Sorting Postcards

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Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2008 2:10 pm

Sorting Postcards

Post by ankela »

Hi, is there any one around who can suggest the best way for me to sort my quite large postcard collection e.g:

Stamped / plain

Unstamped but written on e.g. my parents used to send me postcards in an envelope to be delivered more quickly!

Foreign / UK - the UK ones do I have to sort into counties

General views / landmarks e.g. castles, monuments etc.

I have special interest e.g. animals, night scenes

Sketched / black & white / sepia

Most, if not all, are less than 50 years old, so they are probably worthless at present, but thinking ahead, when anything happens to me, I want them sorted for my daughter to dispose of!

I would be very thankful for some help!
Best wishes, Angela. (

Posts: 29
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2007 10:52 am

Re: Sorting Postcards

Post by ECooper »

I sort mine by location, unless I have a specific set which covers more than one area.

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Joined: Mon Jun 09, 2008 5:11 pm

Re: Sorting Postcards

Post by Colin »

I collect mainly pre-1950 views of central London and now have something in excess of 2,500 cards. I keep them in individual 2 mil. polyethylene sleeves in archival cardboard boxes with sliding “drawers.” The cards are arranged roughly west to east geographically (Kensington to the Tower), with necessary zigs and zags north and south to take in Paddington, Lambeth Palace, Regents Park, the Thames, Bloomsbury, Southwark Cathedral, etc. Projecting tabs indicate familiar landmarks and include both those landmarks and less well represented sites nearby. Cards that do not fit this geographic filing system include sets such as London Under Fire, other series that I acquired as a series, sometimes in the original wrapper, postcards of a similar unusual group such as original etchings, cards that are all to the same person and tell a story, and my oldest cards, including a few that are not picture postcards such as an 1870 preprinted halfpenny postcard. I always prefer postcards that have been sent, preferably with stamp attached, but many of the better views are unsent, probably in many cases because the original buyer acquired them for his or her own collection.

Two further organizing tasks remain in chronic states of inertia. One is the creation of a master list, the other the creation of a photographic record of the collection. For the former, I have an Excel spreadsheet with, left to right, the following columns, or fields: a number (currently 1 to 44) indicating a neighborhood such as Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus, a major street such as the Strand or Regent Street, another major feature such as the Thames or a topic such as Royalty, Aerial or Mosaic. The next column names the subject of the card that falls in that category. Thus, the Horse Guards and the Cenotaph have the same "neighborhood" number. Then follows the publisher, then the publisher’s number for that card. Next is a column indicating some obvious feature of the card, and this includes such things as Photo, Color, Sepia, or Vignette. The next column shows either a P or an L for Portrait or Landscape orientation. Then there are two columns with a number 1 (poorest) to 5 (best). The first of these indicates the quality of the original, and the second, the condition of the card. So, for example, a high quality photo might get a 5 in the first column, but if it was in very bad shape it might get a 2 or 3 in the second. Next I have a column entitled simply Notes. I have tried to use this column to describe in a word or two some detail that makes the card unique. If the card shows one of those multifarious views of a traffic jam in front of the Bank of England, I might note the signs on a couple of buses. Or if a clock is showing, I note the time, as well as I can make it out. I have two more columns after that. The first is blank if the card has not been mailed, and if it has, gives the postmark date or, if that is absent or illegible, a handwritten date. And the final column contains an H if the back of the card includes a brief “history” of the subject.

The effect of inertia is that I stopped keeping up the spreadsheet after I reached about 1,900 cards, so as I acquire new cards I keep them segregated so I’ll know which cards have been recorded on the spreadsheet and which have not.

Except for a few test shots, the photographic record is still ahead of me. I have tried scanning, but when my scanner is set at 1,200 ppi (the resolution that I want, particularly for enlarging), it takes forever. I get equally good and much faster images with a digital camera, but haven’t yet figured out how to best position camera and postcard.

Angela, you mentioned sorting your UK cards by county. One reason I started the spreadsheet, and with so many columns, was so that I could sort the collection, at least on paper, according to a variety of criteria. With the spreadsheet I can quickly identify all my cards by a given publisher, or all the ones that have been mailed. Provided I enter the dates in a consistent way I can even sort the mailed cards by date, oldest to most recent or vice versa. My Notes category is a bit more of a jumble and does not lend itself to quick sorting; but everything in that column is at least accessible through an electronic search. All those columns make the table much too wide to fit on a 14 inch sheet, but one of the nice things about Excel is that you can “hide” columns you don’t need for a particular printout. By hiding some of the less important columns, reducing column widths, and reducing the type size, I can shrink the table down to a printable width.

I hope all this lore about my collection isn’t overwhelming, that someone will find something useful in it, and that I might hear about other people’s systems for organizing and indexing their collections. I'd also like to know if anyone else has been afflicted with the inertia factor. Colin
Last edited by Colin on Wed Jun 18, 2008 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2006 4:26 pm
Location: Gillingham, Kent

Re: Sorting Postcards

Post by Andrew »

When I started collecting, everything went into one pot, as it were - old and modern, used and unused, photos and postcards, English Welsh and Scottish castles. Very haphazard, but I had no idea what was to come.

Firstly I separated the modern from the old. Then came the next stage - allocating different albums for English, Welsh and Scottish castles, and still keeping the modern separate from the old.

Since then I have had to do further sorts (for old postcards only) of castles from various counties - specifically Kent, Northumberland, Sussex, Isles of Scilly, Cumbria, Cornwall, Dorset, Devon, and the rest of England. Then Powys from the rest of Wales, and Dumfries & Galloway from the rest of Scotland.

Every postcard and photograph is listed on a spreadsheet (or sheets) for ease of reference at postcard fairs - alphabetically. Each entry contains the album number, a unique reference number, the castle name, county and country of origin, publisher (if known), publisher's reference, details of the picture and date of posting (if any). All these can be sorted as and when required. With my list, I can go straight to any castle picture when required - assuming I can remember where I have the list. :lol:

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