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Greetings From a Postcard-O-ManiacDid you know? Postcard collecting is the world's third largest collectable hobby. It is surpassed only by coin and stamp collecting. In the U.S., it is the fourth largest hobby, as baseball collecting is higher. It is also the most popular form of souvenir for travelers.


History - Though cards with messages had been sporadically created and posted by individuals since the creation of postal services, due to government postal regulations, the regular use of postcards were a long time in developing. Before postcards, there were envelopes printed with pictures on them. The earliest known picture postcard was a hand-painted design on card, posted in London in 1840.


The first postal type card in the U.S. was a privately printed card copyrighted in 1861. This card had a decorated border but no images. The first known printed picture postcard, with an image on one side, was created in France in 1870 at Camp Conlie, a training camp for soldiers. The next year the first known picture souvenir postcard was sent from Vienna and the first advertising card appeared in 1872 in Great Britain. In the U.S. the Post Office was the only establishment allowed to print postcards until May 19, 1898, when Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act which allowed private publishers and printers to produce postcards. Several years later, the first souvenir postcard in the U.S. was created in 1893 to advertise the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Postcard Types:


Chrome - Most of the postcards of today are of the chrome type, which is derived from the word "photochrome." These types of cards began to be printed in 1939 and are generally of high photo quality and feature vivid colors. By the mid-1950's most linen postcards were discontinued. These are also referred to as "modern."


Continental - These postcards are slightly larger than standard size postcards, usually measuring 4x6 inches. They were popular in the U.S. beginning in the mid-1970's.


Linen - These cards are printed on linen-like paper that appears to have a woven or criss-cross pattern. They were primarily printed from 1930 to the early 1950's.


Over Sized - The standard postcard size during early 20th Century was 3.5 x 5.5 inches; the standard modern postcard size is 4 x 6 inches. Any card larger than these sizes is considered oversized.

Real Photographic - Also called "real photo" and "RP," these cards are produced by a photographic process, rather than printing. Though utilized from 1900 to present, they were particularly popular at the same time as linen postcards, from the early 1930's through the early 1950's.


Standard - Refers to the "standard" size of postcards -- 3.5x5.5 inches. Until the mid-1970's most U.S. cards were this size.


White Border - Produced from about 1915 through the early 1930's, these postcards have white borders and paler colors than earlier postcards. Though some modern postcards of today have white borders, they are not considered "white border" postcards.




Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated August, 2015.




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