It was about 1995 that I first touched base with the internet. It was only via work and all we had was the ability to email and we had usenet, aka “newsgroups”. I became a fan of newsgroups, connecting with people that had similar interests, mainly American soap operas and Coronation Street. I made some very good friends through my Corrie connections over the years and it’s given me opportunities to travel. Also, when I have traveled, I’ve often had someone living in the area that I could hang out with for a meal and a drink at the very least.
But there was another interest I discovered. Postcards. I don’t remember now how I found the newsgroup for postcard trading, whether I specifically searched for it or whether I heard mention of it elsewhere. This particular newsgroup was monitored and moderated once you joined. They also had a trading aspect. They amassed a list of names and addresses and the types of postcards you were interested in. Everyone on the list got a copy, were mandated to keep it private, and you could then send postcards to anyone on the list if you had one that matched their interest. They were not obligated to send you one in return but most people did if they could.
I have always liked postcards. Any time someone traveled somewhere, I asked them to send me one or bring me back one. It felt like armchair traveling and I could live vicariously through the pictures of far off places. I think even as a teenager, I was collecting them though the collection didn’t get very large. I do recall sending cards home when I went on a school trip to Italy and France in my last year of high school. My mother kept the cards and I re-discovered them some years later. It was very interesting to read my tiny cramped handwriting, so anxious to fit in all that I was seeing and doing on that one small card!
I always bought postcards when I traveled to new places. They make a great souvenir and are a good complement to all the photos I take, as well. You can’t get an overview of a large building or area on the ground with your camera but a postcard can give you that perspective. Often you aren’t allowed to take photos inside a church or cathedral or other place and a postcard or two is the only way to bring back a visual memory. I would file them in the album with my trip pictures plus a few extra for the postcard collection.
I always sent a lot of postcards to friends and family, too. Often I’d arrive home before the card did but it didn’t matter. I was seeing new things and new places and wanted to pass on my impressions. In this day and age of emails and blog posts and social media, it’s not something I do much anymore and that’s a pity, really. Everyone loves to find mail in their mailbox that isn’t a bill or an advertising flyer.
Now I began trading cards and looking for them. I would find some antique cards of the city where I live to send to people that like that sort of thing and I began to find them very interesting as well. Messages written on the back so long ago could sometimes be fascinating. People used to send postcards frequently if they didn’t have time to write a whole letter. They’d send a quick card to let a loved one know what day they’d arrive by train, or that someone was recovering well from an illness, everyday living, not just travel related. It’s a slice of real life.
Trading postcards was a lot of fun and there was almost always one or two pieces of mail in my box a few times a week. Sometimes single cards, sometimes envelopes with several. I remember taking a bus tour around the UK and we tourists on the bus, the ones that became friends and hung out together promised to keep in touch. As you do. I suggested we all send each other postcards instead of Christmas cards that year of where we all lived. It was deemed a great idea. Most everyone that agreed to do it did it and I received cards from New Zealand, Israel, Australia, Malaysia as well as various places in Canada and the U.S. We never really kept in touch after that, though. Our group holiday romance faded away as they usually do.
My favourite kinds featured the beautiful architectural buildings found all over the world. Castles, churches, cathedrals and other buildings of religious significance, cottages, town halls and squares, mansions, etc. I traded postcards from that list for several years in the 90s and into the early 2000s but as the price of stamps went up and up and up, it became quite expensive and people seemed to be trading less and less so it went by the wayside. I still have two good sized shoe boxes with my postcards stored though I haven’t looked through them in some time.
I keep thinking I will weed through and save my favourites and do something with the rest, perhaps find a second hand shop that will take them off my hands. There used to be a shop locally that sold stamps and they had postcards as well but I don’t think they’re in business anymore. Yes, I suppose I could put them on eBay if some are collectible, that’s an option. I wouldn’t likely get a lot for most of them and it might cost more to post them so would someone want to buy them only to add on 5 or 10 dollars postage for something they might only have paid less than $5.00? I don’t know how successful it would be but I could try.
Meanwhile, I see racks of postcards and they still make me feel nostalgic for my own heyday of collecting.