March 24 2011 12:00 AM

Dealer Profile

Wally Jung is a deltiologist – an expert in postcards – and he will once again be bringing these skills to the Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show.

The Lansing resident has been collecting postcards since his mother threw away his baseball cards in the 1950’s.

Known as “The Postcard Man”, Jung said he became a dealer by accident after attending one of the first antiquarian book and paper shows, when it was still being held at the Lansing Civic Center, over 25 years ago.

Jung currently has an inventory of about 110,000 postcards. He will be bringing his best and most interesting cards to the show.

Recent acquisitions include several thousand postcards depicting Michigan Main Streets, Santa Claus, depots and lighthouses.

He said that postcards, like any other collectibles, have their ups and down in the marketplace, with certain categories waning while others flourish.

“Some collect for the scenes, some for the postmarks, others for the cultural history depicted in the messages… ´Real photo´ postcards are still in high demand.”

Jung said that ´real photo´ postcards, ones created by a photographic process rather than printing, are highly sought after because they were produced in much smaller quantities.

He noted that postcards depicting roadside Americana and highways such as the West Michigan Pike, Route 66 and Route 30 are also popular.

Postcards were first used in this country in 1873, but the manufacture and sale was restricted to the postal service. The first souvenir postcard was for Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition.

By 1898 postcards were being produced commercially, but it took nearly another 10 years before messages could be written on the reverse side.

By 1908, more than 677 million postcards were being mailed each year.

Grand Rapids librarian and author M. Christine Byron has used Jung’s resources to illustrate three books she has written on Northern Michigan tourist areas.

Jung personally collects postcards showing Michigan Main Streets and those from Benton Harbor’s House of David religious group and commune of the early 1900’s.

He recently sold a rare postcard depicting Ernest Hemingway’s “Windemere” at Walloon Lake. On the reverse side was a photo of three Hemingway children.

Postcards at the show will vary in price from 25 cents for unsorted cards to several hundred dollars for exceedingly rare cards.