Steve Sundberg is a St. Paul, Minnesota-based freelance web designer, a long-time radio announcer, and an avid collector of vintage Japanese postcards. We talked recently about his wonderful collection.
ephemera: I'm really intrigued by the focus of your collection. The focal point of your collection is "old" Tokyo. How did you become interested in Japanese postcards?
Sundberg: I had originally intended to collect vintage postcards from Singapore, but fell in love with Japanese postcards instead. The first vintage Tokyo card I ever collected showed Ginza Crossing in 1903, and from that I became incredibly fascinated with Tokyo's evolution and transformation during the Meiji era (1868-1912). I spent several years of my life living in Tokyo, but had no idea at the time (1970-1977) what Old Tokyo ever looked like. Now I know!
ephemera: I worked for a Japanese company at the height of the Japanese economic boom of the late 1980s. I, too, became fascinated with the culture, although I never visited the country. What challenges or obstacles do you encounter in collecting Japanese postcards?
Sundberg: Because I accomplish most of my collecting via eBay, I suppose the Number One challenge is being able to outbid other interested collectors without overpaying. There are certain niches that seem to be very popular, e.g., vintage postcards of Yokohama appear to be more valuable, on average, than Tokyo postcards.
ephemera: There are so many niches within postcard collecting. And niches with niches. It's an area of ephemera that is so rich and varied. What are your favorite items in your collection?
Sundberg: I especially enjoy the series of cards I've collected showing Ginza and Nihombashi in the early 20th century. And many people do not know what Tokyo Station looked like before the end of WWII, with its ornate cupolas and a third-story that wasn't rebuilt after 1945.
ephemera: What's your advice for achieving success as a collector?
Sunberg: Be patient but persistent! There's usually one more where that one came from!
ephemera: That's true. There are hordes and hordes of paper still waiting to be discovered and new material comes to market every day. It's great advice. What resources do you recommend for anyone interested in following in your footsteps?
Sunberg: The Internet, of course, is a major resource both as a research tool and a reference guide. Other than that, though, I haven't really used many resources specific to collecting but have acquired a small library of books that aid me in my research of early Tokyo history for the Old Tokyo web site.
ephemera: It's a beautiful site, Steve. I'm sure a lot postcard collectors will find it fascinating. Thanks for sharing your expertise and wisdom on collecting Tokyo postcards.