The Postcard FAQ - Section 1

Minor changes/updates/corrections on 9 May 2005 and 30 Oct 2007.

What is this list all about?

A "list" is simply an online community variously referred to as a list, group, or forum, or sometimes by the software that performs the mailing list work, listserv. It is a very friendly bunch of people who love postcards. Some like only older cards, but the majority like cards of any era. We use this to both discuss postcards and to set up postcard exchanges. We have a number of on-going activities which are discussed below. Some of our members are serious scholars pursuing research activities, some exchange cards to further international understanding, and some of us (MOST of us!) are just in it for fun. We encourage ALL postcard collectors to join us - even if you only started collecting ten minutes ago!

Our Listowner is Dan Lester, who can answer all the technical questions.

How do I subscribe (unsubscribe) to the list?

You can find an instruction sheet on the World Wide Web at:

It will tell you how to subscribe and unsubscribe. It also tells you how to put it on hold if you go out of town for a while. Plus, there's the ever-popular Digest format, and the instruction sheet tells you how to do that, too.

What is the proper etiquette for this list?

Exchanging is preferred, but...

There aren't many hard and fast rules. In general, exchanging cards is encouraged, selling cards or materials is discouraged in accordance with general Internet netiquette, though posting information about a good commercial source is fine. Postings of card offers are fine, but courtesy dictates that follow-ups be done in private email. When you get cards from someone it is polite to respond, but preferably on another card or by private email rather than posting all "thank you"'s to the list. The volume of email traffic makes a lot of personal messages a problem. The list is not the place to post listings of your eBay auctions.

Software is not all the same

It is important to keep in mind that almost everyone's mail/news reader is different. Try putting your email address or a ".signature" at the bottom of your public posts. This will help many folks email replies to you since some mail readers or servers strip the headers out of listserv messages. Try to use a descriptive "SUBJECT:" line so busy folks who only read once a week can find posts that are of interest to them. "Cards for trade" communicates much less than "Map cards for trade." It may even help you find more folks to trade with. Remember, a blank "SUBJECT:" line says nothing.

Avoid using HTML in your posts

It is also common courtesy on mailing lists not to use HTML or other "encoded" messages. Some people still use DOS mail reader software. Others have academic accounts that use UNIX or VAX text readers. Your messages with HTML come in twice, once looking just fine, and once looking all messed-up. Turning the HTML feature off will make your messages look just fine. You may not even realize that you're posting your email with HTML encoding.

Most new browsers seem come with this feature switched off. Unfortunately, the first versions of these software that came with HTML built-in came with this feature set to "on" as default.

To switch it off in Outlook Express version 4.x and higher, go to Tools|Options|Send and click on the little button to switch "Mail sending format" to "Plain text." Don't worry, if you send any fancy schmancy emails to your friends requiring HTML, the editor will prompt you if you want to send it in HTML or Plain Text. Otherwise, it sends in Plain Text.

To switch off HTML in Netscape 4.0x, while in Netscape Messenger, look under Edit|Preferences|Mail&Groups|Messages. There should be a little check box entitled "By default, send HTML messages." Un-check that box.

Remember, if you use text, your messages look great on all readers. If you use HTML, they look great only on mail readers that display HTML. Don't worry about your links (URLs). If the person is using an HTML-capable reader, those links are usually active even if you don't originally send your message using HTML. If you simply must use HTML to get your point across, post it on your web page, and post the URL.

No binaries

It is never appropriate to post binary file attachments or UUEncoded files to the list.

No hoax/virus/chain messages, please

Please don't post requests that suggest large numbers of cards be sent to a poor little boy in the hospital. Only request cards for people you know personally. People trying to break records are usually hoax messages, or these messages are left over from years ago and are still floating around the Internet in email chains. No matter how good your intentions are, this will upset many list members, as they've seen them all before.

Also, avoid posting messages about viruses. These are usually hoaxes as well. Buy a good virus detection program, and keep it updated.

Do not use all capital letters

All capital letters (upper-case) in messages are difficult to read. In Internet communications, this has for years been used for emphasis and is considered SHOUTING. So unless you really intend to shout, please don't use all capitals. We realize that some people only have access to computer terminals that have only upper-case characters, but these are fewer and fewer in number these days. If you absolutely must use capitals, you might considering posting an explanation of why you are doing so at the top or bottom of your post. That will keep you from getting flooded with complaints. Not knowing how to type usually isn't a good excuse. If you're a hunt-and-peck typer, and using the shift key is difficult for you, use all lower-case instead.

Be courteous in your trades and email

If you have agreed to a specific trade with a person via the list or email then you are obligated to send the cards as arranged. On the other hand, having your name on the Trading Roster is a much weaker sort of obligation - saying in effect: "If you send me a card I will try to find one in return that matches your interests - but no promises." Some folks have much better card sources than other folks - an email thank you may be the best the recipient can do for you in return.

Birthday cards and holiday cards are sent purely as a gesture of friendship and good will. (With maybe a hope that the recipient will remember you on your birthday!)

Be patient

If you find, as we all do at times, that you need to drop out of some activities for a while, a posting to that effect will keep people from mailing things to you in vain. Don't feel too bad about falling behind for a while - it happens to everybody!

Where can I find postcard-related information on the Internet?


[Note: This question is sort of outdated now that search engines are so prevalent. It is kept here merely for historical purposes, I guess.]

Carl Seiler's page at provides several links. Once you've found a few, so many are linked together.

What is all of this about Carpe Post Cardum T-Shirts?

Betsy Kurzinger designed the T-Shirts. The "Carpe Post Cardum" theme was suggested by listmember Monica Milla. Contact Betsy for further info, as she will make more available depending on demand.

"Carpe Post Cardum" is pseudo-Latin for "Seize the postcard." It comes for the Latin phrase, carpe diem meaning "Seize the day" or "live it up."

What is the Trading Roster, (aka The Trading List)?

We have a list of people who are primarily interested in exchanging cards. We love to get cards in the mail and are willing to look for cards for others in return. The Roster is kept and distributed by Betsy Kurzinger, ( To get put on The Roster send an email to Betsy with your mailing address, email address and a brief list of your collecting interests. It's best if you use the form:

John Doe
1234 Main St.
Anytown, AK 99999
* Woodchucks, rodents, holidays, beer, aircraft, comic book heroes.

Everyone who is on the list should get a copy automatically. It is currently being emailed by volunteers, and all additions and corrections still go to Betsy Kurzinger. Updates are distributed via email every few months or so. We have a few members who don't have workable email addresses for one reason or another, and they have made private arrangements with some nearby list member to get a mail copy sent. Recently, only updates are sent every month. Every six months or so the Roster is purged, so be sure to pay attention to the listserv announcements.

One cannot receive The Trading Roster without being personally listed on The Trading Roster. It is generally considered bad taste and a "no-no" to distribute The Roster to folks not listed on The Roster. Please protect the privacy of those on The Roster. Afterall, we hope you wouldn't sell your best friend's address to some bulk mailer.

People, who want to be on The Trading List, must participate in the postcard mailing list discussion forum or have some connection to those there.

Changes of snail mail, email address or interests should be sent to Betsy directly. Note that Betsy only adds people or makes changes if she gets a direct request from the person.

The Trading Roster is one of the main ways in which we all get to know one another and share experiences—and postcards!

A special thanks also to Alan Brushaber and Diane Loukanis all others who have helped in the distribution and organization of the Roster. It's hard work, and we appreciate their work.

What's with all the birthday postings?

Sylvie Sturgis is maintaining a list of people's birthdays and posting it periodically. She only lists people that are on the Trading List (see above). The idea is to ensure those on the birthday list get a flood of postcard "Happy Birthday" messages from around the world. If you think this is fun, post your birthday and pop a couple cards in the mail to the next birthday boys and girls.

What is the Library Postcard Collector's List?

The Library Collector's list is no longer being maintained. Please post to the group if you're looking for someone to swap library postcards.

What is the IPE?

The IPE is the International Postcard Exchange. The IPE is an organization devoted to promoting peace and brotherhood throughout the world through the exchange of postcards. Membership is $10.00 or the equivalent value in postcards.

For more information contact:
Jennifer Batt, Executive Director
International Postcard Exchange
7960 N.W. 50th St. #108
Lauderhill, Florida 33351 USA
Tel: 1-305-746-8585

How should postcards be stored?

There are many answers to that question, but in general, they should be kept in acid-free, archival quality storage materials, away from light. There are some definite things to avoid: Don't store postcards in plastic containers for long periods of time, and never keep them in the film & sticky back kind of photo album! Both of these storage methods will eventually deteriorate the cards. Keep them away from old craft/pulp paper style albums. These inexpensive papers contain high amounts of acid.

Many serious collectors keep at least their best cards in Mylar (a polyester film) or polyethylene sleeves or in special archival storage boxes or pages. In general, most archivists consider polyethylene, polypropylene, and Mylar stable storage media. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a cheaper plastic, but contains plasticizers that can migrate, leaving an oily residue on your postcards over time. One can recognize PVC by its distinct "plastic" smell. Archival quality materials generally have very little (if any) odor.

Where can I get archival quality storage materials?

Archival supply sources:

These are only four of many sources, but they each received multiple testimonials in our discussions.

What is a brief history of postcards and their types?

The following history was compiled by Mr. John H. McClintock and provided to our group by Cary Finder ( It is reproduced here with their permission. The images and their captions were provided by Carl Seiler.

A Short History of the Post Card in the United States

Pioneer Era (1893-1898)

Although there were earlier scattered issues, most pioneer cards in today's collections begin with the cards placed on sale at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, on May 1, 1893. These were illustrations on government printed postal cards and privately printed souvenir cards. The government postal cards had the printed 1 cent stamp while the souvenir cards required a 2 cent adhesive postage stamp to be applied to it. Writing was not permitted on the address side of the cards.

Private Mailing Card Era (1898-1901)

On May 19, 1898, private printers were granted permission, by an act of Congress, to print and sell cards that bore the inscription "Private Mailing Card." Today we call these cards 'PMC's'. Postage required was now a 1 cent adhesive stamp. A dozen or more American printers began to take postcards seriously. Writing was not permitted on the address side.

[Front of PMC] This is a Private Mailing Card mailed from Galveston, Texas in 1903. Notice the space at the bottom of the image for the message, as messages on the back were not yet allowed. The cancel on on the front is from New York City, where the card left the United States on its way to England. [Back of PMC] This is the back of the same PMC. Notice the words "Private Mailing Card" and "Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898." Even if this card hadn't been canceled with a 1903 postmark, this back would help you date the card to the period of 1898 to 1901. Also note how someone has removed the postage stamp. This is a practice that should be discouraged, as usually the postcard with the stamp is much more valuable than any common 1 cent stamp from that period.
Post Card Era (1901-1907)

The use of the word "POST CARD" was granted by the government to private printers on December 24, 1901. Writing was still not permitted on the address side. In this era private citizens began to take black & white photographs and have them printed on paper with post card backs.

[Example of Post Card Era Card] [Back of Post Card Era Card]
This is an undivided back card from the "Post Card Era." Note the space on the front of the card for the message (None in this case, however). The Post Card Era cards featured undivided backs, and generally when people today use the terms "undivided back," "ub," or "udb," the card dates from this period unless otherwise specified.
Divided Back Era (1907-1914)

Postcards with a divided back were permitted March 1, 1907. The address to be written on the right side and the left side was for writing messages. Many millions of cards were published in this era. Up to this point most postcards were printed in Germany which was far ahead of this country in the lithographic processes. With the advent of World War I the supply of postcards had to come from England and the United States.

[Example of early divided back card.] [Back of early divided back card.]
Here is a divided back card. It looks similar to many udb's, but notice how there is no space to write a message on the front. This is the back of a different divided back card. The line down the middle separates the message portion from the address portion.
White Border Era (1915-1930)

Most of our postcards were printed in the USA during this period. To save ink, a border was left around the view thus we call them "White Border" cards. High cost of labor, inexperience and public taste caused production of poor quality cards. High competition in a narrowing market caused many publishers to go out of business.

[Example of white border card.] [Back of white border card.]
White border cards often look similar to early divided backs, except for the tell-tale white border that usually indicates it is a newer card than most cards without it. The backs of white border cards often look very similar to early divided backs. One trend that seems to occur is addition of longer descriptions, as seen on the back of this white border card.
Linen Era (1930-1944)

New printing processes allowed printing on post cards with high rag content that caused a "linen-like" finish. These cheap cards allowed the use of gaudy dyes for coloring. The firm of Curt Teich flourished on their line of linen postcards. Many important events in history are recorded only on these cards.

[Example of linen card.] [Back of linen card.]
Many linen cards have white borders, but others are "full bleed." That is, their picture goes all the way to the edge such as the case with this one shown here. Look at a linen closely and you'll see the "weave" texture of the paper--it probably doesn't show in this scan. Linens are also recognizable from their vibrant, somewhat non-lifelike colors. The backs of linens look very much like white border cards.
Photochrome Era (1945 to date)

The "chrome" postcards started to dominate the scene soon after they were launched by the Union Oil Company in their western service stations in 1939. Mike Roberts pioneered with his "WESCO" cards soon after World War II. Three dimensional postcards also appeared in this era.

[Example of very early chrome card.] [Back of early chrome card.]
Here's a very early chrome card showing the sunset at Big Bend National Park. The fuzzy colors are typical of early chrome cards. The plastic layer is also starting to peel away from the backing. Early chromes often use the word "chrome" in some way on the back, too. This one is called "Plastichrome" by Colorpicture, Boston. This is the back of the same card. Most early chromes have backs that look fairly similar to linens, but of course they don't have the paper's texture.
[chrome postcard] [chrome postcard]
Chromes are the most popular type of postcard sold today in souvenir shops. This is a chrome from the early 1960s. It features a wavy edge often called a "deckled" edge or "scalloped" edge. The second image shows a detail of this edge. Because of their life-like colors sometimes beginning collectors think these are "real photo" cards. These are not Real Photo (RP) cards. See below for an explanation.

This ends Mr. McClintock's history.

Other Postcard Types

Cary describes for us two other common postcard terms that new collectors may run into:

Hold-to-light (HTL's)

Hold-to-light cards have a design cut out of the card and that part is covered with thinner paper. When the card is held to a light, it comes through the thinner paper with a design. A simple example would be a stained glass window with the windows cut out and covered with paper. These date from early in the century, but exactly when I don't know.

Real Photos (RP's)

Real photos are just that. A photograph was taken and developed. A caption was often hand-written on the negative, often glass. The photograph was printed on special postcard stock. Many real photos are one of a kind. Some were, relatively, mass produced, usually by a photographer. Some clues are that if the caption is not neat, it probably was one of a kind. Mass produced cards usually were neater. Some of them carry the name of the photographer. Real photos also date from early in the century, but are still being made today. See the examples below. Cards that are merely based on photographs but printed through means such as lithography or other printing technique are not real photo (RP) cards.

How does one recognize Real Photo (RP) cards?

People often ask how to recognize Real Photo cards. The easiest way is to look at the card under slight magnification. RP's do not have the dot pattern seen on modern Photochrome cards under a magnifying glass. Most printed cards will have this dot pattern, much like a photograph printed in a magazine. Additionally, RPs can be identified by the photographic paper used. This is often indicated on the back (see the next question). Also, the captions were often "scratched" or marked on the negative in some other way that leaves the text white in color. Remember, not all black-and-white cards are Real Photos, and not all Real Photos are black-and-whites.

[Real photo front] [Real photo back.]
This is a real photo card from 1909. Notice the photographer's handwritten title and his signature in white text. This is typical for a true "real photo" card. This is the back of a different RP card. Note that this one doesn't state "photo" or "photograph." This is common. So don't rely on that to guide your way. After all, many "chromes" mention "photo" on their backs, and they are definitely not real photos. This card has an AZO mark that helps date it to 1918-1930.

What is a "Modern" postcard?

Sometimes the question comes up as to what the definition of a "modern" postcard exactly is. Many collectors of antique postcards consider cards made after the "White Border Era" to be "modern" cards (including linens). Others consider only photochrome cards to be "modern" cards. Finally, others consider only the most recent, currently-published cards to be "modern." If you're in doubt as to what another postcarder is talking about, it is best to ask. This especially true when in comes to setting up a trade in email. If they say "No Modern Cards," find out what the mean by that before you send them a card. If you don't want linens or newer, it is probably better to say "No linens or newer cards" rather than "no moderns." Avoid the problem, and be specific.

What exactly is a "Standard" postcard? What is a "Continental" card?

Finally, the question comes up often about what exactly "standard" and "continental" postcards are. "Standard" postcards measure 3.5x5.5" (89x140mm) while "continentals" measure 4x6" (100x150mm). Of course, these are approximations. Individual manufacturers and cards can and do vary. In some regions regulations specified other slightly smaller or larger sizes. Although cards that are 4x6" (100x150mm) are the most common card today, when a postcard says "standard," they mean something smaller.

What do the abbreviations mean on the back of Real Photo cards?

Well, we really don't know them all either, but friendly postcard dealer Ron Playle ( has provided us with a list below that will help you date the cards by these abbreviations and logos. For additional information, see Thanks to Bill in KY who originally put together the detailed page. It is now hosted by Ron Playle. Below is some basic information.

Note that Real Photo cards are still being produced today. Some of them are professionally produced with titles, descriptions, and postcard backs, but they bear the tell-tale "Printed on Kodak Paper."

What are some of the abbreviations I see used with respect to postcards?

Some of these terms are described in the "Brief History of Postcards and their Types" section above. These abbreviations are particularly useful when browsing print advertising in publications such as Barr's and Postcard Collector, but you may find them used in online auctions as well.

Descriptive Postcard Terms

appr pl
appropriate place (as in "wof in appr pl" for indicating that writing is in the appropriate place on undivided back card [the face])
black and white
cancel (postmark) on front
divided back
light (as in lt dirt or lt smudges)
otherwise (as in lt pencil o/w NM)
real photo
or u/b
or udb
undivided back
writing on back
writing on front

Common Internet Abbreviations

If you are new to the Internet, you might think these are postcard abbreviations, but these are just common abbreviations used in many newsgroups and listserv mailing lists.

By the way
For what it's worth
Happy to help (or Hope that helps)
I am not a lawyer
In my humble opinion
In my not so humble opinion
In other words
Lots of luck or laughing out'll have to judge from the context
On the other hand
Pardon me for jumping in
Rolling on the floor laughing
Read the flippin' documentation (not seen much in our group, thank goodness)

What is the difference between postcards and postal cards?

The major difference between a postcard and a postal card is that while both are intended to be sent through the snail mail, a postcard must have a stamp or other postage added to it. A postal card is purchased in the Post Office and already has the postage printed on it. The postage is in the upper right corner. Postal cards have been printed by the US government since 1873 and by foreign governments for about the same time. Postal cards come as single cards or as message reply cards (two cards attached across a perforated edge.) Reply cards were intended for the sender to pay the postage of the person replying. The replyer simply tore off the reply card, addressed it and put it in the mail (sometimes the reply card was pre-addressed as by a company asking for a reply).

All US postal cards are listed in the same catalogs that list US postage stamps and are part of philately called 'Postal Stationery' which includes envelopes with stamps printed on them.

Postal cards are often found at postcard dealer's tables under the heading of Postals.

If anyone has any questions about postal cards or postals, Cary Finder is the resident 'expert,' and you can email him here. He will try to answer them.

What is TIC?

TIC means "The Inquiring Collector" and was a discussion initiative started by Paul Engelberg. A question was posted monthly and answers were given by those who want to.

FAQ continued in next section.

[ FAQ Home | Email]
[ Carl's Postcard Page ]
This page is copyright © 1995-2005. Marcel Marchon and Leslie Carl Seiler. All rights reserved.

Valid HTML 4.01!