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In-Depth: Vintage Chinese Postcard Valuation Guide

By Sapling Corp • January 9th, 2022

Background

As part of my $100 from Scratch: Vintage Postcards project, I was fortunate enough to have run into some valuable vintage Chinese postcards. These postcards fetched up to a whopping $230 on EBay. With one lucky find, I completed my goal.

But this led to another question: Why are some of these vintage Chinese postcards so valuable? I would understand if they were worth maybe $10 or even $20, but up to $200 and even more? I was curious. Let's dive into it.

Why are vintage Chinese postcards so expensive?

China is a country with a deep paper tradition where photographs are still valued and cherished. This makes for a perfect storm for why postcards would be in high demand. Chinese postcards are collected and cherished by its people, especially if it features locally revered landmarks in a historic region, such as a Gate in Beijing (Peking) or a Pagoda in Nanjing (Nanking). Even more so, if the postcard is vintage, it carries a lot of historical weight by itself, having travelled through entire lifetimes of history. The Chinese have a tradition of "Feng Shui." Historic postcards seem to embrace that tradition.

What should I look for in a valued Chinese postcard?

There are several factors that can make a vintage China postcard desirable, namely age and subject of the postcard. The age of the postcard may be determined by various aging tells, such as a divided back. There are many resources available with a quick Google search. I recommend knowing these signs if you are looking into sourcing postcards.

Nanjing is a city in China that used to be the capital, but no longer is. There are landmarks there that no longer serve the same functions. If a postcard captures an instance in time when a landmark served a different purpose, it is extremely valuable because even though the structure may still exist, the function of the building may no longer exist. This is what is meant when saying age and subject is most valuable in a China postcard.

Some other factors may include if the postcard is controversial or features propaganda. I've seen a postcard which features their adversaries in a negative light, which was clearly a propaganda piece. This postcard, although relatively modern, went for hundreds of dollars on EBay.

Other factors include whether a collection of postcards of the same "story" is available and sold as a set. For instance, if a collection of postcards feature the same region, city, or location.

Other general purpose features that indicate value, such as if the postcard is RPPC or embossed, should also be paid attention to. You may do a quick Google search on Youtube for guides on this topic.

Are their RPPC's (Real Photo Postcards) of China?

RPPC's featuring China is very rare, if not unexistant. Be very careful if you believe you have an RPPC involving China.

Should I do research before trading my Chinese postcard?

Your postcard will be many times more valuable if you take time to research. If you can find out the exact year the picture was taken, that would put an outstanding amount of value into your postcard. Finding out exactly where the scene is about is also a tremendous way to add value to your postcard.

How should I sell or trade Chinese postcards?

EBay is a worldwide platform and is accessible to the Chinese people. They will pay top dollar for postcards depicting their history. So be sure to list it with international shipping enabled and let it go.

Examples

Vintage Postcard Pack (10 Cards) A Glimpse Of The City Of Turfan 1980’s [ebay]

  • Value: $100 (valuable)
  • keywords: "turfan", "set of 10", "captioned"
  • Notes: No other City of Turfan comps exist.

China Haining Pagoda Zhejiang Vintage Postcard 07.80 [ebay]

  • Value: $90 (valuable)
  • Keywords: "pagoda", "haining", "black and white"
  • Additional keywords: "xishan park", "portrait", "people", "no correspondance", "captioned"
  • Notes: Other pagoda postcards are valued at less than $5. This specific pagoda is why it is valued. It is called Haining Xishan Park currently, and it is a small-to-moderate tourist destination. This might be a locally revered landmark. It is also a vertical postcard, where the scene is featured in portrait orientation. Would the presence of correspondance make this postcard valued more?

Nanking Examples

Nanking is a prominant region in China and has been a capital city for many dynasties. It's a city with a lot of history throughout the years. These postcards are valued as there's been a lot of change in the city. Postcards featuring prominant landmarks within the city are worth a premium.

Be aware many postcards feature Nanking Road, which is actually in Shanghai, and is totally different.

An alternate spelling of Nanking is Nanjing.

Vintage 1910s China Postcard Nanking Pagoda Entrance Nippondo Photo Nanjing [ebay]

  • Value: $82 (epic)
  • Keywords: "nanking", "landmark", "pagoda", "1910s", "captioned"
  • The subject of Nanking seems to be why this postcard is valued. Other Nanking Pagoda postcards go for around $40. This particular postcard has a great composition, as the pagoda is photograhed centered. Another postcard here captured the building less prominantly.

1911 Attack on Nanking China postcard [ebay]

  • Value: $230 (legendary)
  • Keywords: "nanking", "propaganda", "historic", "embossed", "french print", "captioned"
  • An amazingly historic card featuring propaganda (somewhat controversial) about the "womanly attack on Nanking". This postcard features embossed color print from France. Probably printed in the mid 1900s.

CHINA OLD POSTCARD SHIH CHENG BRIDGE IN NANKING CITY TO USA 1908 !! [ebay]

  • Value: $205 (legendary)
  • Keywords: "nanking", "landmark", "bridge", "composition", "posted", "colorized", "1900s", "japan print", "captioned"
  • This vintage 1900's postcard is colorized, and features a great composition of Shih Cheng bridge in Nanking.

PC CHINA, NANKING, ROADSIDE STATUES, Vintage REAL PHOTO Postcard (b33918) [ebay]

  • Value: $10 (uncommon)
  • Keywords: "nanking", "1920s"
  • This is probably not as desired as there are no distinct landmarks on the picture. How do we know they are even from Nanking?

POSTCARD THE YANGTSE RIVER BRIDGE AT NANKING BUS TRUCK ON BRIDGE THIN CARD [ebay]

  • Value: $1 (common)
  • Keywords: "nanking", "modern"
  • No caption, modern.

1920 CHINA NANKING CITY ENTRANCE STREET OF SHOPS REAL PHOTO PLAIN BACK POSTCARD [ebay]

  • Value: $47 (epic)
  • Keywords: "nanking", "landmark", "1920s", "people", "nanking city entrance"
  • Nanking city entrance

Vintage 1910s China Postcard Nanking Qing Liang Mountains Nippondo Photo Nanjing [ebay]

  • Value: $47 (epic)
  • Keywords: "nanking", "landmark", "1910s", "japanese print", "qing liang mountains"
  • Landmark mountains, japanese print, 1910s. Great composition.