A collection of vintage postcard views from the China, Hongkong, Taiwan & Macau.

A collection of vintage postcard views from the Nippon - Japan.

A collection of royalty vintage postcards.


Postcard collecting (deltiology) is one of the most popular collectible hobbies in the United States, Canada and internationally, surpassed in popularity only by coin collecting (numismatics) and stamp collecting. The old antique postcard evokes memories of the past and provides an interesting glimpse into the social history, cultural history and material culture of the time. Known also as a “penny post card??and a “picture post card,??postcards have been collectibles since their 1890s Victorian-era inception. Old postcards are of interest to collectors of antiques and photography as well; RPPCs, in particular, are prized by the deltiologist. Historians and genealogists use vintage postcards to document historic events and family genealogy, while the philatelist (stamp collector) often collects old postcards for their DPO (dead post office) and RPO (railroad post office) cancels. Often, philately and the interests of the deltiologist overlap. Some also collect Christmas seals. Postcard collecting is an inexpensive hobby, and old postcards make great collectible gifts for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthday celebrations and other holiday occasions.

Identifying the Age of Postcards:

The dating of the postcard for years or eras of issue can be accurately determined if the card is studied for identity points. Research has already been done by earlier historians and guidelines have been put into place.

There were seven eras for the postcard industry and each one has distinguishing points to help establish its respective identity. The following helps determine the era of the card in question.

PIONEER ERA (1893-1898)

The Pioneer Era began when picture postcards were placed on sale by vendors and exhibitors at the Colombian Exposition in Chicago, May 1893. These were very popular and proved to be a great success. The profitable and lasting future of the postcard was greatly enhanced. The cards from this era are relatively scarce. They can be identified by combinations of the following:

* All have undivided backs.

* None show the "Authorized by Act of Congress" byline.

* Postal cards will have the Grant or Jefferson head stamp.

* Most, but not all, will be multiple view cards.

* The word "Souvenir of??quot; or "greetings from??quot; appear on many.

* Postage rate, if listed, is usually 2 cents.

* The most common titles will be "Souvenir Card" or "Mail Card."

* Appeared mostly in the big eastern cities.


On May 19, 1898, the government gave private printers permission to print and sell postcards. These cards were all issued with the inscription "Private Mailing Card," and today they are referred to as PMC's. It is easy to identify these because of the inscription. It may be noted that many of the early Pioneer views were reprints as Private Mailing Cards.


On December 24, 1901, permission was given for use of the wording "Post Card" to be imprinted on the backs of privately printed cards. All cards during this era had undivided backs of privately printed cards. All cards during this era had undivided backs and only the address was to appear on the back. The message, therefore, had to be written on the front (picture side) of the card. For this reason, there is writing on the face of many cards; this is becoming more acceptable on cards of this era.

DIVIDED BACK ERA (1907-1915)

This era came into being on March 1, 1907. The divided back made it possible for both the address and the message to be on the back of the card. This prevented the face of the card from being written on and proved to be a great boon for collectors. Normally the view colors or images filled the entire card with no white border.

WHITE BORDER ERA (1915-1930)

The White Border Era brought an end to the postcard craze era. The golden age ended as imports from Germany ceased and publishers in the U.S. began printing postcards to try to fill the void. The cards were very poor quality and many were reprints of earlier Divided Back Era cards. These are easily distinguished by the white border around the pictured area.

LINEN ERA (1930-1945)

Improvements in America printing technology brought improved card quality. Publishers began using a linen-like paper containing a high rag content but used very cheap inks in most instances. Until recently, collectors considered these cards very cheap. Now they are very popular with collectors of roadside America, Blacks, Comics, and Advertising. Views are also becoming more popular as collectors realize that this era too is a part of out history, and these cards help to illustrate the changes in the geographic structure of America.

PHOTOCHROME ERA (1939 to present day)

"Modern Chromes," as the postcard fraternity now calls them, were first introduced in 1939. Publishers, such as Mike Roberts, Dexter Press, Curt Teich, and Plastichrome, began producing cards that had very beautiful chrome colors and were very appealing to collectors. The growth of this group has been spectacular in recent years, so much so that there are now many postcard dealers who specialize only in chromes.

REAL PHOTO POSTCARDS (1900 to present day)

Real Photo postcards were in use as early as 1900. It is sometimes very hard to date a card unless it has been postally used or dated by the photographer. The stamp box will usually show the process by which it was printed---AZO, EKC, KODAK, VELOX, and KRUXO are some of the principal ones. Careful study of photo cards is essential to make sure they have not been reproduced.


Glossary of postcard terms:

Applique - A term used to describe a postcard which has some form of cloth, metal or other embelishment attached to it.

Art Deco - Artistic style of the 1920s, recognisable by its symmetrical designs and straight lines.

Art Nouveau - Artistic style of the turn of the century, characterised by flowing lines and flowery symbols, yet often depicting impressionist more than representational art.

Bas Relief - Postcards with a heavily raised surface, giving a papier-mache appearance.

Composites - A number of individual cards, that when placed together in a group, form a larger picture.

Court Cards - The official size for British postcards between 1894-1899, measuring 115mm x 89mm.

Divided Back - Postcards with a back divided into two sections, one for the message, the other for the address. British cards were first divided in 1902 and American cards in 1907.

Early - A term loosely used to describe any card issued before the Divided Back was introduced.

Embossed - Postcards with a raised surface.

Hold-to-Light- Also referred to as 'HTL', postcards often of a night time scene with cut out areas to show the light.

Intermediate Size - The link between Court Cards and Standard Size, measuring 130mm x 80mm.

Kaleodoscopes - Postcards with a rotating wheel that reveals a myriad of colours when turned.

Midget Postcards - Novelty cards of the size 90mm x 70mm.

Novelty - Any postcard which deviates in any way from the norm. Cards which do something, or have articles attached to them, or are printed in an unusual size or on strange materials. An example is cards made of leather

Oilette - A trade name used by Raphael Tuck to describe postcards reproduced from original paintings.

Real Photographic - Abbreviated to 'RP'. Used to describe postcards produced by a photographic rather than a printing process.

Reward Cards - Cards that were given away to school children for good work.

Standard Size - Introduced in Britain in November 1899, measuring 140mm x 89mm.

Topographical - A term used to describe postcards showing street scenes and general views.

Undivided Back - Describes postcards with a plain back where all of this space was used for the address. This is a term often used to describe Early cards, although undivided were still in common use up until 1907.

Vignette - Usually found on undivided back cards, consisting of a design which does not occupy the whole of the picture side. Vignettes may be anything from a small sketch in one corner of the card, to a design cover three quarters of the card. The purpose is to leave some space for the message to be written, as the entire reverse of the card could only be used for the address.

Write-Away - Used to describe a card with the opening line of a sentence, which the sender would then complete. Often found on early comic cards.


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