Postcard show at A-K Heritage Museum popular draw for collectors

| Sunday, June 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

You could say Charles “Skip” Culleiton wrote the book on postcards.

The author of “Greetings from the A-K Valley” spent 10 years visiting antiques shops, postcard shows, libraries and museums to collect images of postcards from everywhere from Arnold to Winfield.

“It was a very enjoyable experience, as I met many very friendly and helpful individuals who never said ‘no' when I asked if I could photograph their cards,” he said. “As I was finishing the project, I thought it would be something special to have a show here in the A-K Valley.”

He teamed with postcard dealer Mike Krafick to host a postcard show at Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society's Heritage Museum. Ten years later, it's still going strong.

This year's postcard show will take place at the Tarentum museum from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 29. The price of admission is $2. The museum will also be open for tours at that time.

Culleiton will be on hand to sign his book, which is sold at the museum. The exhaustive text tells the history of 29 local communities through images of and commentary on more than 600 postcards.

Dealers at the show will each have an inventory of several thousand cards, according to Culleiton. With such a vast selection, there should be something for everybody.

“Many individuals who attend our show collect cards from one or more local communities,” he says. “Some cards provide the only photo that exists today of an old store, school, church or community event.”

“Some collectors are more interested in postcards of Santa Claus, Halloween, Easter or other special occasions. Some are looking for transportation (such as) trains, buses, trolleys or old autos, military cards or hold-to-light cards.”

The hold-to-light cards happen to be a favorite of Heritage Museum curator Jamie Stoner. When held up to the light, the scene on the card changes or, if there are windows, they become illuminated.

The historical origins of postcards make the show a natural fit for the Tarentum museum. According to Stoner, postcards became popular as a form of parlor entertainment in the Victorian era.

“It was a way to show off where you traveled and where your friends traveled,” she says. “They captured history. Some are photographs, others, drawings; most of them are like small versions of artwork.”

While the show attracts many collectors, there are reasons it should be a draw for newcomers, as well, such as those looking for unique and affordable gifts.

“I like to use them as one-of-a-kind presents,” Stoner says. “Some of the more-collectible ones can go for a lot of money; however, many of them are less than $5. Finding a subject or area that is important to a friend or family member, then putting it in a frame is a great gift.”

Local history cards seem to be the most popular at the annual show; although, tokens from world travels are, too.

Some like to collect postcards from a certain time period, even to a particular year.

“I know one collector whose parents came to American in 1906, and they traveled from New York to Pittsburgh,” Stoner says. “She collects postcards from that time period to see what her parents would have seen on their journey. This is a great idea that can be passed down to her children so their journey can never be forgotten.”

For those looking for the perfect postcard, it's likely you'll have to look no farther than the tables of local and out-of-state vendors in Tarentum on Saturday.

According to Dolly Mistrik, president of the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society, someone at the show — which she describes as “amazing” — will have what you need.

She recalls attending the show her first year as president. Nearly every vendor could pull out a postcard with just what she was looking for, and if they couldn't, they could point her in the direction of someone else at the show who did.

“I have never seen so many postcards in one place at one time,” she says. “From that first show, I look forward to it each year.”

Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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