Three kings provide a postcard find

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Postcard collecting: The Year of the Three Kings
By Mike Smith
The Year of the Three Kings.
Once I decide on a topic for a postcard article, the writing is relatively easy for me. Since I love conversation (especially over a couple of beers) almost as much as I love antique postcards, writing articles about these little cardboard gems is like having a lively conversation with my keyboard.
Picking out a catchy title generally takes more time than deciding on a topic for a new article, but this time around I got lucky.
If you check the top right banner on the postcard shown above in Figure 1, you'll see what I mean. The postcard not only helped me with the title for this article, its classy design piqued my interest in royalty postcards a few year back, and I've been an avid collector ever since.
This card is collectible on at least two levels. Royalty buffs will admire the excellent "real photo" portraits of the three British monarchs in 1936 - George V, Edward VIII (George V's eldest son and successor), and George VI (Edward VIII's younger brother).
Historians will appreciate that the banners beneath the portraits contain the exact dates of the accession, coronation, etc. associated with each of these monarchs. Thus, anyone owning this card would possess a chronological snapshot of one of the most newsworthy events in the British Empire during the Great Depression - Edward VIII's abdication.
As mentioned, once I had the Figure 1 postcard in my possession, royalty postcards became one of my top collecting priorities. Since I'm a Canadiana fanatic, I first searched for royalty postcards with Canadian connections and it wasn't long before I built up a nice collection of Canadian-themed royalty postcards.
The postcard shown in Figure 2 is from a series published by Rotary Photo, London, England to commemorate the coronation of George VI in 1937. What makes this card series so special is that all the cards are hand coloured, real photo postcards. Hand colouring was a technique used by many postcard publishers to liven up black and white photographs before they were re-backed and converted into postcards.
In this George VI coronation series, the hand colouring is truly spectacular; the cards literally leap at you when you first see them.

The Figure 2 postcard was the first postcard I obtained from this Rotary Photo coronation series, and it certainly whetted my appetite for more. How did I know there were more cards of this type from Rotary Photo? With postcards, especially those printed for special events, there are always more!
After many months of sleuthing on various internet postcard sites, including eBay, I was able to piece together the numbering system used for this particular series, and learned that I had at least another 11 cards to go before I completed the set. (There were actually two six-card series: one numbered from K.3-1 through K.3-6; and another series from K.4-1 through K.4-6.)
The next two coronation postcards I located had terrific photos of George VI in military uniforms (Figures 3a and 3b). The card on the left has the king on horseback as Marshall of the Royal Air Force. This rank was established in 1919 as "Marshall of the Air," but when George V complained that: "Marshal of the Air impinged upon the attributes which should properly be reserved for God," the name was changed to Marshall of the Royal Air Force. The second card on the right shows George VI in the traditional uniform as Admiral of the Fleet.
In addition to the uniforms and flags, there are banners in each postcard trumpeting Canada, India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. These are the same banners shown on many of my WWI patriotic postcards. It was nice to see them used again in the 1930s.
Finally, since Valentine's Day has just come and gone, I thought I'd close off the article with souvenir postcard of Prince Albert's (future King George VI) and Elizabeth's (future Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) royal wedding in 1923. This card was also produced by Rotary Photo and is another wonderful royalty collectible.
Figure 1. A classy, real photo postcard by Valentine's (formerly Valentine & Sons) showing George V, Edward VIII and George VI. The caption along the top of the card provided the title for this article.
Figure 2. A beautiful George VI coronation postcard with a small portrait of Princess Elizabeth (Canada's future queen) between her parents. The Canada banner on the left of the George VI portrait makes this card collectible as a "Canadian patriotic."
Figures 3a and 3b. Two George VI coronation postcards: one showing him as Admiral of the Fleet and the other showing him on horseback as Marshall of the Royal Air Force.
Figure 4. An earlier Rotary Photo postcard with portraits of future King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon taken at their wedding in 1923.
If you would like to learn more about postcards, in 2003, Mike authored The Canadian Patriotic Postcard Checklist 1898-1928, which is a full colour handbook and price guide for all Canadian patriotic postcards in circulation in that eventful 30-year period. His second postcard book, The W.G. MacFarlane Picture Postcard Handbook 1902-1910, hit the streets in 2006 and focuses on the amazing variety of postcards published by one of Canada’s most prolific early 20th century printers. Mike's latest book, The Warwick Bros. & Rutter Picture Postcard Handbook 1903-1912, was released in July 2007 in limited quantities.
Michael J. (Mike) Smith is an RMC graduate (Class of '77) and ex-naval officer who has been an avid collector of Canadiana for most of his life. His current passion is collecting and writing about Canadian antique postcards. He is currently working on his eighth postcard handbook. Visit
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