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Ed Levine’s postcard collection really delivers

POSTED: July 5, 2011 1:30 a.m.
MICHELLE BOAEN JAMESON/The Times

Ed Levine shows off a set of postcard depicting Atlanta in 1907. Levine has amassed a collection of postcards that includes thousands of cards from around the globe depicting famous faces and exotic places.

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Name a card. Any card. And chances are Ed Levine has it.

His collection of postcards, which span from the late 1800s to present day, belongs in a museum. Instead, the "hundreds of thousands" of cards fill up boxes and display boards in his home, garage and every nook and cranny in between.

"My wife (Nina Levine) has been a very good trooper," says Levine, a Lilburn resident.

He began collecting postcards in the 1960s after a trip abroad.

"At first, I was interested in collecting stamps. (Former President) Franklin Roosevelt said collect stamps, so everyone (in the United States) was collecting stamps," Levine said.

"But when I went to Europe in 1960, everyone there said ‘Stamps? What? Stamps are nothing, postcards are brilliant.’

"So I started collecting postcards."

During the height of his postcard collecting days, Levine says it wasn’t uncommon for people to pay hundreds of dollars for a single card.

"These days a really good card is like 10 or 20 bucks," Levine said.

One reason he blames for the dramatic decrease in price is lowered interest.

"A lot of the older people are dying and the youth aren’t interested in picking it up," Levine said.

Their loss is definitely Levine’s gain. He may not have a degree on the matter, but judging by the scope of his collection, he’s a certified deltiologist. Deltiology is the study and collection of postcards.

From glossy to matte, Levine’s postcards are made from a variety of materials. He has linen, silk and leather postcards. He even has wooden and copper cards.

He has postcards that change scenes when they are held up to the light and others that look as if they should be framed and hung as art.

A portion of his collection is organized on themed boards.

On his "Georgia Athletes" display, he has postcards displaying pictures of people like Herschel Walker and local favorite Phil Niekro.

He also has a board dedicated exclusively to the infamous 1936 tornado that decimated much of Gainesville.

Although he has cards from all over the world, Levine has many Hall County-oriented cards that date back to the early 1900s. Among other things, he has postcards showcasing Brenau University, First Baptist Church, Gainesville Mill, Candler Street School and the Hall County Courthouse.

Many of his cards have been mailed, which helps to determine their age. Even without a postmark, Levine says he can look at, and feel, a postcard to date it with reliable accuracy.

"Postcards today are glossy, but if you go back a generation, say 30 years, they’re almost fuzzy feeling," Levine said.

One visible, tell-tale clue is the presence of a handwritten message on the front-side of the postcard; this style of postcard was popular until the early 1900s, Levine says.

During the early days of postcards, the only thing that went on the back side was the recipient’s name.

"In big cities they would put the street too, but in small towns, they’d just put the person’s name because everyone knew each other," Levine said.

The sender of those cards, which are known as "undivided backs," wrote their messages in a small space on the front of the card. They were popular until about 1910, Levine says.

"People began cheating later on. They began to take a quarter of the back space and then a third and finally they started splitting the back in half," Levine said.

"So half of the back side became used for the address and the other half was used for the message."

Another way to help determine a postcard’s age is by looking for a white border around the front of the card.

"A white border usually means that it is from about 1910 to about 1925," Levine said.

The 80-year-old former educator is a hoarder of history — he doesn’t plan on parting with the bulk of his "priceless" collection anytime soon.

"I’ve sold a few over the years, but not many," said Levine.

"I know one or two people who want to buy it very badly because they know I have a good collection, but I don’t care to sell."

Although he says he can play favorites, Levine says some of his most treasured postcards are a Charles Lindbergh card and another one signed by a member of the Enola Gay crew, who dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II.

When he passes away, Levine says he’ll probably donate his collection to a historical society, but for the time being, he’ll keep going out every weekend hunting for new gems.

"I go any and everywhere," Levine said.

"I’m looking for cards that I don’t have, but these days, that’s not easy to find."



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