Glimpses into the past

Eighty-nine-year-old postcard collector retains memories from Southport

By Rick Hinton

“A picture postcard is the only tangible proof that we have of a person, place or thing,” Joe Seiter proclaimed at the monthly meeting of the Indianapolis Postcard Club. “I’m 89 years old and have been collecting postcards for roughly 50 years. I’ve learned a few things along the way.”

The hobby does have a name – deltiology, the study and collecting of postcards. And, as with any collection-based hobby, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some collect only. Some are dealers. However, a large segment of postcard enthusiasts is a combination of both. Value is based on condition, rarity, age and subject matter.

Joe Seiter has a passion for postcards. (Photos by Rick Hinton.)

“I learned the hard way. I started out collecting Santa postcards (Joe has over a thousand of these). Then I branched out.”

Joe has advice for the beginning collector – “I learned from the older collectors who are now gone. What I tell a new collector is to take your time, be slow and learn gradually,” he offered. “After a while you’ll find a subject, or a few, that are of interest to you. Lock in on those! The more categories you have, the less you learn about your cards. Specialize … that’s where you learn.”

Joe Seiter leafs through his Southport, Indiana album.

One of Joe’s mainstays is Indiana small town street scenes. And especially the harder-to-find, small, incorporated towns. “I started out collecting everything Indianapolis,” he smiled, recollecting. “Then I branched out to the surrounding counties, and then farther out from those.” He figures he has four to five thousand small town cards alone.

Picture postcards are a glimpse into the past. Sometimes it’s the only glimpse we have. Part of the learning experience involving these glimpses is to be part of a club. The Indianapolis Postcard Club was organized in 1975 at the Glendale Shopping Center. “I’m the only surviving charter member,” Joe said, shaking his head with a slight smile. Presently the club has 100 members and meets the second Thursday of each month at the Greenwood Public Library. There are at least two sponsored postcard shows each year, in the spring and fall.

A page from his Southport Album. Southport postcards are few and hard to find.

“It’s a growing hobby, that’s what makes it interesting,” Joe stated. “If you specialize – and that’s true with a lot of things in life – you never stop learning. I still love to collect!”