July/Aug 2019 edition
Issue #6 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
Bonnie Singer - Guest Columnist
In the early years of the 20th century, one of the most popular and economical forms of advertising was the picture postcard. Beautiful images spanning the Art Nouveau and later Art Deco eras were produced by noted illustrators and poster artists of the day, and mailed across the world on the simple postcard. Coinciding with this artistic period was the burgeoning automobile industry. In the first decade of the century, men of wealth partnered with engineers to create distinctive vehicles, though numerous, these companies lasted only short spans. Surviving today are the postcards, reminders of bygone marques, and prized by many collectors. The U.S. and several European nations were home to hundreds of now defunct auto makers, and some of the most iconic vintage postcards are of the early French autos.
De Dion-Bouton was founded in 1883 making steam cars initially, but producing internal combustion engines 10 years later. By 1900 the company was the largest auto manufacturer in the world, and in 1904 with 1,300 employees produced 2,000 cars and many times that number of engines, all hand built, for automakers across Europe. But the company struggled after World War I, and ceased passenger car production in 1932. A number of wonderful advertising postcards were created in the early years, none more interesting than a series of hold-to-light cards. This genre of postcard shows one illustration when viewed in normal light, but when held close to a strong light source changes the illustration in some manner. The De Dion-Bouton postcards, when held to the light, reveal small cars driving across the moon. Two illustrations of this shown as slideshows below:
With a postcard too scarce and charming to leave out of this group, across the border from France was a late starter in the Belgian motor industry, Imperia. From 1912-1923 the company was licensed to produce the Abadal, a Spanish car modeled on the Hispano-Suiza. In limited production for barely more than a decade, the automobile is memorialized with this rarely seen postcard.
Prices for illustrated postcards advertising automobile models and manufacturers vary greatly by artist, rarity and condition. Those shown here range from about $40-50 for the De Dion-Bouton hold-to-light cards, to approximately $150-300 for the others.
To read more great columns like this one from postcard expert Bonnie Singer...
There are few collectibles that offer as wide a range of options and availability to beginner, and advanced collectors than picture postcards. Unlike other collectibles originally produced in limited numbers due to narrow interests or non-technological manufacturing methods, picture postcards arrived on the scene in the mid-to-late 1890s to immediate popular interest. Postcard historians claim postcards printed and collected on a worldwide basis in the early 20th century created the largest collecting craze ever to have taken place.
While many of the early postcards were topical as tourism souvenirs or holiday greetings, the timing of public interest in collectible cards, development of high volume/high quality printing presses, and a burgeoning popular passion for automobiles, quickly created a demand for topical automotive picture postcards.
Owner of VintageAutoCollectibles.com
There are few collectibles that offer as wide a range of options and availability to beginner, and advanced collectors than picture postcards.