Business cards an unexpected delight

Barbara Ann Hughes and her dog, Buckley.

Decades ago, this quote appealed to me: “Not by appointment do we meet delight and joy. They heed not our expectancy. But round some corner in the streets of life, they all of a sudden greet us with a smile.”

Hopefully, you all have experienced such moments, mostly with family and friends, music and books, but also in the most surprising little ways. Maybe through a hobby or fun collection.

Here’s my story.

In the 1970s when I worked in advertising in Savannah and called on clients, a colorful Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey business card illustrated with elephants and clowns winked at me.

I carefully kept it in a card holder. It was love at first sight, and it opened my eyes to displays of business cards all around us. Since then I have collected business cards, these little bits of ephemera, paper items, kin to stamps and post cards.

Imagine my surprise to learn in 1988 that there is an American Business Card Club, with more than 100 members from almost every state and several foreign countries.

Members specialize in favorite categories, such as cards with animals on them, restaurants, politicians, older cards with just local phone numbers, cards from the old West, whatever appeals to you and makes your heart sing.

Our motto at the card club is: There is history to be preserved and a story to be told.

As a member of the club, (current president and his wife live in the state of Washington,) you receive a monthly newsletter, with fascinating articles and are given the names of folks who would like to correspond and trade cards.

Pen pals become friends and you learn the most interesting things. I learned all about the Thomas Wolfe Society from a gal in Salt Lake City. An artist friend in Southern California introduced me to the fabulous western art of Steven Lang. A historian and collector in Upstate New York rekindled memories of my childhood as he lives where L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz,” was born, and there is an Ozfest every May.

In Finland, they are stingy in giving away a business card. A good pal in Las Vegas puts together neat information to send every month as an “event” and when that mail arrives, you feel like you visited her and know the Vegas tidbits.

Being a collector has inspired me to attend events such as the Sweetgrass Basket Festival in Mount Pleasant, and then send off information and cards from our wonderful Lowcountry. Because people kindly share cards when asked, over the years I have gathered a card from many famous people, including Connie Chung, then-Sen. Barack Obama and then-Gov. Mark Sanford.

My favorite album is made up of people I care About. My most valued card is a business card from my father when he worked at Hercules Powder Company, all the more precious because he died in 1985. Some family and friends are represented with multiple cards as their careers in business or the military advanced over the years.

To collect cards is easy, fun and the price is right. You can then decide your favorite categories and display them in an album purchased at a local office products store. Some cards are so beautiful, some creative with unusual sayings, shapes, or even different materials.

I am lucky to have cards made of leather, plastic, metal, even glass. Oddly shaped cards are called die cuts, and holograms are cards that change color.

Old Trade Cards from the 1880s to 1900 are highly collectible and remind us of days gone by when ladies wore gloves and corsets from millenary shops, book stores also carried sealing wax and autograph books, and druggists sold cures for rheumatism.

You learn odd things that other people collect as you chat about your cards. Did you know somebody collects old chicken coop items? Antique cork screws? Hex signs?

As you are gathering, you learn something all the time, because you are motivated to talk to artists, entertainers and shopkeepers .

Best of all, over the years as you are trading, you develop friendships that are actually cultural exchanges. My card friends “from off” love to hear about Spoleto, the Medal of Honor Museum and dining on collards and boiled peanuts.

With all the daily challenges we face today, it is just a day brightener to have a fun diversion.

You expand your horizon, and collecting leads to friendships with kindred souls you never would have met. Wishing you happy collecting of whatever has looked up and winked at you.

Barbara Ann Hughes and her husband are retired and live in Summerville with their two dogs. Among her favorite volunteer activities are playing shopkeeper at Share the Love Thrift Shop and storytelling at the Presbyterian Home in Summerville.