Collecting on a Shoestring – In the 25¢ Boxes

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Bob Toal

Collecting on a Shoestring

In the 25¢ Boxes

I am optimistic about the re-opening of postcard shows in 2021.

I offer a shopping idea, as food for thought, when you get back to those show boxes. Why not try something new that may be interesting and educational?  Shop the 25-cent boxes for continental cards!  

After searching for my favorite topics at a postcard show, I drift towards the 25-cent boxes. I do this not only to kill time but to have fun and mine for “gold.” I look at all size cards including – yes – the dreaded continentals. These larger cards are a bane of postcard collecting but can yield some interesting finds.

Here are some topic continentals that may be interesting.

Cicada USA – 2004

This is germane in 2021, as billions of these bugs appeared this spring after 17 years underground. Mostly, the cicada is found in mid-Atlantic America. The larva of the 2004 cicada emerged to the tune of 1.5 million bugs per acre. They come to light the size of a grain of rice and grow fast. They spend about a week maturing and their primary objective is mating. After four to six weeks above ground the females lay their eggs and die. Their molted exoskeletons litter the ground everywhere.

Happy “Gurning” Birthday

Gurning contests are an English tradition.  Annually at the Egremont Crab Fair, where the annual World Gurning Championship takes place, if you are the one with the most grotesque face, you win. It helps to have no teeth to allow your jaw to move forward and overlap your nose. Of course, it has been affected by Covid and the next in person competition is scheduled for September 2022.

Ready for Battle

This New Zealand tourist card shows fierce Maori warriors sticking out their tongue to intimidate their enemy or as a prelude to battle. The Maori are indigenous Polynesian people on mainland New Zealand. They make up about 16% of the New Zealand population.

At Yalta, Diesel Style

Diesel is a long-standing denim clothing store noted for its controversial ads. In this postcard advertisement they revise the events at the 1945 Yalta Conference of World War II.

The written message says, “Dear Dad, With your vast expertise on history I thought you might want to see this recently discovered photo showing what really went on at the Yalta Conference.”


This “Freedom” postcard was mailed to a prison inmate in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The card advertises the Abolitionist which launched in 2005 and is a bilingual (English/Spanish) publication dedicated to the strategy and practice of prison industrial complex abolition. It was distributed free of charge to thousands of people in prisons, jails, and detention centers throughout the U.S.

The message on the card says, “Dear Dominic, Sending Solidarity from Oakland! – Nick”.  

Each card in this group carries its own propaganda message on energy issues.

The “Generator Windmills” card shows a windmill farm in California. The message reads, Windmill Farm – Silhouetted against California’s dramatic mountains, row upon row of wind generators provide pollution-free electrical power. Each graceful machine operates effortlessly upon the gentle winds provided by nature.

The Alaska pipeline card from Fairbanks, Alaska dates from two-years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The message reads, Alaska Pipeline in part says, “There has been an unheralded number of engineering, ecological, and permafrost studies along the pipeline to assure safety of Alaska’s wildlife and ecology.”

Three Mile Island
Hoover Dam

The “Grand Re-Opening” is from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant that had a partial meltdown accident in 1979. Its tongue-in-cheek title says enough.   

The Hoover Dam card shows the hydroelectric power plant. It was once Boulder Dam but was renamed Hoover Dam by Congress in 1947. The message tells us that the back side of the mighty Hoover Dam is where the Colorado River has been tamed. From here the electricity, manufactured by the dam, is transported via cables to both Nevada and Arizona.

Nature Needs Half

Finally, this card was mailed from Seattle, Washington, in 2010. The text on the back says, “Nature Needs Half.” It is a call to action to protect and inter-connect at least half the planet’s land and water to support life on earth.

The message reads, “From a conference at which I was actually a speaker! Long story …. Will catch up soon.”

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When you attend your next show, try those quarter boxes when you’re finished shopping for your favorite topics. Take a close look, there are some great finds out there.

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Swell article. Great choices, from the Quarter Box. Indeed. I collect AIDS postcards, and in Europe and outside of USA, this is often called SIDA. Lots of social history postcards were created. And too I am always searching for the broad category of Social History. I look for cell phones on postcards and copy machines and copy shops around the country. They seem to be less common now. More individuals have their own printers and copy devices at home. Have just a few Covid-19 postcards, but there were several in the National Postcard Week exchanges this year and also last… Read more »

I sell my postcards on facebook groups and buy them in huge groups. So I get to shop “the 25 cent box” in the comfort of my own home.
I separate the continentals and chromes and whenever I dig in those boxes, I find a treasure or 2.

The quarter boxes sometimes yield cards which would have commanded premium prices had the dealer been aware of the Edsel in the street scene or the value of the commemorative stamp affixed to the back.

We should not discard the continental.. They are treasure in there for all the same reason we collect early 1900s postcard: events and satirical political postcards

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