HORLYK: How a retired Sioux City schools employee collected 100,000 postcards

2012-10-05T22:00:00Z 2014-07-31T16:41:26Z HORLYK: How a retired Sioux City schools employee collected 100,000 postcardsEARL HORLYK ehorlyk@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal
October 05, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

SIOUX CITY | In a back room of Darold Sea's basement sit some 76 boxes filled with three-ring binders.

Inside are more than 100,000 postcards, neatly categorized according to subject, that Sea, 82, of Sioux City, has collected over 25 years.

"I used to keep a running tally on the cards," Sea said with a smile. "Once, I got to 100,000, I gave up counting."

Sea is auctioning off his collection at 8 a.m. Saturday at Augustana Lutheran Church, 600 Court St. 

"I'm not getting any younger," he said, "and my grandkids haven't shown much interest in them. So, it's time for the cards to go to good homes."

Sea first became interested in the brightly colored collectibles after retiring following a 42-year career with the Sioux City Community School District.

"I attended a public auction in 1988, near Cherokee (Iowa) and saw people fighting over postcards," he said. "I thought it was strange that people were getting into bidding wars over postcards. Yet, the more I investigated, the more intrigued I became."

After he retired as a district administrator in 1991, Sea began looking for postcards at antique stores, auctions, estate sales and shows dedicated to deltiology -- the hobby of collecting rectangular souvenir cards.

Originally, Sea was on the lookout for postcards depicting scenes of state or local interest. As he became more knowledgeable, he would seek out postcards that were rarer or of greater historic interest.

"People think that postcards are only made of cardboard," Sea said. "But postcards have been made from leather, silk, copper, steel, even the bark of a tree."

Especially important is one from 1873.

"This is the first postcard in America," he said, holding up a "penny postcard," depicting the Interstate Industrial Exposition in Chicago. "It's one of my prized possessions."

Another is from Canton, S.D., showing that a person could travel to Sioux Falls by rail -- and arrive the next day. Many are from friends and acquaintances who know about the hobby.

"They don't call me 'Sea the Postcard Man' for nothing," he said.

He credits his wife, Alice Sea, as being his "chief sniffer." 

"When we'd go into an antique shop, Darold would have me scope out the place," Alice Sea said. "After going through their postcard collection, I'd inform Darold of the cards he might find interesting."

Once he began haggling over prices, she wound retire to their car and read a book.

"I got a lot of reading done during out-of-town trips," she said.

Since news of Sea's sale has gone public, he's been fielding calls as far away as California and Georgia.

"I think my auction will attract fellow collectors, flea market owners and, hopefully, some young people wanting to start a new hobby," he said.

Although he's donated more than 70 postcards to the Sioux City Public Museum, he's keeping a few for himself.

"It's hard to break a habit, I guess," he said. "I'll always be on the lookout for the postcard I've never seen before."

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