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Record eBay Price for "Dear Dr" Card

By Tom Fortunato stamptmf@frontiernet.net
written September 19, 2004

A bidding war on eBay resulted in this card selling for $146.30, believed to be a record auction price for a card of its type. It was described as "Item #5517076928- Dec. 23, 1968, Abbott Laboratories advertising postcard used from Easter Island, to California" and posted by surface mail from Easter Island, a part of Chile.

What makes this postcard so special? Non-philatelic mail from Easter Island is extremely difficult to find. Few "Dear Doctor" cards are recorded from this late mailing in Abbott's series of advertisements for sodium pentothal which began in 1956. The drug is perhaps better known as "truth serum," made popular at the height of the Cold War in movies and TV.

Most Easter Island Abbott cards were mailed to nurses, bearing the salutation "Dear Nurse Anesthetist." This one starts off "Dear Doctor," which gave the series of cards its nickname.

The item started with an opening bid of $12 from its Canadian seller using the eBay name "SREBENKA" on August 28. Seventeen subsequent bids from a total of five different bidders brought the total to its closing price on September 7.

Most bids were between "doc.fb" and "dibucainecat," the latter being the eventual winner of the item, who also provided additional details. A late high bid of $143.80 by "gasman600" came in second. That was his only bid on the card.

The winner is an avid collector of the cards and will be publishing a book about the cards in the next few months. He is a U.S. doctor specializing in anesthesia and an historian who has written several books on the subject.

Gasman600 turns out to be another anesthetist living in England. He actually collects postcards featuring operating rooms, and told dibucainecat in an email after the auction that he will be seen on an upcoming English Antiques Roadshow program displaying his collection. He saw this Easter Island card, and had placed a high bid on it as he has visited Easter Island and therefore had a special interest in the piece.

Said dibucainecat, "There aren't that many Easter Island cards, which is why I decided to get another, and this is what it took."

Tom Fortunato, founder of the Dear Doctor Postcard Collectors Club, has been an avid collector of Abbott and similar ad postcards for more than 12 years. He watched in awe as the bidding went higher and higher.

"I thought the $30 price as of September 5 was about as high as it would go," Fortunato said. "But a bidding war broke out in the last two days which sent it through the roof. I knew there had to be a good story behind it. Interest in these cards continues to grow." He contacted dibucainecat after the auction, whom he has known for several years.

More details about "Dear Doctor" cards can be found on the club's web site at http://www.geocities.com/DearDrPC/, where viewers will find a variety of articles about them along with a comprehensive checklist of these fascinating pieces of postal history. Membership in the online group is free of charge.