Discover Vintage America - JUNE 2017

Celebrating 4th of July with postcards

Q: When cleaning out a relative's home, upon their passing, we came across a box filled with postcards celebrating the 4th of July. Can you please give me an idea of what they are worth?

A: The first colonists that came to America from Britain did so to avoid religious persecution but this was not enough to get England off their backs. They were forced to pay taxes to England's King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament. "Taxation without representation!" became the battle cry in America's 13 Colonies. British troops were sent in to stop the revolt but the colonists stood fast on this matter.

These actions led to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, on June 11, 1776, the Colonies' Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formed a committee whose sole purpose was to draft a document that would formally sever their ties with Great Britain. I think that you may be familiar with the names of the gentlemen involved in drafting this very important document - Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston.

We all know it was adopted on July 4. On July 5, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed to the public and press and on July 6, The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print this extraordinary document.

On July 8, 1776, with fanfare, band music and bells, the first public reading of the Declaration
was held in Philadelphia's Independence Square. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning
Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells
and fireworks.

The custom eventually spread to towns, both
large and small, where the day was marked with parades, dignitaries giving speeches, picnics, games, fireworks and military displays. At the
end of the War of 1812 with Great Britain the celebrations grew larger and more widespread.
In June 1826, Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Roger C. Weightman, declining an invitation to come to Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It was the last letter that the gravely ill Jefferson ever wrote. In it, Jefferson says of the document:

"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be ... the signal of arousing men to burst the chains ... and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man . . .For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."
- Thomas Jefferson
June 24, 1826 Monticello

Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870 and in 1938 it became a paid holiday for federal employees.

I think that now, more than ever, we need to reflect on the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution and be reminded of those who came to America to be free to practice their religion and celebrate the freedom that America gave them.

The photographs you sent show the postcards to be in very good condition and from the early 1900s. If all of them are in this same condition and from the same period they will sell from $10 to $30 each. The subject matter and age are what drive the value, the top end of the price spectrum is for postcards from small towns, early postcards and the very ornate. The price is lower for postcards that are later such as the 1920s to 1930s and not as ornate.

Happy Independence Day to you all.

Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to for a one-on-one appraisal.