Collecting Postcards Is a Tradition for Many Travelers—Here's How to Start Doing It Yourself
A historian shares his advice for sourcing, displaying, and preserving your keepsakes.
If you love to travel, then chances are you've picked up a few postcards along the way. "Collecting postcards while traveling ensures that favorite memories are not forgotten," explains travel historian Jim Hinckley, author of Greetings from Route 66 ($30, amazon.com). "When Emily Post traveled the National Old Trails Road in 1915, she collected postcards and mailed others to family and friends." Even in the digital age, Hinckley says that collecting postcards offers a nostalgic way to capture the magic of personal travels and to share that magic with loved ones—sans social media. "Postcards are tangible links to adventures," he says. "By sending postcards from the road you are sharing the adventure and memories being made with family and friends in real time."
Interested in starting your own collection of postcards from your excursions? We asked Hinckley for tips on how to collect and display postcards from your travels, and here's what he had to share.
Know where to look for postcards.
If you aren't sure where to pick up postcards while traveling, Hinckley says popular tourist attractions are a great place to start. "Visitor centers are an ideal place to purchase postcards," he says. "Even better is to look for postcards at a fun roadside stop, such as a general store or a classic motel, along the way." Also, if you're flying from one destination to another, airport gift shops almost always offer an assortment of postcards you can quickly grab on your way in or out of town.
Start a postcard album.
If you're a first-time collector searching for a foolproof way to safeguard your postcards, Hinckley suggests keeping them in a photo album with archival sleeves. "By preserving postcards in an album, you can chronicle all your adventures in one place that can easily be shared with friends and family, and family yet born," he explains. Photo albums with room for captions also allow you to write short notes next to your postcards, so you can jot down exact travel dates and other noteworthy memories.
Keep a photo journal.
If you like to write at length about your escapades, then Hinckley suggests creating a journal to accompany any postcards you pick up from your travels. "If a journal is kept during a trip, then the postcard collection can be organized as illustrations," he explains. For this, you can either keep a diary with dated notes separate from a photo album, or you can pick up a proper travel journal with plastic envelopes like one from Bespoke Bindery ($66.63, etsy.com) to stash, organize, and write about your postcards throughout your trip.
Turn your postcards into a gallery wall.
Looking for a creative way to show off your postcard collection at home? Hinckley recommends framing each postcard and hanging them salon-style on an accent wall. "When framed in a shadowbox or as part of a gallery wall, the postcards will add color to a room, and provide a constant reminder of a memorable adventure," he explains.
Think outside the box.
According to Hinckley, there are unique and innovative ways to preserve postcards, too. "One fellow created clear laminated countertops to preserve the postcards acquired on a Route 66 trip, to ensure he always remembered how much fun it was," he says. "He said it was also a great conversation starter during house parties." You can try this at home on a smaller scale by using a water-based sealant, like Mod Podge ($10, michaels.com), to dress up the surface of a side table with postcards, decoupage-style.