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Home » December 2007 » Record Prices for Japanese Art Hide Unbelievable Prices for Japanese Vintage Postcards

Record Prices for Japanese Art Hide Unbelievable Prices for Japanese Vintage Postcards

Saturday, December 22, 2007 Posted: 08:12 AM JST

This year saw record prices for Japanese art. Japanese artist Maruyama Okyo's Cranes sold for an incredible 1,105,000 dollars, three times its estimated pre-auction price.

Katsushika Hokusai's famous Pink Fuji was sold for 602,100 dollars. Also three times as much as the estimate and a world auction record for a Japanese woodblock print.

Another woodblock print, Cats Suggested by the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, sold for 81,184 dollars, setting a world auction record for an Utagawa print.

Hidden in the shadows of these headline grabbing bids is a development in auction prices for lowly vintage postcards.


Yesterday, in a single day, two vintage Japanese postcards sold at over 250 dollars each. One card on eBay, the other on Yahoo! Japan's auction site.

This might not have been so surprising if these were art postcards. Ever since Leonard A. Luder, chairman and C.E.O. of Estée Lauder Companies, presented 25,000 Japanese postcards to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 2002, Japanese postcards have been viewed in a different light. They earned unprecedented prestige when the museum held an impressive exhibition in 2004. But almost all attention went to art cards.

Yesterday's incredible prices were for real photo cards of everyday life. A card showing Japanese fishermen with a whale they caught was sold for 30,500 yen (267.36 dollars) on Yahoo! Japan's auction site. But the highest price went to an eBay card showing a scene of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the opening of Yokohama Port in 1909. The card sold for a whopping 338.00 dollars. That is a respectable price for a piece of paper measuring just 10 by 14 centimeters (3.9 X 5.5 inches).

yokohama_kaiko (143k image)
Celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the opening of Yokohama Port in 1909: 338.00 dollars on Ebay

hirado_whaling (52k image)
Japanese fishermen on the island of Hirado bag a whale, early 20th century: 30,500 yen (267.36 dollars) on Yahoo! Auction Japan

Keywords: national_news

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2 comments so far post your own

1 | At 07:13am on Feb 28 2008, James Lewis Lowe wrote:
I've read this article on Japanese postcards selling for astromically high prices but am not surprised since postcard collecting has skyrocketed during the past 20 years, and serious museums are seeking better cards for their archives.

I have questions about Japanese picture postcards: 1) What is the date of the earliest (oldest) Japanese picture postcard? 2) The date divided back cards leaving 2/3rds for address was authorized by the Japanese postal authorities? 3) The date divided back cards leave 1/2 for address was authorized? Perhaps some of you advanced Japanese postcard collectors can provide me with this information.

James in Norwood, PA 19074 USA. Email: PostcardClassics@juno.com
2 | At 08:45am on Feb 28 2008, Kjeld Duits wrote:
1) What is the date of the earliest (oldest) Japanese picture postcard? - I am not aware of any research, although I am confident it exists. The oldest that I have seen personally date from the late 19th century.

2) The date divided back cards leaving 2/3rds for address was authorized by the Japanese postal authorities? - Yes.

3) The date divided back cards leave 1/2 for address was authorized? - Yes

In April, a new site for Japanese postcards will go live: http://www.postcardsjapan.com
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