During the first two decades of the twentieth century, a special type of bookmark was produced which overlaps the ephemeral field of postcards. Known as a postcard bookmark or a book post card, these curious oddities were printed in the small dimensions of a bookmark, but were still officially accepted for mail delivery by postal services. The majority of these book post cards were photographs of famous people or tourist sites, such as this Canadian example mailed in 1908 from Ottawa.
Note the one cent postage stamp of King Edward VII adorning the back side.
As might be expected, businesses relating to the book trade naturally constitute the sector of advertisers best suited for publicity on bookmarks.
This pictorial bookmark issued by Charles Scribner's Sons advertises two books written by Oliver Herford. One side features Herford's The Mythological Zoo published in 1912. It is offered for sale by the publisher at a price of 82 cents postpaid.
On the other side is advertising for The Kitten's Garden of Verses, published in 1911. Offered for sale at a price of $1.10 postpaid, this side also features a tear-out coupon to order either or both books directly from the publisher.
Even reprint publishers issued advertising bookmarks for their popular titles. This Depression-era Grosset & Dunlap bookmark effuses optimistically about their Tarzan novels: "More than 10,000,000 readers who enjoy books which take them out of the humdrum world of everyday into a land of keen adventure and daring and romance, recommend to you these 29 novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. You will find in them no morbid sex analysis, no problems, no ponderous realism - nothing but sheer adventure that quickens the heart, lights up the eye, relaxes the tired mind. 75 cents - everywhere!"
The reverse side lists all Edgar Rice Burroughs titles published through 1929.
Aside from publishers, bookmarks were used as a form of print advertising by bookstores, libraries and even furniture companies that manufactured bookshelves. Globe-Wernicke of Cincinnati, Ohio issued an attractive bookmark to advertise their Mission style glass fronted barrister bookcases. That bookmark, with its Arts and Crafts lettered motto, "This Is The Place," together with an image of a happy couple enjoying their books in their Globe-Wernicke bookcase, consistently sells on eBay in the $15 - $20 price range. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Globe-Wernicke bookcases themselves consistently sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay, so don't pass one by at a sale!]
What prices do other individual bookmarks bring on eBay? In the month of January 2008, the following prices were realized:
1903 Coca Cola advertising paper bookmark featuring Hilda Clark - $375.01
1906 Swift's Premium Hams advertising celluloid calendar bookmark - $126.82
1876 Centennial sewn silk Stevengraph-style bookmark featuring George Washington - $97.00
1935 National Geographic fabric bookmark made from the Explorer II balloon - $52.51
1900 Cigarette card of Tennyson in Authors Bookmark series - $46.53
As you can see, the bookmark has evolved into an historic objet d'art in its own right and can sometimes be worth much more than the book it was created to serve. So be sure to open those books before you sell them and if you see a bookmark lurking inside - smile!
Questions or comments?