- linen: From 1930, this was a U.S. innovation,
appearing during a period when linen type paper stock was used,
together with synthetic organic printing inks, with saturated
pigments based on coal tars. This allowed brighter colour printing
that was also aided by the woven fabric texture. The linen texture
enlivened the image by reflecting
the light in multiple directions.
these postcards included a white border:
Linen postcard with a white border. Date
unknown. Note horizontal grain.
But this gradually
disappeared as printing extended to the edges of the card:
Linen postcard without a border. Date
unknown. Note vertical grain.
linen postcard production stopped in 1939 with the start of World
War Two, although some printers continued with this fabric-based
printing stock until the early 1950s.
Introduced in 1939, the modern chrome postcard, with richly coloured
photographic images and no border on one side. Most linen and
black and white postcard publishers either shut down or converted
to producing Chrome postcards.
means of dating postcards
It must be remembered
that many years, even decades may pass between the taking of a
photograph, when it was published on a postcard, and when the
postcard was posted. Further, from time to time, reproductions
of old pictures or photographs are repeated some decades later.
Another possibility for finding an old postcard with a relatively
modern postmark date is someone had taken the whim to stamp and
post a vintage postcard.
‘Pamlin’ reproduction of postcard probably originally
produced in the very early 20th century, postmarked 1973|
Other clues can help date a postcard:
However, this will give the date of the postcard’s
expedition, rather than its production date.
and printing techniques, which can be ascribed to different periods
Real photo postcards [RPPCs]
In 1903, Kodak started making the No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak
camera. This lightweight simple camera was preloaded with a 100
exposure film. When all used, the camera and film were returned
for processing either as sepia prints or as postcards. The resulting
Real Photo postcards were photographs reproduced by making photographic
prints onto paper the size and weight of a postcard, printed with
a postcard back.
German soldiers on a Real Photo postcard.
- Different paper types and qualities
were used at different periods. The paper’s colour - for
instance, whether it is green, beige, blue or pink - also can
indicate its period.
- The publisher, also called the editor.
Each were productive over different time periods.
printed legends on the back of the card. When private produced
postcards were first permitted, they were called Private Mailing
Cards. Later, they were called Post Cards. There were also other
legends such as Souvenir Cards. Legal legends, printer’s
details and other printing also evolved. Here follows a selection
in approximate date order:
Detail from a French postcard,
between 1901 and 1907
Detail from a Canadian postcard postdated
Detail from a Canadian postcard,
probably from about 1910
- The card’s design
Each period has a characteristic look, with Art
Noveau cards from the 1900s, Art Deco from the 1920s and heavily
coloured photos appearing typically from 1920 - 1930.
back of an Art Nouveau postcard
front of the same Art Nouveau
postcard. (The caption on the card’s back reads:“In
war - English Hussars on the way to the front”.)
- Artist’s signature: an artist worked at a particular
period, so their signature can help date the postcard
vehicles, clothing and more:
these can help date a postcard
- be aware that motorcars were not widespread
before the early 1900s, before that vehicles were horse (or mule)-drawn.
- Both men and women’s fashions changed, as did uniforms.
Certain buildings were built at certain dates. For unknown buildings,
again certain styles, such as Art Deco, only appeared after a
- Street names can help too - Some street
names only appeared after a certain event. For instance in France,
streets (avenues, boulevards, places etc) named after US President
Wilson can only appear after 1913 when Woodrow Wilson was first
- Memorials shown in postcards can also
help in dating. Thus a First World War memorial can only be illustrated
on a card from after WW1. Every French commune is required to
have such a memorial, well-cared for and decorated with flowers
every 8th May and 11th November, usually with an accompanying
- The handwriting, and even the wording
of the message may give stylistic, cultural or historical clues
about when that message was written.
- Black and white or
It is believed that the first multi-coloured
card, the Heligoland card, was issued in 1889. The divided back
(1902 - U. K., 1907 - U.S.A.) meant that one side could be used
solely for the image. Before coloured images were printed, black
and white postcards were hand-coloured
by women working piecemeal. They would lick the tip of their brush
as they worked. However, many of the paints were lead-based, and
after several deaths, hand-colouring cards was stopped. Black
and white postcards were then coloured by adding printed colours
to the card. With colour photography, this colouring method became
in the united kingdom
The “paid-for by sender”
postal system was developed by Rowland Hill. A standardised postage
was paid for by the sender, who purchased a stamp to attach to
the letter, rather than the receiver. The first stamp was the
Penny Black, issued on 6 May 1840. The stamp showed a side portrait
of Queen Victoria at age 15. (The first French postage stamp was
issued on 1
The first UK postcards introduced by the Post Office. They were
plain cards and had a pre-printed stamp. The sender wrote the
address on one side of the card and a brief message on the other.
There was no picture.
1 September: the Post Office allowed postcards
published by other than the government to be posted. A halfpenny
adhesive stamp was added to these cards before posting. Not having
to print a stamp onto the card freed the postcard publishers to
use any printing method, this freedom allowing publishers to produce
photographic images. By selling postcards without a printed stamp,
the price was reduced.
postcard size adopted to be 4.75 ins x 3.5 ins/12 cm x 8.9 cm,
and known as Court Cards. The address was written on one side.
On the reverse was a small picture with sufficient space for a
the UK adopted the internationally accepted standard postcard
size of 4.75ins x 3.5 ins. The address and stamp were on one side,
while the other side held an image and any written image. Because
the image often occupied a good deal of the space, the message
would be crammed in around the edges of the photograph side of
- 1902: the UK Post
Office decreed that the image should be on one side
(the ‘front’ - recto), while the ‘back’
(verso) was divided with the message put on the left,
and the address and stamp put on the right. Britain
was the first country to adopt this format.
- Manufacturers soon produced postcards with a line on
the back to indicate the division between message and address.
Allowed postcard sizes were specified:
- Minimum size: 4
ins x 2.75 ins / 10 cm x 7 cm
- Maximum size: 5.875 ins
x 4.125 ins / 15 cm x 10.5 cm
- There were some larger (giant)
postcards made during the early twentieth century, they became
more widespread later in the century.
in the u.s.a.
Pre-stamped postal cards issued by the American Postal Service.
- 1898, 19 May: private
publishers and printers allowed to produce postcards. Senders
had to attach a 1¢ stamp. Manufacturers required to print
the words “Private Mailing
Card” on the back of the card. Changing design features
can help approximate dating of these cards
- Messages were
not allowed on the address side (the back) of the Private Mailing
Card, so some small blank area was often left on the front/picture
side for writing short messages.
- Further information
printed on the back of the card included “Authorized by
Act of Congress of May 19, 1898”, “This side is exclusively
for the Address”and often “Postal Card - Carte Postale”,
indicating the card might be sent abroad.
The labeling on the back of the postcard changed from “Private
Mailing Card” to “Post Card”. Messages were
still not allowed on the back with the message. The back was undivided
by a line.
|Ascutney covered bridge
on a hand-coloured postcard, 1906|
|Reverse of postcard
- postage: 1 cents domestic, 2 cents foreign|
- 1907, 1 March:
The back was divided by a vertical line and messages were allowed
in the smaller left area, while the address was put on the right.
The blank area on the front for messages was no longer included.
To save ink, US printers left a white border around the picture
on the front of the postcard. The back of the card was divided
more evenly, making the message area bigger. More description
of the photograph was included on the postcard back.
- 1944: Because of improved printing processes, brightly
coloured images were printed on postcards made with a high rag
content. The resulting postcards looked as if they were printed
on linen cloth. The white border often remained, but there were
also Linen Period postcards with no white border.
The Union Oil Company started carrying photochrome-style postcards
in their western service stations. The postcard images are close
to real photographs. The quantity produced slowed during WW2.
This type is postcard is still produced today.
- 1870: When
France was at war with Germany, the Red Cross provided cards without
stamps for the wounded to inform their family that they were alright.
First illustrated postcards.
Patriotic French pride
was pricked by the latest war with Germany, which slowed down
the official acceptance of postcards, as the French did not care
to copy a Prussian invention.
The law of December 1872 allowed the sending of postcards
in the same town for 10 centimes and between towns for 20 centimes.
Official pre-paid French postcard, from
- 1878 - 1902:
Undivided back period; postcard size 14 x 9 cm
Printed text - Coté réservé exclusivement
1881: Printed text
- Ce Coté est exclusivement réservé a
- 1891: First
tourist view cards produced in Marseille.
Printed text - République Francaise
Printed text - Carte postale
It was permitted to place the stamp on the back or the front of
1904: Printed text - tous
les pays extrangeres n’acceptent pas la correspondence au
- 1907: divided
backs started to appear
generalised use of the divided back
After the First
World War, the popularity of postcards declined with competition
from photographic illustrations in newspapers and magazines, together
with the widespread use of cameras. Better communications of the
telephone, radio and more efficient petrol-fuelled transport also
played their part.
It was not until the 1970s that a combination
of fast, clean offset lithography printing and a concerted effort
by postcard publishers to make their cards interesting to buyers
- with multi-views, humorous pictures, novelty shapes - that the
French postcard trade was revived.
stamp values to aid dating postcards
is a train-spotter’s delight of lists of dates and accompanying
postage rates. It is best used as a reference section, rather
than reading from beginning to end (unless, of course, you are
a train-spotter type!).
1870 - 1918: ½d (one half-penny/one half-pence,
apparently, postcard postage for overseas was 1d (one
1918, 3 June: 1d
1921, 13 January: 1½d
1922, 24 May: 1d
1940, 1 May: 2d (letter 2½d)
1957, 1 October: 2½d (letter
1965, 17 May: 3d (letter 4d)
16 September: postage tariffs changed to first and second class.
First-class post should arrive the next day, second-class post
First: 5d; second: 4d
After the conversion
to decimal currency (100 p = £1, instead of 240 d = £1):
1971, 15 February - first: 3p, second: 2½p
1973, 10 September - first: 3½p,
1974 24 June - first: 4½p,
1975, 17 March - first:
7p, second: 5½p
1975, 29 September
- first: 8½p, second: 6½p
13 June - first: 9p, second: 7p
August - first: 10p, second: 8p
February - first: 12p, second: 10p
26 January - first: 14p, second: 11½p
1 February - first: 15½p, second: 12½p
5 April - first: 16p, second: 12½p
3 September - first: 17p, second: 13p
4 November - first: 17p, second: 12p
20 October - first: 19p, second: 14p
2 October - first: 20p, second: 15p
17 November- first: 22p, second: 17p
16 September- first: 24p, second: 18p
11 November- first: 25p, second: 19p
8 July - first: 26p, second: 20p
27 April - first: 26p, second: 19p
27 April - first: 27p, second: 19p
8 May - first: 28p, second: 20p
April- first: 28p, second: 21p
April- first: 30p, second: 21p
Note: since 28 August 1989,
when non-specific price-point stamps were first issued, senders
more and more frequently use stamps denoted with 1st
or with 2nd, rather than using stamps
with a specific price denomination. This will make dating more
difficult in the future.
States of America
U.S. stamp postage rates
are calculated by the ounce. A postcard, at a weight of 3 grams,
is well within the lowest postal rate, be it a half or a full
ounce. Thus, the postcard is given its own lower postal rate.
1873: 1¢, with stamp pre-printed
on the cards
1 January: 2¢
1958, 1 August: 3¢
1963, 7 January: 4¢
7 January: 5¢
1971, 8 May: 6¢
1974, 7 March: 8¢
14 September: 7¢
1975, 31 December:
1978, 29 May: 10¢
22 March: 12¢
1981, 1 November: 13¢
1985, 17 February: 14¢
3 April: 15¢
1991, 3 February: 19¢
1995, 1 January: 20¢
1 July: 21¢
2002, 30 June: 23¢
2006, 8 January: 24¢
Letter postage rates
For further information on French definitives, visit Marianne
- a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps.
French postcard tariffs:
1872: 10 centimes - journeying in the same
¢ - between two towns in France
1875, 26 October: 15 c
c - unfranked post card
1878, 1 May: 10 c - France
c - abroad
• Local post card rate ended
• The 15 centime rate lasted until 1917.
1917, 1 January: 15 centimes
card with less than 5 words: 10 c
1920, 1 April: 20 c
1926, 1 May: 30 c
1926, 9 August: 40 c
1937, 12 July: 55 c
1938, 17 November: 70 c
1939, 1 December: 80 c
1942, 5 January: 1 franc 20 centimes
/ 1.20 F
1945, 1 March: 1.50 F
1946, 1 January: 2.50 F
1947, 1 January: 4 F
1947, 3 January: 3.80 F
1947, 1 March: 3.50 F
1947, 8 July: 5 F
1948, 21 September: 8 F
1951, 8 December: 12 F
1957, 1 July: 15 F
1959, 6 January: 20 F
• The franc was devalued 100-fold so 1 new franc
= 100 old francs.
1960, 1 January: 20 centimes (the
1 January 1959 tariff expressed in new francs)
1965, 18 January: 25 c
1969, 13 January: 30 c
• From 1971, 4 January: there
are two tariffs - urgent and non-urgent. The urgent
postcard postage tariff followed the letter tariff.
The non-urgent postcards follow the rate for non-urgent
letters [un pli non-urgent]
1971, 4 January: 50 c (urgent), 30
1974, 16 September: 80 c (urgent),
60 c (non-urgent)
1976, 2 August: 1F (urgent), 80 c (non-urgent)
1978, 15 May: 1.20 F (urgent), 1 F
1979, 15 October: 1.30 F (urgent),
1.10 F (non-urgent)
1980, 1 August: 1.40 F (urgent), 1.20
1981, 1 September: 1.60 F (urgent),
1.40 F (non-urgent)
1982, 1 June: 1.80 F (urgent), 1.60
1983, 1 June: 2 F (urgent), 1.60 F
1984, 1 July: 2.10 F (urgent), 1.70
1985, 1 August: 2.20 F (urgent), 1.80
1986, 1 August: 2.20 F (urgent), 1.90
1987, 1 August: 2.20 F (urgent), 2
1993, 5 July: 2.80 F (urgent), 2.40
1996, 18 March: 3 F (urgent), 2.70
• On 1 January 2002:
France’s currency changed to euro (symbol: €).
The exchange rate was 1€ to 6.55957F.
2003, 1 June: 0.50 € (urgent),0.45
2005, 1 March: 0.48 € (economic,
the same tariff as second-class letters - ecopli.)
2006, 1 October: 0.49 € (economic)
• From 1 March 2008, postcards
are included in the tariff for ecopli
of less than 20g
1917 to January 1947, there was a further tariff for
“non-personal correspondence” with a limit
of five hand-written words. The cards used were often
labelled Imprimé rather than Carte
Postale, and were usually printed advertising cards.
1909, 1 December: 5 centimes
1917, 1 January: 10 c
1920, 1 April: 15 c
1924, 25 March: 10 c
1925, 16 July: 15 c
1926, 1 May: 20 c
1926, 9 August: 25 c
1930, 21 April: 15 c
1932, 18 July: 20 c
1937, 12 July: 30 c
1938, 17 January: 40 c
1942, 5 January: 60 c
1945, 1 March: 1 franc
1946, 1 January: 1 franc 50 centimes
1947, 2 January: 2.80 F
1947, 1 March: 2.50 F
1947, 8 July: 3 F
1948, 21 September: 5 F
1949, 6 January: 8 F
1957, 1 July: 12 F
1959, 6 January: 15 F
1960, 1 January: 15 centimes (?) until
18 May 1964, when this tariff was ended.
of words and terms
- the study of postcards. In France, you may hear of
cartophilie - the love of cards. Postcard collecting
is the third most popular collecting hobby, after stamps
- Postcard [French]
- notebook [French].
During the first half of the twentieth century, packs
of six, ten, twelve or even twenty and more cards were
issued in two different formats. One format was a small
booklet with a card cover, where the postcards could
be removed to post, the cards being perforated down
one side to aid removal. The other format was very small
prints on photographic paper, all in a decorated folded
card folder, or poche. Many poches
are strongly decorated with Art Deco motifs and bold
- Carte postale ancienne - old postcard. This
acronym is widely used in France as a shorthand term.
- Carte postale moderne - modern postcard
- Real Photo
- Real Photo postcard - a postcard made by printing
from a negative directly onto special heavy photographic
paper, frequently pre-printed with a postcard back.
evolution of U.S. letter rates is listed below:
per ½ ounce
1863, 3 March: 3¢
1883, 3 March: 2¢
1885, 1 July: 2¢
1917, 3 November: 3¢
1919, 1 July: 2¢
1932, 6 July: 3¢
1958, 1 August: 4¢
1963, 7 January: 5¢
1968, 7 January: 6¢
1971, 16 May: 8¢
1974, 2 March: 10¢
1975, 14 September: 10¢
1975, 31 December: 13¢
1978,29 May: 15¢
1981, 22 March: 18¢
1981, 1 November: 20¢
1985, 17 February: 22¢
1988, 3 April: 25¢
1991, 3 February: 29¢
1995, 1 January: 32¢
1999, 10 January: 33¢