Posted in Antiques & Art, Holidays, Vintage Collectibles

by Pamela Wiggins

Christmas postcards from the early 1900s add a touch of nostalgia to your holiday décor. They’re also very easy to tuck inside a modern holiday greeting card to let someone special know you’re thinking of them at Christmastime. And, these cards can make a super collection that is easy to stow away until you’re ready to take them out for another holly jolly holiday season.


Christmas postcard with Santa wearing blue suit in automobile.

Christmas postcard with Santa wearing blue suit in automobile.

Some of the most collectible Christmas greeting postcards feature images of Santa Claus. The more unusual the design, the higher the price will be. For instance, find one showing him dressed like Uncle Sam and the price will be out of reach for most collectors. A card depicting old St. Nick wearing a green coat will be less expensive, but still more than most where examples where he’s sporting traditional red. The exception is when he’s doing something out of the ordinary in the illustration.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to collect Santa postcards though. There are many very sweet, sentimental, and even comical examples available for the price of a fancy cup of coffee. Or, you can focus on collecting cards illustrated by well-known artists who not only drew Santa illustrations, but many others as well.


Christmas postcard illustrated by Ellen Clapsaddle.

Christmas postcard illustrated by Ellen Clapsaddle.

Ellen Clapsaddle, a talented artist from New York with an unusual name, beautifully rendered postcard illustrations throughout the early 1900s. Many of her most popular designs focused on the Christmas season. If they have an Ellen Clapsaddle mark on them, that’s even better. Not all Clapsaddle cards have her signature neatly printed on the front, but you can learn to recognize her style and pick out unmarked cards with some practice.

Most of Clapsaddle’s work includes sweet children in endearing poses, including many showing jolly old St. Nicholas in the artwork. These are some of her most recognizable and desirable Christmas illustrations. Most of these Clapsaddle cards range in price from moderate to expensive, as postcards go, and make a special collection to display during the holidays.

Collecting Clapsaddle Christmas cards on a budget is possible, too. Other cards by this clever artist are just as artfully drawn even if they don’t have as much of a following with collectors. Look for examples decorated with sleighs, holly, and other holiday themes sans Santa or cutesy kids for very reasonable prices. Some of the aforementioned unsigned Clapsaddle cards can be priced quite reasonably, so keep an eye out for those as well.


Embossed postcard marked Copr. E. Nash 1910.

Embossed postcard marked Copr. E. Nash 1910.

If you want to get serious about rounding up some rare and valuable cards there are many options beyond unusual Santa examples and Clapsaddle’s best. Look for names like Louis Wain, who did many desirable cat illustrations including Christmas designs. John Winsch, a name very familiar to avid postcard enthusiasts, also designed some examples that fall into the upper echelon of the postcard collecting hobby. Keep an eye out for cards referenced as “hold to light” also. These show glowing candles or window scenes when held up to a light source, and they are considered quite collectible.

For those on a budget, there are literally thousands of Christmas postcards in the very affordable price range. These won’t be cards linked to a well-known illustrator in many instances, and many have very generic illustrations ranging from winter greenery to snow scenes. They are quite lovely just the same, and make a beautiful display among your other holiday decorations or a thoughtful framed gift for a antique-loving friend.


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