Types of Vintage Postcards

The postcard remains popular even in the digital age. They are a fun and easy way to stay in touch or communicate. However, the postcard that we are familiar with today took a long time to develop.  There are a great way to understand the past as noted by Ostman.

Today deitology or the collection of postcards is a popular pastime. One of the reasons for the popularity of this hobby is that there are so many types of vintage postcards. Here we will discuss some of the main types of cards.

Early Postcard Period 1820-1860 – mailed cards.

In nineteenth Century, people would send each other plain cards with handwritten messages or charming drawings through the postal system. These unique cards, known as mailed cards, were the forerunners of the modern-day postcard. Across the pond, England got in on the game by producing printed envelopes, which proved to be quite popular. Although they may not fit the exact definition of a postcard, these early mailed cards played a crucial role in the development of this beloved form of communication. It wasn’t until 1861 that the first official postcard was patented in the USA, paving the way for a new era of written correspondence.

The early postcards- engraved postcards

The first government-issued cards were produced in the Austro-Hungry Empire. These were the yellow Korrespondenz Karte (Corresponding Card) that was first issued in 1869.

Also known as Corresponding Cards, quickly swept across Europe, capturing the attention of people far and wide. Across the channel in Britain, buff and violet cards stamped with a halfpenny stamp became highly sought after by collectors.

Around the same time, the first picture postcards made their debut, adorned with intricate engravings. Some credit France with the creation of the first postcard, which featured a battlefield scene from the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and space for an address and stamp.

Not to be outdone, the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires produced their own small-engraved postcards. However, due to regulations, correspondence could not be written on the same side as the address, resulting in plain-looking postcards that were more expensive than letters.

The Golden Age of Postcards (1880-1920)

Britain lifted the ban on writing on the same side as the address and this transformed the postcard into what we know today. This freed up designers and artists to become creative. The technique of photo montage was popular and this involved the imposition of photographs on the card. Often cards were designed with color prints or hand drawings and many cards have a combination of drawings and photographs.

There are many types of vintage postcards from the Golden Age of the medium (1870-1920). Here are some of the best know types of vintage postcards, based on their designs.

  • Aluminum cards – these are cards made out of aluminum and they are often elaborately designed and many are made by hand.
  • Appliqué – Novelty postcards are still popular and were particularly so in the 19th century. These postcards are designed with materials such as hair, feathers, wood, and beads. Celluloid cards used celluloid for decorative effective were also a popular Appliqué. A good example of these are these French postcards from 1900.
  • Bas Relief –  These are a type of vintage postcards with a portraits which has been elevated on the card and gives a 3-d effect.
  • Cabinet Card –  This is a printed postcard, and they typically are made of an  image printed on paper using egg white mixed along with whey (a milk by-product). Usually 6 inches they often came to be placed on a cabinet for display and this gave the card its name.
  • Bookmarks – bookmark cards are narrow strips of card. They are typically not more than two inches wide and they can be up to 6 inches in length. They often bore a design in the form of a drawing or an image.
  • Carte-De-Visite (CDV) –  This is a postcard that is a variation of the classic calling card and was as the name suggests popular in France.  They can be considered to be calling cards sent by past.  They often had an albumen print on a cardboard mount and were usually smaller than a standard postcard.
  • Collodin Prints & Gelatin Silver Printing Out Print – They are thin and they did not have the disadvantage of having to be mounted on cardboard.  They became popular with the public in the Victorian and Edwardian period.
  • Die Cut –  These are also a type of novelty card that were popular in the 1890s.  They are unique because they are not rectangular, like the classic postcard. Basically these cards are cut into shapes, such as a Santa, angel, saint or animal.
  • Divided Back (DB) – These are a type of vintage cards that were sold with a line to divide the message from the address.  This is the way that all modern cards are designed. Before approximately 1900 there was no dividing line and this allows experts and collectors to more easily data the types of vintage cards.
  • Embossed –  These vintage cards are similar to the bas relief. They have designs that are slightly raised above the surface of the card and give a 3-d effect. Some cards are heavily embossed and have a rough surface. These vintage cards were popularly used as greeting cards and were quite expensive.  
  • Silver Print – This was a process designed in the 1870s. These are images that are printed using silver and when these cards age they produce an attractive patina.
  • Hold To Light cards – These can be considered to be another novelty card that in the Victorian era were much loved. These card were made so that they were held to the light they turned into a different image or the color changes. Others known as transparency cards often revealed a hidden image or design when held to the light. These cards are much sought after by collectors.
  • Installment cards – these are cards that were designed to be sent in installments. Each one forms part of a larger image when they pieced together. A popular theme for these cards was an animal or popular monument.
  • Lithographic cards – these are a type of vintage cards produced by means of the lithographic process were popular in late 19th century France in particular.
  • Mechanical – These are vintage postcards that have moving parts.  If you pull a tab a new image can appear. Some elaborate one’s had cogs and wheels that could change a picture or image.
  • Platinum Print –  this was a process developed by photographers. It involved a process that combined iron salts and platinum in the printing of the card images. These cards are now quite rare and often valuable.
  • Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) – These are photographs that were adapted to be used as postcards. They were not mass produced and they are original photographs mounted on cardboard.
  • Silhouette –  This type of vintage card was popular during the early twentieth century and influenced by the Art Deco movement. It  involves portraying the main image in dark colors and this gives it a silhouette or shadow-like effect.
  • Trade-cards –  One of the most common types of vintage cards is the trade-cards, a style of card now unheard of. It was common for companies to give away postcards that advertised their products and services. These are now highly collectable.

Exploring the Different Themes of Vintage Postcards

In the world of vintage postcards, themes were the name of the game. As far back as the 19th century and into the early 20th century, postcards were categorized based on their subjects, which differed greatly from modern-day cards. Among the most popular themes were landscapes and urban panoramas, providing a glimpse into the changing world around us. Meanwhile, historical postcards offered a window into public figures, wars, and other notable events that shaped our collective history. And as the era of European imperialism reached its peak, colonial-themed postcards were also quite prevalent, reflecting the spirit of the time.

In the Victorian and Edwardian periods, nationalism was on trend, and patriotic postcards became all the rage. These cards often featured the flag of the country or national symbols, sending a clear message of pride and loyalty. Meanwhile, music hall stars were the celebrities of the day in Britain, and postcards featuring these popular performers were popular. For those interested in more scandalous fare, demimondaines postcards offered a glimpse into the world of taboo subjects.

Greeting cards were also quite common among vintage postcards, offering a unique and personal way to communicate with loved ones. Whether it was a message of Happy Birthday, New Year, or Get-Well-Soon, these cards provided a tangible reminder of our shared human experiences.

Finally, art cards were a standout in the world of vintage postcards, featuring stunning artwork based on the work of skilled artists. Often specially commissioned for the purpose of creating these cards, these art cards can be considered miniature prints, providing collectors with a unique and valuable addition to their collections.

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