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Modern Christmas Postcards

In the United States very few Christmas postcards were published from the 1930s to the 1960s. In the 1970s Christmas postcards began to be promoted as a way to save on postage.

In the mid-1980s I saw some Christmas postcards I liked but didn't buy. Like many other Christmas postcards, they were not sold singly. They were only sold in packages, and I didn't want to have a lot of duplicates. I didn't want to use the cards—I just wanted them for my postcard collection.

The following year, I had the idea of buying packages of Christmas postcards and trading the duplicates. I placed an ad in Postcard Collector magazine offering to trade any number of different Christmas postcards. The responses were encouraging, so I placed the same ad for several successive years.

In the 1980s there were many companies producing Christmas postcards and many shops selling them. My trades resulted in surprisingly few duplicates of postcards I already had. I believe I received few duplicates because most of the designs were not widely distributed. Even then it took some searching to find the Christmas postcards among the much more numerous regular greeting cards.

By 1990 I had about 1000 different Christmas postcards and had lost interest in actively collecting them. When I counted them recently, I found that I had about 1200. My collection is filed according to common themes: angels, animals, bears, birds, children, comic characters, crafts, elves, Santa, snow scenes, snowmen, states, toys, Twelve Days of Christmas, and miscellaneous. The most common themes are animals, bears, birds, children, elves (mainly"tomte" types of Scandinavian origin), Santa, and snow scenes. Of course many cards really fit into more than one topic.

When I bought Christmas postcards for myself, I focused on quality illustrations, unusual subjects, and humor. Many of these were published by small or alternative publishers. Most greeting card companies tended to produce very mainstream postcards that were rather bland and/or cutesy—not really very interesting from a collecting viewpoint.

It wasn't until 2005 that I noticed that Christmas postcards were no longer widely available. Even searching for Christmas postcards on the Internet did not produce many results. Postcards that would interest collectors were even scarcer. Most common were Internet based printers selling large quantities of postcards, mainly for business use. I also found a couple of Christian publishers selling postcards with religious themes.

ANGELS


Christmas Originals


ANIMALS

There were some realistic drawings and photos of animals, but most of the animal Christmas postcards were whimsical and/or cute.


Mouse Dream — by Barbara Price Decker
© Renaissance Greeting Cards


© Drawing Board Greeting Cards


Animal Farm Postcard by Boynton
© MCMLXXXIII by Recycled Paper Products


© Carlton Cards


BEARS

Teddy bears were especially popular in the 1980s. Many Teddy bear postcards of all types were published for use throughout the year, not just for holidays.


Conimar


Photo by Koren Trygg
© Argus Communications


Care Bear signed by artist Elena
© MCMLXXXIII American Greetings


BIRDS

Birds in various styles—realistic, stylized, cute—were a popular theme on Christmas postcards. The National Wildlife Federation used birds and other wildlife on cards to promote conservation.


Northern Cardinals, Art by Michael DiGiorgio
© 1982 National Wildlife Federation


Loons in the Snow
© 1985 Blue Mountain Printmakers


CHILDREN

A few of the American postcards featuring children are attractive, but most are too cutesy. The best Christmas postcards featuring children are by European artists.


Christmas Time in the Country School
An Evergreen Original by Helen Van Den Berg
The Evergreen Press


"…they offered him gifts…" Matthew 2:11
American Greetings © MCMLXXXIV


by Finnish artist Marja-Liisa Pitkäranta
© Pictura Graphica, 1981


by Spanish artist Lisi Martin
© Pictura Graphica, 1988


COMIC CHARACTERS

Argus Communications published many Garfield cat comics on Christmas postcards. Argus also published some Cathy and Marvin holiday postcards. American Greetings published Ziggy comics. Ambassador Cards, a division of Hallmark, published some postcards featuring Peanuts characters Snoopy and Woodstock.


Garfield Illustration by Jim Davis
Published under license from United Feature Syndicate by Argus Communications


CRAFTS

This category is mainly various types of needlework such as embroidery, needlepoint, quilting, and applique.


Mailed with a 9¢ stamp in 1976
© Hallmark Cards


ELVES

Elves are not common on American Christmas postcards. Most postcards in this category are the tomte characters from Scandinavian folklore that were believed to protect a farmer's home and children.


Gerharbs, Made in Sweden


SANTAS

There are many modern Santa postcards in a wide variety of styles: traditional, stylized, cute, contemporary, humorous, and alternative.


Gibson Greeting Cards


Painting by Robert Scott
Published by G. R. Brown Co.


Hartland Corporation
© MCMLXXXVI by Nadine Bernard Westcott


Current, Inc.


Photograph by Bill Bernardo
The American Postcard Company


SNOW SCENES

This category is heavy on nostalgia with motifs such as old-fashioned sleighs, farms, covered bridges, and churches. Included are various styles of illustrations and also photos. Several companies reproduced Curier & Ives prints.


signed by horse artist Hildred Goodwine
Leanin' Tree


The Road-Winter
From An Original Currier and Ives Print
© Hallmark Cards


Photo © Fred Sieb
© Terrell Publishing Co.


SNOWMEN

Unicef postcards had the greeting printed on the front of the card in several languages.


Santa and Snowman
by Polish artist Jolanta Marcolla
Unicef (United Nations Children's Fund)


STATES

Most of the states cards are from Florida. Some cities and other specific locations also were named on holiday postcards.


Christmas Originals


Minnesota Covered Bridge
© NMN, Inc. (Northern Minnesota Novelties)


TOYS


Antique toys from the collection of Mr. Jerry Smith
Mailed with a 6¢ stamp in 1972
Hallmark


TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Postcard series illustrating the Twelve Days of Christmas were published by Wild Rice Cards and Marcel & Co.


Twelve Drummers Drumming
Illustrated by Hawley Wright
Wild Rice Cards


MISCELLANEOUS

These are postcards that don't fit in the other categories. Included are alternative humor cards and cards based mainly on text and/or Christmas symbols.


© Hallmark Cards


© 1986 Chic Pix, London


© Drawing Board Greeting Cards

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