Postcards from the Edge...
of Mexico, and from all over
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 to 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 image.
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 distingusing 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.