Columnist Allan Blackburn: Collector potential for modern Christmas cards

Allan Blackburn
Allan Blackburn

Happy Christmas to all my readers. I couldn’t possibly let this week go by without writing about Christmas cards.

Here at GB Antiques Centre we only close for one day of the year and that was yesterday, on Christmas Day.

The run-up to Christmas is so busy that I never actually get chance to sit down and read my cards.

I get so many sent here 
for myself, my family and team that on Boxing Day I usually open up the centre, let our customers in, then retreat to my office and read all the lovely cards that I’ve received.

Christmas cards are a fairly recent innovation, being just over 150 years old. During the late 18th century and the early 19th century, seasonal messages were often sent on specially prepared pieces of paper.

These were produced with engraved headings and ornamental borders.

These seasonal messages were often verses written by the sender.

Similar sheets were also used by school boys to demonstrate their writing skills to their parents at the end of the autumn term.

The first Christmas card was designed and sent by William Egley in 1842. It is now housed in the British Museum.

Egley sent the cards to his family and friends only.

The commercial properties of the card were first recognised a year later by Sir Henry Cole who produced 1,000 such cards and sold them for a shilling each.

The cards bore the enduring greeting, ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You’.

These early Christmas cards were very ornate, with lacy borders and panels that opened to reveal a scene.

By 1862, cards were being made for distribution to the trade.

Messrs Goddall & Son were the first trade manufacturers and used the now well-known motifs of holly and mistletoe.

It was their designer, John Leighton, who first chose the robin as a suitably ‘Christmassy’ bird.

Modern cards do have the potential to be collectable in the future.

It is possible that with recycling and the rise of email messages, our present cards will be rare in 100 years time.

So I’ll hang on to these cards then!

See you in the new year.