthusiast, he is often a frequent speaker throughout Kentucky.
While Howell was concentrating on Lincoln’s time in Kentucky, Ray Buckberry directed his attention to Daniel Boone.
“It gave me something to do,” offered the quick-witted Buckberry.
He did it for a good portion of his life, and in April 2017, donated his more-than-350 item collection to the Fort Boonesborough Foundation to display at the fort.
Robin Milby co-authored with Howell a coffee table book, “Kentucky’s 120 Counties: A Postcard Album,” that shows multiple cards from 1900 to 1925.
“There are quite a few collectors in Kentucky,” says Howell. “Bill Morris in West Point, Kentucky, and Bill Arvin in Lexington are a couple of more that come to mind.”
Like any other hobbies there are “shows.” Some are big and some are bigger according to Howell.
“The biggest is in York, PA. It’s every November and dealers come from all over the United States.”
Buckberry points out that collecting postcards are something a family can do together.
“You can go out for a day or weekend to flea markets in Louisville or Nashville, look around, see the cards, enjoy it and maybe spend $10,” he says.
Attending post card shows in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, Buckberry and his wife had turned their hobby into some great trips.
“My early interest was Mammoth Cave, Warren County and Western’s (Kentucky University) campus,” he recalled.
Buckberry and Howell both have a filing system for their cards in binders and boxes labeled by subject and dates. Buckberry says he’s not sure how many he has, but “it’s boxes and boxes.” Howell thinks he has 20,000, if you count the Lincoln cards.
Even if a person isn’t a collector, the cards are sometime interesting to look at and even read. They have become a record of history, often overshadowing their original intent of saying, “Wish you were here.”
In the early days a postcard could be dropped in the mail in the morning and by the next day the recipient, living several hundred of miles away would be reading it. No, it wasn’t the pony express or stage coach, but a train.
Train’s stopped in hundreds of Kentucky towns, and those trains had their own post offices, complete with men sorting the mail as they stamped it while rolling down the tracks. To mail the card cost one cent, and the cost of the card was not much more.
It was an inexpensive way to communicate with family and friends. Though not very private those messages have provided a documentation of events, happenings and the evolution of buildings, automobiles, parks and just about anything someone photographed.
Buckberry, the Bowling Green collector, has found a way to put some of his postcard “extras” back in circulation.
“I keep a supply of postcard backs,” he offers. “I’ll take an old card, put a new back on it and mail it again. I make my own postcards recycling the old ones. I will take new photos and turn them into postcards with the new backs.”
In spite of the technical world and all of its e-cards, postcards are still quite popular, being displayed and sold in lots of outlets. The apparent simplicity of collecting postcards, even more so than coins and stamps because of their availability, gave way to a complex name given to collectors.
Credit is given to an Ashland, Ohio professor for coming up with the word “deltiology” in 1945. It must have been a slow day for him. It’s considered a Greek word meaning “the study of pictures on postcards.” It actually appeared in the dictionary in 1965.
Now and then everyone travels somewhere. Next time pick up a postcard, even if its the town next door. Purchase an inexpensive photo album, stick it in, and in a few years pass it on to the kids or grand kids.
No excuse, get up, get out, get going! Reach Gary P. West at email@example.com.