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Guide Russian Royalty Postcards: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia For Sale
A Guide to a Collection of Russian Royalty Postcards In 1980 I began collecting postcards with the image of one or more of the murdered daughters of the last tsar, Nicholas II, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia. At first I thought I was the only one doing this collecting in what appeared to be such an odd and obscure area, but over time I began to realize that there were dozens if not hundreds of collectors who specialized in what were known affectionately as "the Girls." I met them at postcard shows and through mail sales in periodicals such as "Barrs Postcard News." I noticed early on that cards of any of the members of the Russian royal family and especially the last four Grand Duchesses were extremely scarce. For example, at a postcard show if a dealer had a shoe box sized file labeled "Royalty," almost the entire box would be British, German and other royalty. There might be one Russian card, and that would be of Nicholas II. It took a lot of looking to find cards of Olga, Tatiana, Marie and/or Anastasia, and even these tended to be of British origin, not Russian. Cards of them with Russian backs were a lucky find. Of course, I wondered why this was. In the late 1980s I learned that most postcards of the Romanovs with Russian backs had been destroyed during the communist era because possession of such cards had been seen by the Soviet authorities as a sign of sympathy for the monarchy, something which could land the owner in the Siberian gulags. After I had been collecting these cards for several years, I began to notice that many of the images came with several different backs, even different Russian backs. I learned that there had been a number of publishers in the various regions of the Romanov Empire, and each would place its own back on the images it received for publication from the royal family. Since I tend to be a collector interested in complete collections, I collected every variant back of every image I saw, so this collection includes a dozen or more variations of several common images, and I often have two or three versions of cards many collectors have not seen even once. In the late 1980s I came upon one of the two lucky breaks which led to this being the outstanding collection it is. I received a phone call from a woman who took part in small telephone sales which were put on by dealers in the days before . She wanted to know who was offerding against her in these sales, and one of the dealers told her how to contact me. This delightful woman turned out to be one of the world's leading experts on royalty postcards, and after several get acquainted phone calls, she made me an offer I could not refuse. She flew twice a year to London, Paris and New York for six large postcard shows. If I would agree to pay the dealers' asked prices, she would buy for me everything she found which I did not have. The advantage for her was that she would get bargains on the things she wanted for herself because of the money she was spending on things I wanted. The advantage for me was that I got access to material I otherwise would not have seen. I accepted, and I acquired hundreds of cards in this way. Eventually she introduced me to those dealers who, knowing my interests, regularly sent me photocopies of rarities they recently had found. Added to that, after the first year she and I became friends, and I would have long telephone talks with her about the hobby. I learned an immense amount of information I never would have gotten anywhere else. She is referenced in several books about royalty, and it was invaluable having her as a mentor. Unfortunately she died in 2005. The second piece of good luck occurred in the early 1990s when I was at a local postcard show. I asked a dealer whom I had seen many times if he had any new Russian royalty cards. He handed me a shoe box saying, "You're in luck. I just got this." At first I thought this was just a box of general royalty, but it quickly became apparent that this entire box was original Russian cards of the Romanov family. I bought over a hundred cards from that box, cards which included entire sets I never had seen before and many which I never saw for sale again. At the back of this box was a Pacific Gas and Electric Company power bill. I made note of the name on it. I reported this find to my mentor, and she told me that the name of the woman on the power bill was that of a very famous collector who had died recently. She had begun collecting in the 1930s and seriously devoted herself to her hobby for more than fifty years. As far as we could tell, her family apparently had chosen this dealer to break up and sell off her entire collection, and I had been the first person to go through the Russian material. In 1997 I began searching the new worldwide yard sale, , for Romanov material just as Eastern European postcard dealers began selling on the internet. Twice a week I ran about a dozen searches which turned up almost all the Russian royalty cards which appeared there, and I established relationships with most of the new dealers so that they would email me when they were about to offer cards in which I would be interested. In those days buyers were recognizable by their identifiers which were listed during and after every sale. I exchanged emails with most of the buyers whose identifiers appeared more than once or twice, especially the few who had outoffer me. I made numerous contacts this way including some with collectors who had massive collections dating back decades. In this way I accumulated a vast amount of information about Romanov postcards as well as harvested jpegs of ones to search for in the future. At this time I learned that there must have been people in the communist countries who had held onto their Romanov postcards despite the ban on their ownership because now their children and grandchildren were finding them among their papers when they died. These heirs were living in hard times, felt no attachment to the monarchy which had never been part of their lives and sold this material to local dealers as soon as they learned it could bring them a few coins. gave these dealers access to new markets not previously open to them without the vast expense of a trip to Paris, London or New York. In addition to postcards of the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia Nicholaievna about 10% of this collection is made up of postcards of other Romanov women, Grand Duchesses Olga Alexandrovna and Xenia Alexandrovna, the sisters of Nicholas II, Princess Irina, the daughter of Grand Duchess Xenia (Princess Irina married Prince Yusupov who murdered Rasputin.), Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna (1890-1958), the cousin of Nicholas II and Princesses Marie and Kyra, the daughters of Grand Duke Kyrill. There are slightly over a thousand cards in this collection/catalog. While some of them are British, French and German cards which are worth between $15.00 and $30.00 each, there are Russian cards which have sold on in the $300.00 to $400.00 range in recent years as well as several original war time Russian nursing cards showing Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana and Tsaritsa Alexandra at work caring for wounded officers in their hospital. These cards are of dual interest because they are much sought after by nursing collectors. These often bring $200.00 and more on . Lastly the collection includes a series of cards of the Grand Duchesses printed in Paris in the 1920s by the Comite anti-Bolcheviste to raise funds to oppose the Soviet regime. Throughout the time I have collected, I have maintained an illustrated inventory of my collection. Recently it occurred to me that this catalog would be a really useful guide for collectors of this material, and I had a printer print several copies to see if there might be interest among searchers for a reference work like this. The catalog of this collection almost certainly does not include every post card of the Grand Duchesses ever printed, but it certainly includes the vast majority of post card images of them, probably more than 95% and maybe more than 98%. As a reference work, I believe this catalog is an unparalleled scholarly work of great value to anyone involved in collecting this material. Since there is no widely agreed upon system of cataloging these postcards, I had to create a system to do so, and this catalog comes with an explanation of the system. The catalog includes photocopies of both sides of every card in the collection, so the student of this material can tell what these postcards actually looked like on both sides. This guide/catalog is printed in gray scale. The cards which are in color do not appear in color. The cost of printing this volume in color would be prohibitive.
This volume is the size of a phone book. If you have any questions about this catalog, please email me. therose7