We’ve just added large, beautiful, high-quality scans of over 400 postcards to our website. The postcards are organized by location and by manufacturer.
Vintage postcards are very popular with collectors here in France. The most popular ones are from the 1920s and 1930s (I think). They mostly sell for anywhere between 1€ and 15€, though I have seen some priced as high as 40€ and even more. You can usually find them at most vide-greniers (garage sales), marchés aux puces (flea markets) and brocantes (antique sales).
I have started collecting postcards from Vence mostly, but also throughout the Alpes-Maritimes department. If I find really cheap ones from other parts of France that I have been to I might buy those as well. For instance, I recently bought a collection of 76 cards (all from the south of France) at a vide-grenier here in Vence for 25€, about 0.33€ each. You can’t beat that price.
The Vence postcards are the ones that I am most interested in. It’s just so cool to see what the town looked like a hundred years or so ago. You can learn a lot about the history of a place by viewing old photographs and these postcards provide a wonderful way to do that. For instance, it’s wonderful to see postcards featuring the old “flower fountain” on the Grand Jardin which no longer exists or the Black Penitents Chapel which was torn down in the early 1900s to make way for the tram that connected Vence with Cagnes-sur-Mer.
My personal collection of vintage Vence postcards is still very small, just 30 at the present time. Some folks have hundreds, even thousands. But, I’m adding to them as I can. The vast majority of the cards in this online collection are from my friend Howard Shakespeare. He has an amazing collection of over 350 cards, all from Vence. He was kind enough to let me borrow the cards to scan and document.
I believe that this is the largest online collection of vintage Vence postcards that currently exists. I’ve done lots of searches on the web and all I can seem to find are individual cards for sale. No signs of any collections online. I’m sure there are collectors here in Vence with larger collections but it doesn’t seem that anyone has made their collection available online.
I have chosen to organize the postcards in these two ways for several reasons. Organizing them by location gives you an easy way to look at a variety of postcards focused on a particular place or site in Vence and compare the way things looked through the years. I’ve created sections for fountains, places (squares), chapels, portes (gates), old streets and more.
Organizing them by manufacturer helps to informer the viewer of the many companies that were making postcards over the years and to document this history.
There are a wide variety of different styles, formats, layouts and types represented in these cards. The majority of those from the early part of the 20th century are sepia tinted (brown) photographs. There are also plenty of just plain black and white and some hand tinted colored ones (my favorites) as well. As we progress through the years full color cards become more popular and frequent.
Unfortunately it is very difficult to date most of these postcards accurately. Copyrights were not included on the cards up until the 1980s. Most of them come from between 1900 and 1960 though a few are certainly from later. Occasionally I find a card that was dated by the sender but these seem to be rare.
Often times a number is included on the card designating a series, though a surprising number of cards lack these identifying numbers. Many include a short description on the front, but sometimes these can be found on the back. A partial or full address might also appear on the back or front, sometimes even including a phone number (and fax for later cards). There’s only one card in this collection with a web address so that gives you some idea of their age. Sometimes a manufacturer’s logo will appear on the front and/or the back of the card.
All that said, there are a few cards with absolutely no identification on them at all. No manufacturer’s name, no logo, no series number, etc. There’s always some sort of description identifying the location as Vence, for obviously this is a key marketing point. People aren’t going to buy cards that don’t say where they are from.
Most cards have straight edges and square corners but some manufacturers liked to use “crinkled edges” and/or rounded corners.
Where you find the cards can have a huge impact on the price. For instance, Vence postcards are going to cost more in Vence than anywhere else (that’s to be expected). I’ve found a few in Paris and in other French cities and I’ve paid less for them there than I would if I found the exact same card here in Vence. I like to pay 3€ or less but I’ve bought a few for as high as 6€. I can’t really afford to pay the super high prices for the really rare ones. There is a shop in Paris that sells nothing but vintage postcards and I stop and look every time I’m in Paris. They have well over 100 Vence postcards and I’m dreaming of making the owner an offer to buy all of them someday (hopefully at a very reduced price!).
I have scanned each of these postcards on an excellent flatbed scanner to get the highest possible quality. The images are sharp and crisp. You can click on any postcard to view a larger version on your computer, tablet or phone.
A few challenges presented themselves as I was putting this collection together. These old postcards are notorious for poor printing which occasionally makes it very difficult to read the text. Sometimes the text printed on the front of the card covers a dark portion of the image which, again, makes it difficult to read. Many of these cards were actually mailed through the postal system and the stamps and/or postmarks cover up some of the text. I’ve done the best job I could to decipher everything and record the information about these cards for posterity.
I have no idea how many vintage Vence postcards actually exist. Are there hundreds? Even thousands? For instance, when I see cards from a specific manufacturer with a specific numbering sequence and I have a record of card numbers 3, 10, 12, 14, 16, 26, 31, 32, 36 and 37, does that mean that there are another 27 cards in this series that I am missing?
This has been a huge project for me. I’ve spent well over 100 hours scanning, cataloging and documenting these cards, as well as designing, coding and building the web pages to present them. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it (well almost). It’s very exciting to me to be able to put these cards online for all the world to see and experience. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
If you have high quality scans of any postcards from Vence which I am missing and would like to contribute to this project, please contact me! I would love to use your cards to fill in missing portions of this collection and, of course, I will be happy to credit you.
If you have any questions about any of the cards featured here, if you see any errors or if you would like more information, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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