Easy: I don’t pick just one.
But really, I have trouble just buying one. Yesterday, for example, on my way to the security checkpoint to board my flight from La Guardia Airport to Houston, I walked past an NYC souvenirs stand. I walked in because I saw some MTA paraphernalia and I thought I could find something snazzy to bring home. But then I realized I was in a souvenir store and that they would most certainly have postcards. I picked one up for my friend and two for me.
See? I just can’t stop.
Last week, a Facebook friend asked me how do I pick a postcard. He’s not the first to ask, honestly. Although I love getting postcards from people no matter what the picture (I’d rather people pick out postcards that speak to them than postcards that they think would speak to me), it’s a little harder for me to articulate what I am looking for when I look for postcards. The only thing I am certain of is that I buy them for me, and if I want to send one to someone, I’ll buy two. Contrary to what you may think, I don’t send a lot of postcards.
This project has made me think closely about why I choose the postcards I choose. I doubt this will make it into the book, for I don’t think the book is going to be about my postcard collection but about postcards in general. However, it’ll be useful to articulate to you, dear readers, and to myself what is that elusive something I’m looking for when I come across postcards.
Here are a few postcards I picked up on my trip.
I’m a sucker for a quirky New York City Postcard. This one I got at a souvenir shop at La Guardia. I took it home with me because it has a map of the Interborough Rapid Transit map. Before the MTA, there was the IRT and the BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit, later known as Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit), two independent companies that later merged under the city-owned MTA.
What do I love about this postcard? The old-timey-ness. It seems like an old postcard you’re not likely to find anywhere except New York. Also, it’s about the subway, which is something my husband loves and that reminds me always of NYC. So more than aesthetics, I picked up this postcard because it speaks to me on a personal level.
Also: it’s the kind of card I want to hang up and show everybody. The equivalent of that is posting it on my blog.
This one I picked up at Argosy Books, an old and rare books and prints store in Manhattan that my sister in law told me about. When I asked an employee on the first floor if he had postcards, he said (and I paraphrase) we have old postcards but not touristy postcards. I told him that’s exactly what I was looking for. He indicated to me how to get to the second floor, where all the prints are.
My daughter sat next to me, fidgeting and doing a poor job of resisting the urge to touch everything while I thumbed through a thick stack of postcards. 3 bucks per postcard. Many of them had a landscape or a country scene of some sort. There were also several from Canada. A handful were addressed to a certain Mr. Percy Skaling from Vancouver. I wonder who this person is and why he thought to sell them. What prompts anyone to sell postcards that have already been addressed and delivered? Food for thought.
I picked up this postcard (unwritten, unaddressed) because of the pin-up girl. It seems like an unlikely picture on a postcard—send girls through the mail!—but even when I type that I wonder what I mean by “unlikely.” I guess because most of the cards I get from people have some sort of geographical picture on them. It seems people like sending a picture of a place more than a picture of a person. I tend to buy pictures of people. They’re like little, affordable portraits.
There’s also something risqué about this pin-up girl, something audacious.
This postcard of a stork I also purchased at Argosy. It was in a small binder of postcards with greetings on them. My daughter opened it (thankfully all the postcards were in plastic sleeves because they’re all over a century old) and when she opened up the page with this one in it, I made her stop so I could take it out.
I love that this postcard isn’t cheeky or sarcastic (although in my head anything can sound sarcastic—it’s a gift), but straight up forthright: is everybody happy? It’s for new parents, considering the baby and the stork. The baby is crying and the stork seems not convinced. Is everybody happy? Let’s face it: sometimes, when a newborn has appeared in your life, everybody is not happy.
Definitely not Hallmark material. So it’s definitely Liana’s Postcard Collection material.