Are Vintage Greeting Cards Worth Anything? Yes. And No.

While going through boxes of old things from my family, I came upon a ton of ancient greeting cards. They ranged from Art Deco beauties to funky images from the 1960s.

“Wow,” I thought, “these must be worth a fortune!”

The short answer is: Nope.

The longer answer requires a bit more explanation.

See, most vintage greeting cards have been signed and mailed.
After all, that’s what they’re for. Who needs a 1970s card to Aunt Emily from Beatrice and the kids?

Other cards were stuck into albums, and the glue and tape just won’t come off. And in most cases, the cards have yellowed, browned, torn and wrinkled over time.

So what’s to be done with them?
Keep them, donate them, give them away.
Or sell them!
Most vintage greeting cards aren’t worth a lot of money, at least individually. But designers, crafters and artists often like to use the images in scrapbooking, decoupage and other applications – or simply for inspiration. They prefer to buy quantities of vintage cards.

Lot of vintage cards for crafts. Photo courtesy of Bountiful Books, Etsy

Lot of vintage cards for crafts. Photo courtesy of Bountiful Books, Etsy

Other people frame them for display, which can create an inexpensive and lovely way to decorate!

There are exceptions.

Elaborate Victorian cards.
Back in the mid to late 1800s, greeting cards were often hand painted by noted artists such as Kate Greenaway, and featured elaborate lifestyle scenes, floral motifs, animals and other designs. They were expensive even then, so that only the wealthiest people could send them.

Today, these cards can be worth a lot of money IF they’re in good condition and if they were not mass-produced. English companies such as Raphael Tuck & Sons, De La Rue and Marcus Ward & Co. are in greatest demand – one card fetched nearly $16,000!

Ordinary calling cards and greeting cards could still be worth anywhere from $15 – $30 if they’re in pristine condition, unsigned and unmarked.

1901-1906 greeting “postcard.” Photo courtesy of Pecan Hill Antiques, Etsy

1901-1906 greeting “postcard.” Photo courtesy of Pecan Hill Antiques, Etsy

Specialty cards.
There are people who do collect vintage greeting cards; however, they tend to specialize in, say, Christmas or Mother’s Day cards, or unusual cards such as pop-ups, die-cut cards and humorous cards.

This unused Mara McAfee card could have only been created in the 1980s! Janvier Road, Etsy

This unused Mara McAfee card could have only been created in the 1980s! Janvier Road, Etsy

But once again, the biggest prize goes to the unused cards, without blemish.

How to sell your cards.
Some old unsigned cards in good to excellent condition can be sold for about the same price as a modern card.

Those with unused envelopes can command a dollar or two more.
For the most part, they’re sold in lots of five, 10 or more. Be sure that you don’t damage them when you’re getting ready to sell them.

  • Remove them VERY carefully from albums. Do not attempt to take off any tape or glue. A serious card collector will know how to handle that. And state any such marks in your offer for sale.
  • Look through each card carefully. Sometimes, there’s still money or other interesting items inside!
  • Try to date the cards. Some have dates on them; others will reflect changing card company logos, which may help. And, of course, the style of the design could be a clue.
  • Remove them from their envelopes. If the envelope is still in good shape, keep it with the card, but don’t allow the glue to touch it.
  • Group cards such as holiday and birthday cards together, since they tend to be sent to more than one person at a time. Anniversary or New Baby cards may be sold individually.
Betty Button graduation greeting cards. Photo courtesy of HolidayKitschklatsch, Etsy

Betty Button graduation greeting cards. Photo courtesy of HolidayKitschklatsch, Etsy

Personally, I’d hold on to the older, more handcrafted and unusual cards. With everyone else tearing them up for crafts and other art projects, they may eventually become scarce enough to be worth something!

If you love learning about antiques as much as I do, follow the blog so you won’t miss the next article.
And enjoy the hunt!

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About sarathurston

I'm a marketing communications writer who also loves antiques and collectibles. You can find my shop on Etsy at http://www.etsy.com/shop/JanvierRoad
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11 Responses to Are Vintage Greeting Cards Worth Anything? Yes. And No.

  1. I have cards from more than 60 yrs ago…be glad to donate & be gone with them…looking for someone to pay the postage & I’ll b glad to ship…cleo..cleeco@atmc.net 6=25=14

  2. Barbara Penn says:

    Hi, In going through my Mom’s things, I found boxes and boxes of old cards, most are used, but there are so many I wanted to know if there is any value. From what I’ve read so far, maybe only at my garage sale as scrap booking material. There are some very old ones used and not used that may have value, but how would one sell them? Thanks for your help and advise. ~

    • sarathurston says:

      Hi, Barbara:

      I think the best way to sell most of them would be for scrapbooking. You can look on sites like Etsy to see what “lots” of cards are selling for.
      As for the unused cards, you may be able to sell them for $5 – $10 each. If they’re very elaborate, extremely old or hand painted they could be worth more.
      If you don’t have an online shop, you could try to sell them in a yard sale; however, you wouldn’t be able to get the same price as you would in a shop. Another idea is consignment at a local antique store – or, perhaps you could post a notice in a craft shop.

  3. Margaret Humphries says:

    We have a Raphael Tuck and Sons Christmas Card with a short inscription dated 1905. Where can we send a scanned image to to get the card appraised.

    • sarathurston says:

      I don’t know of any site that appraises greeting cards, unfortunately. You could search sites such as Etsy and Ebay to see what similar cards are selling for.

  4. Nancy Orth says:

    I have an opened box of get well cards that have surfaced since my mom passed away. The box says originals from Denice (correct spelling) – deluxe Elegance assortment. I don’t see any dates on them. There are 19 cards plus the envelopes- on the back of each card has “A select card” with a capital red G underneath. Do you think they are vintage.

  5. Black an Proud says:

    I’m Black I don’t like being call Africa America because. If you look in my heritage you will find a melting pot of people .I truly love vintage black cards far and few I’m 62 the way we are shown is how it was and it is true we were slaves couldn’t read or write or dress the way the white we should not be shame of our pass but look how much we’ve changed I collect and hope my family can see how far we have come in my family I have doctor,teacher, PHD, computer program.these are my children and grandchildren also niece ,nephew so saying all that I feel that they are priceless.

    Thanks

  6. Ann says:

    Is there any market for WWII cards, signed, most were kept in envelopes so they aren’t yellow. Most are birthday & Christmas. Most cards are 1930-40′s.

    • sarathurston says:

      Hi, Ann: From what I understand it would depend upon the images (are they specifically referring to WWII?). I would think you might be able to offer them as lots – separate the birthday from Christmas. Another thought is that you could offer them on pages devoted to military memorabilia.

  7. Pingback: Are Vintage Greeting Cards Worth Anything? Yes. And No. | From the desk of Sara Thurston

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