Postcards from the Edge of Mexico
Real photo Mexican postcards, now is a great time to invest
by antiQuario staff
Alluring images of far away places. "Thinking of you," scrawled in haste on
the backside. Picture postcards, timeless reminders of an era when life's
pace was a little less hurried, are making a fresh appearance in our modern
age of fax machines, voice mail and conference calls. But don't sit by your
mailbox in expectance of the postman, these cards aren't making their
come-back through the mail. They are showing up in auction houses and
antiques shops, and some are selling in excess of a thousand dollars.
The first postcard was issued by the Austrian government in 1869. The
brainchild of Dr. Emanuel Herrmann, these cards were promoted as an
economical means of sending short notes to friends and associates, while
providing the government coffers a little extra income at the same time. The
idea caught like wild-fire. By 1900 postcards were being used in Europe, the
United States, most of Latin America and other parts of the world.
Privately printed picture postcards emerged on the market almost immediately
after the first government issued cards, and their popularity was enormous.
In Europe, design trends leaned towards graceful flowing drawings in the
just developing art nouveau style. Original cards by such artists as Henri
Boutet, Bertelli or Alphonse Mucha can invoke fierce bidding wars at auction
among avid collectors.
Following close on the "collectability" heals of big-name European art
nouveau designers, are real photo postcards. Snap shots of local events,
people and places were the most fashionable type of card used in Mexico
between 1900 and 1940. Besides shots of local festivals, beautiful women in
traditional dress, or images of people engaged in day to day activities, one
of the most unusual themes common in domestic postcards are views of
postmortem children. These images of the ultimate moments the family has
with their loved one are highly treasured, and extremely personal tokens of
how death is viewed as part of life in Mexico. Real photo cards of deceased
children are highly sought after collectors items in the United States and
Europe, often selling in excess of two and tree hundred dollars for a single
Images typical to Mexico's countryside of men on mule back, religious
processions, scenes from working haciendas and photographs of children in
traditional dress are also avidly sought by collectors. The value of most
post cards is linked closely to the condition, age, type of paper and
printing quality, image and design, and distinguishing signature or printers
marks. Most collectors prefer unused cards.
Two excellent sources for quality vintage postcards are: Postcards
International, www.vintagepostcards.com and Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East
25th Street, NY, NY 10010
Recommended reading on the traditions and practices surrounding the death of
children in Mexico:
1. El Arte Ritual de la Muerte Niña, The Ritual Art of Child Death; Artes de
México; Numero 15, Primavere 1992.
2. Transito de Angelitos, Iconografía Funeraria Infantil; Gutierre Aceves
Piña; Mueso de San Carlos; México, D.F.; 1988.