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How to Store and Display Your Postcards

I have been collecting postcards all my life as my father did before me. I now have many thousands of them, both vintage and modern.

A selection of my postcard albums

A selection of my postcard albums

Too Many Postcards?

If you become smitten by the postcard-collecting bug, and believe me it can be very addictive, you will very soon start to wonder what to do with them all. You can, of course, put them up on a noticeboard or frame them, but if you are a true addict, you will quickly find you have too many even for that. Though, of course, some would say you can never have too many.

Here are a few suggestions for how to store and display your postcards, or a combination of both. Sometimes a display can be seen as a type of storage. I personally have just a few on display at any one time and keep most of my more precious ones carefully tucked away safely. I like to rotate the displayed cards regularly though there are a few that I love so much I keep them constantly on view. My vintage cards are stored in archive quality sleeves in special albums.

Storage and Display Solutions

Storing

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Cardboard boxes with dividers
  • Plastic boxes
  • Metallic boxes
  • Albums

Displaying

  • Fixed wall display
  • Framed
  • Temporary displays
  • In a specially made "album"
  • Freely hung on wire, string, or thread
Shoe box filled with postcards

Shoe box filled with postcards

Shoe Boxes

I know it doesn't sound exciting but one of the easiest ways to store cards is to use shoe-boxes, or any box of a similar size and shape. All but the largest or the more unusually shaped cards will fit very easily and you can store a remarkably large number in just one box. They are kept tidily and relatively safely and it will fit any budget.

You can have one of theses boxes specifically for the wide panoramic cards that are popular in some countries. Just turn the box through 90 degrees and you have the perfect size!

The disadvantage comes when you want to look through them. Let's face it, there is little point in collecting postcards if you can't admire them yourself or show them to other people. Then you're faced with taking them out in handfuls, and sorting through them. If you're looking for a specific one, or group of postcards, you do have a problem. It can mean leafing through hundreds to find what you want. That really won't do any good to the condition of the cards.

Nevertheless, it's a popular way of storing cards because it's cheap and easy. If the look of them offends you, try covering them with pretty paper or decorating them in some way.

Shoebox with cards sorted into individual countries and inside paper bags

Shoebox with cards sorted into individual countries and inside paper bags

Shoebox With Dividers

My father, as many other people do, dealt with the problem of having to leaf through so many postcards just to find one in particular, or merely for enjoyment, by subdividing the box with stiff cardboard tabs labelled with the country name. After all, if you can't take them out to look at them, what is the point of having all those postcards?

Now I found those cardboard subdivisions less than helpful or at best only partially helpful. I kept forgetting whether the cards should go in front of or behind the divider. So I started to store my cards inside paper bags, the sort a shopkeeper would use to give you any postcards you had just bought. I could store those sideways inside the shoebox with a label written directly on to the bag itself. Easy, inexpensive - and messy looking. However it has the great advantage that now I can pull out a whole country's worth of cards very easily to look at them, sort them, share them.

Storage Boxes for Postcards

If the shoebox idea seems a little scruffy, try a more upmarket approach with a designed-for-the-purpose storage option. They are mainly shoe-box shaped and sized but look considerably better. They come in anything from decorated cardboard to the aluminium one shown here. You do need to take the same things into account as for an album—the size and shape of the cards primarily. There are several different types of postcard safes and storage designs available on Amazon.

Plastic storage boxes for postcards or photos, contained in a larger box/carrying case.

Plastic storage boxes for postcards or photos, contained in a larger box/carrying case.

Plastic Storage Boxes

I've only recently found these containers which are the perfect size for standard postcards. They lend themselves to all sorts of filing systems. For instance, I use one of mine for my collection of postcards from UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each country's sites are in a single storage cassette within the carrying case. They could, alternatively, be used for counties or states within a country. No doubt there are many other ways of using these versatile containers. It's entirely up to you.

The boxes are also very easy to label. They are made by IRIS and you can find them on Amazon. I, however, ordered mine through eBay because they were less expensive at the time.

Multi-coloured postcard albums

Multi-coloured postcard albums

Postcard Albums

Probably the most effective way to keep your postcards is in albums. In days gone by postcards would be glued into albums or in the best case, slipped into slots in the page, but even that will cause slight but noticeable marks. Most albums nowadays have plastic sleeves for the cards, causing no damage at all. On the face of it, they seem perfect. They keep your postcards safe, protected and easy to view.

There are some disadvantages though:

  • they aren't cheap.
  • they don't hold so very many cards so any you buy do need to have spare leaves readily available.
  • they take up a lot of shelf space.
  • they hold only standard sizes of cards.

I couldn't possibly keep all my thousands of cards in albums so I use a dual system. My special favourites and precious vintage cards are in albums, the everyday ones are in the shoeboxes.

how-to-store-your-postcards

Choosing an Album

You can find all sorts of albums and storage options on Amazon. There isn't really a great deal to choose between the different albums on offer but there are certain aspects you would do well to consider:

  • The size of the postcards you want to store compared with the pocket size in the album;
  • Whether or not you want a loose leaf album which can be useful if you want to change the order of the cards, or add more and more;
  • You may want to think about how you would mix landscape and portrait cards;
  • The size of the pages/leaves varies and you can have anything between two and four pockets per page. Make sure they match your album;
  • If you go for loose leaf albums, consider whether extra leaves are readily available.
  • The size of the album itself - will it fit on your shelf?

Artistic or Creative Alternatives for Displaying Cards

People are always looking for cool and creative ways to display their collections of postcards. Here are a few ideas:

  • A wall display
  • A cork board
  • Pinned along the edges of shelves
  • Frame them in groups or collages
  • Attach them to a huge map of the world
  • Have a curtain full of them
  • Laminate them in groups
  • Be especially creative and adapt an old hardback book to make an altered book.

Any other ideas?

How to Display Your Postcards: From Simple Ideas to Very Creative

Display Curtains

Curtains or panels are an excellent way to display your most attractive cards rather than store them out of sight. Depending on the size of the panel, you can display a surprisingly large number of them. Choose one which allows you to change the display easily.

A "world map" shower curtain strikes me as an easy way to create a display rather like the one shown in the picture gallery. It has the advantage of being a very large world map so you should be able to find most countries and it wouldn't be too crowded by running a fine tape between the card and the country/region of origin.

Alternatively, I bought (but haven't yet used) a world map piece of fabric from a local store which I intend to use as a base for a postcard display. World map fabric seems to have become easy to obtain.

Magnetic Frames for the Fridge

Have a display of your favourite postcards on your refrigerator door. If you use magnetic frames you can move them as you like and/or rotate the display. The frames give the cards some protection and look tidier than cards stuck on with sticky tape. Some of the sets are more flexible than others as far as arranging the frames is concerned.

Display Both Back and Front

For many people, the message on the reverse of the card is at least as important as the picture on the front, possibly more so. This suggestion for display should allow for either side to be seen quite easily. Alternatively, you can buy string, mini pegs and do it yourself. There are of course kits available to do the same.

The Umbra Tangle Wall-Mount Metal Photo or Card Display, which you can find online, Amazon for example, really does allow you to display or easily see the message as well as the picture on the front. You can arrange the cards in any way you want and a coloured backing as shown isn't necessary. It may not be suitable to place it in a draft when it could become truly tangled!

My collection of map postcards in an album

My collection of map postcards in an album

My Collection of Map Postcards in an Album

When it comes to albums full of themed cards, such as my map-cards, it seems sensible to try to subdivide them into smaller categories. This probably doesn't apply to themes like "bicycles" (always very popular) but as far as maps or UNESCO World Heritage Sites are concerned, I think they need to be divided up into countries within an album.

Of course this is where choosing a loose leaf album comes in, and I would say you may need to buy subject dividers too. My next project is to find or make some attractive subject dividers.

50 Ways to Use Your Postcards

If you aren't looking to preserve your postcards in their original condition (ie don't mind cutting them up), the Victoria and Albert Museum has a list of ideas and accompanying instructions on their website.

Only one or two of the ideas are strictly display ideas, and I propose attempting them to demonstrate, but the other ideas may well appeal to teachers or parents.

If you are in the UK, in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum is SO well worth a visit. It's one of my favourites. My son was at university nearby and I would pop in whenever I had some time to kill. I love it!

A display on ribbons (or it could be string)

A display on ribbons (or it could be string)

Make Your Own Displays

If you are in any way inclined towards craft work and using your hands, there are various fun ways to make your own displays or albums. I have tried a few and the results you can see below. If you follow the links, you will find more detailed explanations and instructions.

1. A Quick and Easy Way to Make a Wall Display

I tried making this myself—the results to the right—and it really and truly is easy, so much so that even I could make it in 30 minutes. It's a great way to show off a few items on a theme or colour and a pleasant decoration for a wall. For the instructions, if read A Quick and Easy Way to Display your Postcards.

concertina-fold album

concertina-fold album

2. Make a Concertina or Fan-Fold Album

It's less easy than the hanging display above but I think it lends itself very nicely to a selection of postcards and other paper memorabilia on a single subject - a holiday, an outing, anything really that comes to mind. You can find the instructions in this article.

how-to-store-your-postcards

3. Illustrate an Atlas

Another idea for storing/displaying postcards is to insert them into an atlas. It's a little fiddly but not complicated and it's great fun. You can find the instructions in this article.

A Very Special Postcard Album

If you want to give a postcard collector a special gift, or maybe just treat yourself, this might be the perfect choice. In days gone by, this would have been the sort of postcard album used by most people as they saved all the lovely postcards that arrived from friends and family. It is a real delight to find an album that isn't plastic.

It is an especially elegant postcard album in the art nouveau style with French flair. It will fit smaller size postcards (3-1/2 x 5-inch and 4 x 6-inch) or even photos if you prefer. The cards are held in place in slits in the album pages so reminiscent of albums of days gone by. It would make a wonderful keepsake if offered as a gift, already filled with beautiful pictures. You could consider it as an alternative form of scrapbook.

Be aware though, that it isn't ideal for keeping valuable postcards, but it would be absolutely perfect for family favourites.

Time to Get Creative

Somewhere among all these ideas, I hope you have managed to find a way to keep your postcards, a way to suit your own priorities (and pocket).

Needless to say, most of the ideas would serve equally well for photo storage and display. Photos, even many vintage ones, are much the same size and shape as most postcards. The only exceptions would be that you probably don't need to worry about messages on the reverse of the photo, and they are probably not as likely to be suitable for map of atlas display. Otherwise, I think the ideas are interchangeable.

Questions & Answers

Question: I have several older postcards (1940s or 1950s) from Canada, all black and white. They are all coming apart into two pieces, a front, and a back. They aren't as thick as today's cards. What would be the best way to put them back together? Double-sided tape? Some type of glue?

Answer: You will need to be very careful about the type of adhesive you use or your cards will be stained or damaged. if you have a look at the adhesives on the Gaylord Archival website, there are several types which which you may find suitable. Alternatively you could use heat set tissue which is a transparent thin film that will bond when heat is applied (eg using a cool iron).

If you do a search for any of these, specifying archival quality, you should come up with a good choice.

© 2012 SheilaMilne

I'd love to hear your comments:

Surya on May 05, 2020:

I am still searching the ideas how to display my 3003 postcards any shapes on the wall without taking too much space. Any idea? Thanks!

Beverly Viljoen on December 23, 2019:

Thanks for the post. I started collecting Postcards again at the beginning of the year. Another way of storing cards is to use old video cases.

Michaelle on November 17, 2017:

I’ve bought a variety of different frames and hang them in a collage style on the wall.

SheilaMilne (author) from Kent, UK on April 18, 2015:

That's probably the best place for them!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on April 17, 2015:

i am still keeping some old postcards, kept them in photo albums

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on June 01, 2014:

I use a photo box to store postcards, but admit, it has gotten a bit messy. You have some great postcard storage tips!

Takkhis on May 31, 2014:

My dad used to collect postcards, it was fun I guess.

AmyLOrr on April 07, 2014:

I never know what to do with my postcards - they sit in boxes with other things I've kept. I've got a few ideas now, thank you :)

Kate Fereday Eshete from United Kingdom on August 08, 2013:

Ah, my postcards are in boxes similar to shoeboxes, and all wrapped in plastic to protect them from damp and insects. Some of these boxes are here with me in Ethiopia, where I live. Others are stored in my parents' loft in England. My childhood postcards (I kept them all) were all chucked out by a family member when I wasn't present. [sound of gnashing teeth] Your ideas for storage give me food for thought. My postcards are roughly in chronological order from when I received them. Do you keep private family and friends' postcards in chronological order, I wonder? From a historical point of view, that would be the best way to keep them, I suppose. What do you think?

liny-tan on May 19, 2013:

i have mine too since i was 4th year highschool (2001) til now. i stored my postcard collections in an album made with handmade paper.

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 03, 2013:

Storage is always a problem for any collection, I like the 3 ring binder with the plastic window you have for each card, you can enjoy them without having to handle them and risk damaging the, Good Idea.

NibsyNell on April 23, 2013:

Great ideas. Especially the thing with the map! I never know what to do with my postcards.

Dusty2 LM on April 14, 2013:

Very well done as this lens has some good ideas and tips for storing and displaying postcards. I liked the wall board display with the map and strings radiating out to the postcards. When I did a lot of traveling I used to send postcards home and get one for myself because it was a snippet of where I had visited. I just wished I knew what happened to all of the postcards I used to collect of my travels. One of these days I am sure I will find the shoebox I put them in for safe keeping. Thank you again for visiting my lens and giving it a "thumbs up" as i really appreciate it. Have a Great Day! (^_-)

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on April 10, 2013:

I've always wondered what to do with them. It seems a shame to just throw post cards away.

PinkstonePictures from Miami Beach, FL on April 06, 2013:

I wish Squiddo had been around in my younger days. i was an avid postcard collector, my Uncle would even give postcards I'd sent him from my travels back to me to add to my collection. His work mates would then give me theres and my collection grew and grew. I love the world map idea and there are some amazing old postcards I'd collected. Sadly I had to give them away as I moved continents and it would have been impossible to transport them all. Nice lens and thanks for the memory :-) It's a lot of fun especially when there are old postmarks and postage stamps attached.

anonymous on March 30, 2013:

cool postcard collection

WriterJanis2 on February 14, 2013:

I used to collect postcards. What great ideas.

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on January 27, 2013:

My postcards are stored in one album, but I do only collect a very specific town so it's easy to keep it under control!

Treasures By Brenda from Canada on December 10, 2012:

Great ideas for what to do with your postcards. I'm pinning your page on Pinterest.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on October 24, 2012:

You have some great postcards. Mine are in a box, in envelopes, for the most part. I'd like to get a good postcard album so people could look at them.

sailor_man on October 23, 2012:

Thanks for the information

PostcardPassion on August 30, 2012:

Sound advice and well put together. I have about 60,000 and keep them in cardboard boxes bought at postcard fairs. Only higher value cards kept in proper postcard sleeves.

Christine and Peter Broster from Tywyn Wales UK on August 28, 2012:

Thank you for your ideas. I have a few hundred postcards I keep in a shoebox but some of them don't fit in which is very annoying. Well done!!

anonymous on August 27, 2012:

Very nice.

ShoppingQueen47 on August 08, 2012:

I need to buy some albums for my postcards. My great grandmother collected postcards and she passed them onto my grandma who also collected postcards. My grandma just moved into a nursing home two weeks ago and gave me the postcard collection which doubled my current collection. They are currently stored in huge plastic bins, stacked up in the attic.

Deborah Swain from Rome, Italy on July 19, 2012:

I use Muji clear photo albums so i can see front and backs...

Michelle from Central Ohio, USA on July 05, 2012:

I have a few postcard collecting lenses. You've written the best lens yet on how to maintain those collections. Great job! Squid Angel blessed.

Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on June 25, 2012:

I just acquired a bunch of old postcards from England, around the early 1900s I believe. Do you know what postcards are worth something? Blessed by a Squid Angel.

SheilaMilne (author) from Kent, UK on June 23, 2012:

@floppypoppygift1: I'm already with Zazzle but hadn't thought of reproducing the vintage cards. Great idea!! Thanks. :)

floppypoppygift1 on June 23, 2012:

I LOVE antiquing for postcards! You have a truly charming collection! You should join Zazzle & reproduce the vintage images on new postcards for profit! Cheers~cb

LynetteBell from Christchurch, New Zealand on June 13, 2012:

I have a few postcards but they are scattered in different places...must search them out and use some of your ideas. Thanks:)

pawpaw911 on June 11, 2012:

I love the old Christmas postcards for the early 1900s.

BuckHawkcenter on June 10, 2012:

I'm a huge fan of travel postcards and I love to enclose them in albums, just like photos. Good options here.

flycatcherrr on June 05, 2012:

I used to keep my postcards in albums, but the albums started to take over and somewhere along the line I've lost much of my old collection. Your "shoebox upgraded" method looks a promising way of organizing what's left - thanks!

Ruthi on May 09, 2012:

I have collected postcards in the past and am slowly beginning again. I had hundreds from all over the world but lost them along life's way.

SheilaMilne (author) from Kent, UK on May 05, 2012:

@TonyPayne: What a tragedy! We've had all sorts disappear in house moves but so far I've managed to keep hold of the postcards.

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on May 05, 2012:

I used to have a huge postcard collection with thousands that I collected from family and friends from when I was 5 to when I was in my mid 30's. I had them from all over the world and going back to the 1930s as well, but the box went missing in a mouse move, and it also had all my albums for Brook Bond Tea Cards and Players Cigarette Cards.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on April 29, 2012:

Wonderful suggestions for organizing postcards! We actually keep ours mostly in photo albums, but I love the organized and labeled shoebox suggestion.