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Love for the postcard endures with the Western Reserve Post Card Society

It’s increasingly difficult these days to remember a time without computers, cell phones, the internet or even cameras. If a person went on vacation, how could they let loved ones know where they traveled without social media?

They’d send a postcard.

Though handwritten notes and letters have taken a backseat to text messages and emails in recent decades, collecting postcards is a hobby still loved by many.

Across the state of Ohio, about a hundred ephemera enthusiasts make up the Western Reserve Post Card Society (WRPCS). This year, the club celebrates its 50th anniversary.

In recognition of National Postcard Week, which occurs every year during the first week of May, the WRPCS presents its annual Post Card and Paper Collectibles Show where dealers and collectors alike gather to share their passion for postcards.

“There will be thousands, if not millions, of postcards,” said Shirley Goldberg, only sort of exaggerating. She’s the vice-president of membership and has been with the group for 47 of its 50 years.

“We have people from Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania and, of course, Ohio. You could call them dealers, but they’re all people that once started collecting postcards,” she said. “And they got so many, they decided to sell them.”

Shirley Goldberg has been a member of WRPCS for 47 of the group's 50 years.
Jean-Marie Papoi
Ideastream Public Media
Shaker Heights resident Shirley Goldberg said many postcards can be lasting reminders of what happened in a split second in history. "There's even postcards of the Titanic before it went down."

Harlan Ullman, the newly elected president of WRPCS, said his love of collecting postcards evolved from a lifelong interest in Cleveland history.

“I probably have one of the most extensive Cleveland postcard collections,” Ullman said. “I wouldn’t say it’s the most, but it’s up there, numbering probably in the multi-thousands of cards.”

Initially called private mailing cards or PMCs, postcards became official in 1898 when Congress passed an act that authorized private printing companies to produce them as an easy, affordable mode of communication. The postage rate was cheaper than mailing a letter, and the card could include a photo or image.

“But I think what unexpectedly happened was, people didn’t have cameras back then, and they would use postcards to have pictures of what they were seeing because they couldn’t capture those images any other way,” Ullman said. “That led to the golden age of postcards.”

WRPCS president Harlan Ullman holds up a postcard of Cleveland's Puritas Springs Park.
Jean-Marie Papoi
Ideastream Public Media
WRPCS president Harlan Ullman holds the "holy grail" of his Cleveland postcard collection: a postcard featuring a photograph of the carousel at Puritas Springs Park, which closed in 1958.

Once Kodak developed the Brownie camera, he said, that made cameras more easily accessible, leading to a decline in terms of modern usage.

But the allure of postcards still keeps the hobby going strong for many collectors across the country.

“People like the history part, the old images, the artwork that’s on them,” Ullman said. “You can buy a postcard at a postcard show for a few dollars, and you have a nice piece of artwork that anybody can afford.”

The Western Reserve Post Card Society’s annual Post Card and Paper Collectibles Show is Friday, April 28, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., at Rocky River Memorial Hall.

Jean-Marie Papoi is a digital producer for the arts & culture team at Ideastream Public Media.