Rare postcards may draw 1,000 collectors to Harford


Collectors and exhibitors from all over the country, and as far away as England, Switzerland and Canada, will gather in Harford County next weekend to buy and sell antique postcards and to view an exhibit featuring rare images of the ill-fated Titanic ocean liner.

The postcards depicting the passenger ship -- which sank after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912 -- will be on display Friday and Saturday at the second annual Chesapeake Postcard Fair in Havre de Grace. The cards, on loan from an unidentified collector of Titanic memorabilia, are valued at as much as $600 each.

More than 1,000 hobbyists are expected to visit the fair in search of postcards to add to their collections. Although the Titanic postcards will not be for sale, about 40 exhibitors will be selling more than 1 million other items.

Postcard prices can range from a few dollars up to $13,000 for a single postcard dating from the early 1900s to the 1960s. Collectors often favor themed images, such as holidays, horses, home towns, rock formations, national parks and even executions.

This weekend they may be searching for postcards of lamps, dresses, golf, tennis, Mickey Mouse, cows standing in water or even outhouses -- a very popular image today.

"So much history has been documented on postcards," said Mary Russell, office manager at Mary Martin Limited, an antique postcard mail-order company. The company, based in Perryville, is sponsoring the two-day event.

Mary Martin Limited -- one of three Maryland dealers that will have displays at the fair -- serves more than 6,000 customers and says that they have the largest collection of postcards in the world.

The company was founded about 25 years ago by Mrs. Russell's mother, Mary Martin, who operates the business with her husband, Bill. They live in Havre de Grace.

"This is the fastest growing and the third largest hobby in the U.S. today," Mr. Martin said.

The company plans to hold two fairs next year, in April and August.

"People of all ages are really into preserving history," Mrs. Russell said.

Harford County postcards that are especially popular depict historic views of hometown landmarks, such as the race track and the train station in Havre de Grace, the farmhouses of Darlington and the dirt road that was once Main Street in Bel Air.

Mrs. Russell said she collects postcards of towns she has lived in and her husband, Paul, collects Halloween postcards.

A stamp, postmark or written message generally has no effect on a card's value, she said, although some buyers enjoy seeing familiar names on hometown postcards.

The Chesapeake Postcard Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Policemen's Community Center, 1 Lagaret Drive. Admission is $2 for adults. Children 12 and under will be admitted free. For information, call 575-7768.

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