Glossary Terms

Appliqué:  A postcard that has some form of cloth, metal or other embellishment attached to it.

Art Déco:  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.

Artist Signed:  Postcards with artwork that has the artist’s signature, and the art is often unique for postcards.

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

Big Letter:  A postcard that shows the name of a place in very big letters that do not have pictures inside each letter (see also Large Letter).

Chromes Postcards of the “Photochrome Era” began in 1939 and continue to be produced to this day. The term Chrome originated with Kodak’s Kodachrome film.  These are the postcards which we typically use today and are characterized by their photo-like appearance and glossy finish on the face of the card. They are made by a printing process composed of very small dots.  The Union Oils series of 1939 were the first chromes produced.

Composites:  A number of individual cards, that when placed together in a group, form a larger picture. Also called “installment” cards.

Continentals – Modern sized postcards typically produced in the 1960s and later which measure approx. 4 inches by 6 inches or a little bigger.

Court Cards:  The official size for British postcards between 1894–1899, measuring 115 mm × 89 mm (4.5 in × 3.5 in).

Deltiology  – the study and collection of postcards. Compared to philately, the identification of a postcard’s place and time of production can often be a difficult task because postcards, unlike stamps, are produced in a decentralised, unregulated manner. For this reason, some collectors may choose to limit their acquisitions to cards by specific artists and publishers, or by time and location.

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.

Django Fontina:  A postcard written to a stranger, typically as a means of disseminating poetry.

Early:  Any card issued before the Divided Back was introduced.

Embossed:  Postcards with a raised surface.

Golden Age of Postcards – The “Golden Age” is a label placed on postcards produced between 1898 and 1915 – the time period when sending, receiving and collecting postcards became very fashionable. The cost for mailing a postcard during this time was one cent. Prior to World War I, most of the highest quality postcards were printed in Germany, then regarded as having the best printing processes in the world. German companies had patents on the best inks and were the “master printers” of the world. With the advent of World War I in 1914, war-time conflict caused economic disruption and a breakdown in transportation. Many German chemical companies converted their plants to war-related products.  The market for the then “frivilous” picture postcards dried up, and it ended completely when the United States entered the war against Germany in 1917. In November 1917, the US postage rates on postcards increased temporarily to 2 cents. During these war years, the manufacture of most US postcards largely shifted to markets within the USA. Philadelphia was a major player in the postcard market for many years.

Hand-tinted:  Black-and-white images were tinted by hand using watercolors and stencils.

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 130 mm × 80 mm (5.1 in × 3.1 in).

Kaleidoscopes:  Postcards with a rotating wheel that reveals a myriad of colors when turned.

Large Letter:  A postcard that has the name of a place shown as a series of very large letters, inside of each of which is a picture of that locale.

Midget Postcards:  Novelty cards of the size 90 mm × 70 mm (3.54 in × 2.76 in).

Novelty:  Any postcard that deviates in any way from the norm. Cards that 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 & Sons for postcards reproduced from original paintings.

Oversized – A general term used to describe large postcards which are larger than the typical 4″ x 6″.

Post Card– A postcard or post card is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard intended for writing and mailing without an envelope and at a lower rate than a letter. Stamp collectors distinguish between postcards (which require a stamp) and postal cards (which have the postage pre-printed on them). While a postcard is usually printed by a private company, individual or organization, a postal card is issued by the relevant postal authority. The United States Postal Service defines a postcard as: rectangular, at least 3-½ inches high x 5 inches long x .007 inch thick and no more than 4-¼ inches high x 6 inches long x .016 inches thick;  however, some postcards have deviated from this (for example, shaped postcards).

Postcardese:  The style of writing used on postcards; short sentences, jumping from one subject to another.

Real Photo– Term used to describe postcards produced by a photographic process using a camera and photographic paper.  Real photo post cards are highly desirable because many are one of a kind.  Commercially printed real photo post cards were also produced but are typically not as desirable due to the large supply available.  Abbreviated “RPPC”.

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

Standard Size:  Introduced in Britain in November 1899, measuring 140 mm × 89 mm (5.5 in × 3.5 in).

Topographical:  Postcards showing street scenes and general views. Judges Postcard produced many British topographical views.

Undivided Back:  Postcards with a plain back where all of this space was used for the address. This is usually in reference to Early cards, although undivided were still in common use up until 1907.

Vignette:  Usually found on undivided back cards, consisting of a design that 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:  A card with the opening line of a sentence, which the sender would then complete. Often found on early comic cards.