About Jim Ross
About Jim Ross
I got into collecting old postcard the way most habitual activities develop: by accident. As a 9 year old, I offered to help around an antique store in town. The store owner gave me jobs to do, like carrying sacks of silver dollars to the bank across the street. He paid me in old postcards, which prompted my curiosity. A framing shop in town developed a sideline of selling old postcards. That’s where I made my first purchase. I can still identify those cards. A stamp store a couple of towns over had one box of old postcards. After that, it didn’t look like much of a hobby because there weren’t any readily available sources.
It grew in two phases. First, in the years after I graduated from college, I discovered yard sales. Not productive. And flea markets. Hit or miss, but occasionally there were some great opportunities. For 20 years, my main source of cards was the flea market at the Wellfleet Drive-in Movie Theater on Cape Cod. A dealer there, Noel Beyle, had a tremendous supply of cards sorted out into hundreds of long postcard boxes—basically, shoe boxes with a pedigree. Sometimes, my wife and even our children would help me find whatever I was looking for. More often, they walked the aisles of the flea market under the summer sun for two hours as I looked at cards. Nearly always, I asked for more time.
Once, Noel invited us to look at cards at his house, and it turned out it was even hotter than the flea market. Closer to home, when my son was 10, he and I began spending time on many Sunday afternoons at an antique village where one dealer, Mike, had a sizable collection of postcards and another dealer, Lew, sold sports cards. When we arrived, Alex and I went our respective ways, but we usually met up at Lew’s. On many Sundays, as Alex and I were driving home from Mike’s and Lew’s, Alex talked about one day running a “baseball postcard shop” of our own.
It didn’t happen that way Ebay and online auctions, coupled with declining prices, were the game changers. The process of collecting became more deliberate and focused when my sources shifted from occasional, unpredictable flea markets to online bidding worldwide. It is still fun to look at cards in person, outdoors, at a flea market, but often their prices are unrealistically expensive compared to online sources. You’re paying a large premium for the atmosphere and the hands-on experience. Most of my old postcards, each in hard or soft plastic cases, are sorted into subspecialties, such as: Red Cross, Prisoners of War, expositions, racial/ethnic stereotyping, the effects of war on children, and the Oberammergau Passion Play.
Over time, my collecting interests have kept changing. For example, I made a trip to Oberammergau with my daughter and her husband the day after their wedding because he had to work there that week. The play wasn’t going on, but being there got me interested in the phenomenon which had been going on since 1634, usually on a decennial basis. The most fascinating thing about it was that nearly everybody who was born and still lives in the town participates in some capacity in the play, which takes all day to perform, and is performed for months. The owner of the hotel where we stayed was a former Pontius Pilate. The person who took us on a tour through the Passion Play facility was a former Mary Magdelyn, who explained recent changes in the script to respond to concerns about anti-Semitism and attitudes toward women. So, I began collecting cards to represent each staging of the play starting with the 1900 play. That’s merely an example of how new collecting kicks begin.
Looking down the road, the question every collector faces is, who will care in the future? Is there another generation of collectors coming along? And that’s not just about grandma’s china and my old postcards.