by Brian Lund - an extract from 'Postcard Collecting .. a beginners guide..' a booklet published by Reflections of a Bygone Age, Keyworth, Nottingham.
A postcard fair is an exciting experience. For about Six hours you can escape from the world and enjoy friendly company in safe, warm Surroundings.Often the refreshments are good, too! The tremendous thing about these Specialist fairs is the amount of material on view. It's Simply Staggering. The biggest regular event is held at the 'Royal National' Hotel, Woburn Place, London (nearest tube station:Russell Square) every month, when about 120 tables full of postcards are on view. It's generally referred to as the 'Bloomsbury', after the area in which the hotel is located.
You could spend a week there looking for cards and still miss half of what was on offer! Faced with such an array of goodies, you must be systematic. That means using your table plan (list of dealers on numbered tables, given out at most specialist events) to pinpoint exactly where you've been and what you've looked for.
If you're a beginner you could have a smashing time just wandering round looking at what was available. In this way you could learn a tremendous amount about the hobby in one day. If you know what you're looking for, it's still advisable to tour the room in a certain direction, asking dealers specifically for the type of cards you require. Some collectors make more than one tour: on their first trip they'll look for the collecting interest where they know the cards are hardest to find, on the second time around they'll search for other avenues of collecting in a more relaxed fashion. 'Old hands' at the fairs know the dealers who specialise in a certain type of card - foreign, comic, topographical, glamour - and who might therefore have useful relevant material.
Pacing yourself at a fair is crucial! Six hours of postcard searching can be extremely tiring: breaks for refreshment, preferably away from what is often quite a hurly-burly, are recommended, and a ten-minute stay at a stall where there are chairs provided can do wonders for flagging morale.
Dealers are by and large friendly and helpful, and most collectors strike up a good relationship with them. Fairs can be quite good social events, too! Dealers do, however, like customers to handle their cards carefully, and to put unwanted cards back in the same place they came from. Some file their postcards behind, others in front of, subject headings: it's easy to find out which and keep those cards in the correct spot.
Once you've got a growing collection of a particular place, artist, publisher, or subject (or indeed a number of growing collections!) it's advisable to take a checklistwith you - either a written one or in the form of photocopies - to avoid buying duplicate cards.