This is me trying to figure out what to do with the hundreds of postcards that I've ended up with. They are mostly from 1910-1950 and a wide range of topics and styles. How do people think about post cards? Is it all about the topic? the date? the rarity? How can I separate the wheat from the chaff? I really have no idea how to think about them. I've occasionally tried to sell some and that didn't work at all - probably because I have no idea if any of them are valuable.
At this point I'm less interested in value and more interested in trying to organize these piles into something useful. Is there a typical set of categories? Are there some specific postcard printers that are especially sought after? Hints on where to start?
Most people probably collect by category - comic, topographical, glamour, artist-drawn, sport etc. Within these broad categories, they're likely to have sub-divisions or narrower interests - topographical may be restricted to one geographical area, for instance. Some will be more interested in ancillary stuff, such as the cancellation.
Like most stamps, most postcards are practically worthless in money terms. Some subjects, by contrast, are more or less guaranteed to be worth money, eg pre-WWII football and cricket cards for GB buyers. These, like some other cards, transcend the "postcard" category.
One style of postcard that can be better is the real photo type, a photograph on card stock. These were mostly commercially made though in lesser numbers, carrying a stock number and description on the image. But the best of that bunch were ones made by individuals using cameras formatted for postcard size, so the image would be potentially unique. That doesn't mean an unidentified landscape would be interesting, but period street scenes are.
I started on postcards around 1985 as a young married man and postcards were essentially a souvenir of places we visited in Ireland. Initially I toyed with the idea that (say) statues would be a good addition to "write up" my Irish stamp collection. But it took on a life of its own. I now have about 2,200 unused/unposted Irish cards in 35 albums one for each of the 32 counties and three that are generic or political cards. Nowadays when I travel (once a week on a free travel pass), postcards are harder to find and most are generic or not specific to an area. The camera-phone has largely killed the modern postcard. With internet friendships beginning in 1998, I exchanged a lot of cards. I now have about 850 USA and about 700 "world" all unused. In a way, these are just glorified photographs. I keep these in storage boxes. More recently I have been buying cheap used postcards at fairs. Most are vacation type cards from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy etc but in just over three years I have found cheap cards from Gambia, Ethiopia, Ecuador. I now have about 500 cards from 93 different nations. They are a good way of finding genuinely used mail. I integrate these into my stamp albums. Postcards sent by family and friends are in postcard albums.. Finally there are postcards from "The Golden Age"....early 20th century when the messages on postcards of 1918 were the text messages of 2018. Many of the messages are interesting insights into how life was and I have found little collections of 25 or so that have been lovingly preserved and then end up on a flea market. At times it feels like a voyeuristic intrusion into someones personal business. I have around 300 posted Irish cards from 1900-1922. British stamps were used of course and the postmarks are in English. So its an interesting sideline, especially when the name of the town is very different eg Queenstown is now Cobh. The problem with the cross-over between stamps and "golen age" postcards is that collectors look for different things. As my interest is the postmark, I am not interested in the subject matter....eg militaria, humour, places. And I am not interested in the publisher (this really matters to a postcard collector). And of course there are different examples of postmark which attract a premium. I should also add that I make my own postcards usually to accompany (sometimes ironically) a new stamp issue or simply an event in Ireland or Britain. For example stamps issued for Che Guevara or Margaret Thatcher. It just adds depth and texture to my collections and it becomes customised. The next major event will be BREXIT.
On the flipside are those of us who collect postcards not for the picture side, but for the message side. When I'm shopping for cards I usually spin the dealers box around and look at the back side. I look for unusual usages, auxiliary markings, postmarks, including Doanes, RFD's, etc.. Just anything that catches my eye and stands out as different.
As you can imagine, this makes searching through boxes of postcards more difficult since most sellers arrange their cards by picture topic, so I have to literally look through everything to find, maybe 1-2 cards I like.
I generally have to look at both sides. I collect postcards with pictures that are of topical interest to me, but I also collect postcards with messages written in Esperanto, Ido, Volapük, or some other artificial international language. The best cards (for me) are those that fit both of those criteria.
I collect postcards of a particular place. I organize them at first by printing process (private mailing, real photo, undivided back, divided back, linen, etc.) and then by subject matter. My principal interest is the image, but the back can be important if there is an important date, person, or information about the printer, type of paper, etc.