Roy Webster Cox Sr., 80, had premier postcard collection

September 26, 1998|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Roy Webster Cox Sr., one of the world's premier postcard collectors and dealers, died Tuesday of a stroke at Good Samaritan Hospital. The Gardenville resident was 80.

Mr. Cox, a former jewelry salesman whose territory was the Middle Atlantic states, had spent years collecting stamps and working as a weekend stamp dealer.

When he retired in 1976 he turned his attention to buying and selling postcards and became an acknowledged authority and author who wrote widely on the subject.

Postcards and their "Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here" messages, became popular methods of communication in the 1880s and 1890s. Their cheerful and brightly colored scenes, in the early years, were often hand-painted in assembly line fashion by artists in lofts.

"He's the granddaddy of all Baltimore postcard collectors," said Bert Smith, a postcard collector and author of "Greeting from Baltimore: Postcard Views of the City," published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 1996.

"He was absolutely the most respected authority on postcards and was also known for his friendliness and getting others interested in collecting," said Mr. Smith, who lives in Hampden.

Family members estimate his personal collection to be between 100,000 and 200,000 postcards. He had special interest in Santa Claus postcards, postcard artists and Great White Fleet cards showing the naval ships that President Theodore Roosevelt sent around the world in the early 1900s.

Technically known as a deltiologist, Mr. Cox put plenty of miles on his car each year attending shows and hunting for cards.

"There wasn't a dealer or collector in the country who didn't seek his advice. He was the jewel in the crown of postcard collectors," said Eden "Dee" Delcher, a Baltimore collector and friend of 15 years.

When Mr. Cox began collecting and dealing in postcards, he found almost no literature on the subject.

In the 1980s, he wrote "How to Price and Sell Old Picture Postcards," a primer on the subject that is in its eighth printing.

In it, he advised that first-day postmarks increase the value of the most plain-looking card, that knowing what to look for can result in some truly amazing and thrilling discoveries and that any card before 1900 can be considered rare. He also edited Postcard Dealer, a magazine about buying and selling postcards.

He belied the stereotypical image of the stuffy collector and was known for his red jacket that he wore at shows and his friendly and open demeanor.

"He was simply delightful to be around. If he knew you had a special interest, he'd find things for you and the next time he saw you he'd say, 'Hey, I've got something for you,' " said Ellen Adajian, a Hamilton collector who specializes in cards from 1910.

He helped establish the International Federation of Postcard Dealers, the Monumental Postcard Club and the First Monday Postcard Club of Baltimore.

"He was eager to help people understand the various eras of postcard collecting, age and condition of cards. He was exceedingly generous with his knowledge," said Ms. Delcher. "His advice was simple. Always buy cards in tip-top condition."

Mr. Cox was born and raised in Northeast Baltimore and graduated in 1933 from City College. He was a graduate of Strayers Business College and the Dale Carnegie Institute.

During World War II, he served as an air raid warden in Gardenville.

He was a longtime member of Andrew Chapel United Methodist Church where he established the Bykota Men's Club and taught Sunday school.

HTC Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the John C. Miller Funeral Home, 6415 Belair Road, Overlea.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Helen Olivia Murray; a son, Roy W. Cox Jr. of Parkville; a daughter, Mildred Olivia Cox Knoll of Gardenville; a sister, Mildred B. Seymour of Gaithersburg; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 9/26/98

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