Exploring the Legacy of Raphael Tuck and Sons Postcards

February 21, 2024

Introduction

Raphael Tuck & Sons once reigned as the world’s foremost postcard publisher, producing images that captured scenes worldwide, offering a singular window into the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the decades since their closure in 1959, Tuck cards have carved out a distinct niche in the collecting world, recognized as a postcard collecting category within itself.

Here we’ll look at the history of the company and explore some of its most famous postcard themes and collaborations with various artists. Finally, we’ll explore the value of Tuck postcards today.

The History of Raphael Tuck and Sons

Origins and Early Years

Raphael Tuck laid the foundation for his company in bustling London, 1866, setting the stage for what would become a pioneering force in the world of printed materials. Among their diverse offerings, which included cards and books, it was Tuck’s postcards that began to draw attention and carve out a distinct niche in the market.

Tuck’s “Photochrome” series #1418, titled “Kittendom”. This cute scene of a dog and a cat about to strike is captioned “I hope I don’t intrude”. Circa 1905, this postcard sold for $5 at auction.

Expansion and Success

Tuck’s journey from modest beginnings to becoming a powerhouse publisher of postcards unfolded against the backdrop of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this period of rapid industrialization and cultural change, Tuck seized opportunities for growth and innovation, solidifying their position as a leading player in the postcard industry.

Their success was fueled by a commitment to quality and creativity, as evidenced by their groundbreaking designs and techniques. Tuck introduced new printing methods and artistic collaborations that pushed the boundaries of postcard production, captivating audiences and setting new standards for excellence.

Postcard printing was outsourced to Germany for its advanced offset lithography technology. Skilled German artisans ensured precise color reproduction and detail, resulting in high-quality postcards created with superior craftsmanship.

Legacy and Impact

Tuck’s impact went beyond their London base, shaping the postcard market profoundly. Their contributions were not just business-related; they influenced culture by making postcards a popular means of communication.

Tuck’s creative designs and wide distribution made it easy for people from everywhere to connect, bringing people closer together regardless of where they lived and making them feel more united.

Samples from Tuck’s “Presidents of the United States” series #2328, produced circa 1906.

Exploring Tuck Postcards

Types of Tuck Postcards

Tuck postcards come in all sorts, catering to different tastes and interests. You’ll find holiday cards for festive cheer, scenic views to transport you to faraway places, and artist-signed cards that are like miniature works of art. Each one is unique, showcasing Tuck’s knack for creativity and variety.

Notable Collections and Themes

  • Christmas and Holiday Cards: Tuck’s holiday-themed postcards, especially those featuring Christmas and Halloween scenes and motifs, are highly sought after by collectors.
  • Scenic Views and Landmarks: Tuck produced a wide range of postcards featuring scenic views and famous landmarks from around the world, allowing recipients to travel vicariously through picturesque images.
  • Artist-Signed Cards: Collaborating with renowned artists and illustrators, Tuck created artist-signed postcards that showcased beautiful artwork.
  • Children’s Illustrations: Tuck’s postcards featuring sweet illustrations aimed at children, including fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and playful characters, are beloved for their charm.
  • Historical Events and Cultural Themes: Tuck’s postcards often depicted historical events, cultural traditions, and societal trends, providing glimpses into different eras and lifestyles.
  • Tuck’s Oilette Series: Introduced in 1903, Raphael Tuck and Sons’ Oilette series stood out for its lifelike oil painting-style designs. Spanning travel, history, scenic views, and more, the thousands of Oilette cards feature paintings on the front and Tuck’s Oilette logo on the back.
Tuck's Postcard: RMS Titanic, 1912
Tuck’s Oilette Series #9898. Rare RMS Titanic postcard (1912). Sold at auction for $406.

Catalogs, Examples and Sources:

Numerous examples of Tuck’s Christmas cards and holiday-themed postcards can be found in private collections, museums, and online archives. 

For instance, the British Museum houses a significant collection of Tuck postcards, providing a valuable resource for researchers and enthusiasts alike. 

However, our favorite online resource for exploring and identifying Tuck postcards is the comprehensive TuckDB Postcards.

This invaluable website details the history of Raphael Tuck & Sons and their extensive collection of postcards. Particularly noteworthy is its effort to recreate lost examples of postcards following the destruction of the company headquarters during the London Blitz of WWII. TuckDB serves as a vital repository for preserving the legacy of Tuck postcards for future generations to appreciate and study.

Tuck Postcards: Artwork by Phyllis Cooper
Samples from a set of Tuck’s “Happy Land Series” Christmas postcards with designs signed by artist Phyllis Cooper. A set of six such cards from this series sold at auction for $985.

Artistic Collaborations

Tuck didn’t work alone. They teamed up with talented artists and illustrators to bring their postcards to life. These collaborations resulted in stunning designs that continue to captivate collectors and enthusiasts alike. 

Some of the important artists associated with Tuck’s signed postcards include:

  • Mabel Lucie Attwell: Known for her charming and whimsical illustrations, Attwell’s work adorned many Tuck postcards, particularly those featuring children and fairies.
  • Ellen H. Clapsaddle: A prolific American illustrator, Clapsaddle created numerous designs for Tuck postcards, often featuring sentimental and holiday-themed imagery.
  • Kate Greenaway: An English children’s book illustrator, Greenaway’s distinctive style graced Tuck postcards, showcasing delicate and elegant illustrations of children in pastoral settings.
  • Arthur Thiele: A German artist known for his detailed and picturesque landscapes, Thiele’s work was featured on Tuck postcards depicting scenic views and nature scenes.
  • Louis Wain: Famed for his anthropomorphic illustrations of cats, Wain collaborated with Tuck to produce postcards featuring his beloved feline characters in various whimsical scenarios.
  • Margaret Tarrant: An English illustrator known for her fairy tales and fantasy-themed artwork, Tarrant’s illustrations were often featured on Tuck postcards, particularly those aimed at children.

Collectibility and Value of Tuck Postcards

Factors Influencing Collectibility and Value

As with any other collectible postcards, the same sorts of factors govern the collectibility and value of vintage Tuck postcards.

Rarity, condition, and desirability of the design are key considerations.

Limited edition or rare postcards, especially those in pristine condition, tend to command higher prices among collectors. Additionally, postcards featuring popular themes, artists, or historical significance are highly sought after.

Tucks Postcard: Christmas Series
Tuck’s Oilette Series #9676, titled “In Winter Quarters”. This vintage Christmas postcard shows three soldier snowmen marching off to war. Produced during WWI, circa 1918. This example sold for $100 at auction.
Tucks Postcard: Halloween Series
Tuck’s “Halloween” Postcard Series #831. This rather simplistic artwork of a little girl peeling apples fetched $364 at auction. (Is her head supposed to spin around that far??)

Examination of Notable Tuck Postcards

Some Tuck postcards have achieved legendary status in the collecting world, fetching significant prices at auction. 

From iconic Christmas cards to scenic views and artist-signed designs, these postcards showcase the breadth and depth of Tuck’s catalog. Auction records provide valuable insights into the market value of Tuck postcards, with prices varying based on factors such as rarity, condition, and demand.

The End of an Era

The decline and eventual closure of Raphael Tuck & Sons marked the end of an era in the postcard industry. Despite its long history, the company faced challenges as the demand for postcards waned in the mid-20th century. With changing consumer preferences and the rise of the use of the telephone in place of the written word, Tuck struggled to adapt to the shifting landscape.

In 1959, Raphael Tuck & Sons ceased operations, marking the end of over 90 years of postcard publishing. The closure was a somber moment for collectors and enthusiasts who had cherished Tuck’s iconic designs for generations. 

Get a Free Valuation for a Tuck Postcard Collection

If you’re the owner of a collection of original Raphael Tuck postcards, we invite you to take advantage of our complimentary valuation service. As an auction house with a specialty in vintage postcards, we understand the value and significance of these cherished collectibles.

Simply submit a consignment inquiry to request your free valuation and explore the potential of consigning your Tuck postcards to auction.

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