My interview with Andrew Wood, motel postcard collector and co-author of Motel America: A State-By-State Tour Guide to Nostalgic Stopovers, spawned a great question from a loyal reader. Andrew was kind enough to post a response to the question in the comment section of the original post, but I thought it might be missed by a lot of people, so I've decided to feature the exchange here. I think a lot postcard collectors would benefit from Andrew's insightful answer to Michelle's great question.
I enjoyed reading about your postcard collection. I'm also a postcard collector, but have never branched into motel postcards. A couple of questions for you: Are there any particular features that would distinguish a motel postcard as a great postcard versus a so-so one? You mentioned the Coral Court postcard in your collection--are postcards of motels that no longer exist more desirable from a collecting standpoint than postcards of motels that are still standing? Great interview!
I appreciate your questions. To me, motel postcards gain value (an entirely arbitrary distinction, in my opinion) based on a number of factors. Is the architecture unique? One may find countless numbers of I-shaped or L-shaped motels. But how many motels seek to convey some sense of the local vernacular architecture, with designs such as adobe missions or teepees? I prize those motel postcards. I also search for cards with interesting design features, such as pull-out close-ups of signs. A part-time student of graphic design, I get a kick out of those details. Motel cards that feature other types of roadside Americana tend to be valuable. Thus a card that depicts a motel *and* a gas station or a diner will likely be worth more than a card that shows a motel only. Cards with clearly delineated automobiles can sometimes fetch a bit more, since those items are doubly interesting to both motel and car-buffs. Cards with evocative writing on the back often draw my attention. I love "vacation messages" that convey a sense of time and place that would otherwise be lost. I'll pay a bit more for those items. Also, I'm a sucker for linen cards. There's something about the saturation and texture that chrome can't replicate. So I'm always willing to pay a bit more for a decent quality linen. Finally, of course, are the names. Cards that feature well-known names, The Blue Swallow, the Coral Court, the Munger Moss, and the like, almost inevitably cost more than generic "sunset" motels and "capri" motels. I emphasize, though, what you already know. Value is idiosyncratic. I have cards that mean a great deal to me simply because I enjoyed my visits to those properties or can remember a great conversation with the person who sold them to me. Thus any attempt to quantity "value" is fraught with difficulty. One other thing, Michele, absolutely: a card featuring a lost motel, one razed for a housing development, for example, certainly increases in value.
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