How old is your postcard?
Do you have an old postcard and
curious about its age?
If the postcard is used, the most check the date on the postmark.
However, there are many postcards that were never mailed or
that a part of the post mark is
illegible or soiled. Here are some general
guidelines to help determine the age range of your post card.
postcards were first mailed:
Switzerland, Great Britain
1871 - Belgium
1872 - Russia, France
1873 - U.S. (government issued and
pre-stamped), Romania, Japan
1874 - Germany
started to be sent internationally in 1875,
after the first meeting of the General
Postal Union in Berne, Switzerland.
The first commercial postcards produced in the
U.S. were sold at the 1893 World's Columbian
Exposition in Chicago Illinois. These were the
first privately printed souvenir postcards in
Does your card
have the words "Private Mailing Card, Authorized
by Act of Congress on May 19, 1898" on the back?
The words "Post Card" were not printed on
postcards until December 24, 1901. Cards
previous to that had to have the Private Mailing
Card Statement. So, if your card is marked
"Private Mailing Card," is dates from 1893 -
example 1 -
pre-1901 private mailing card back
Is the address
A divided back postcard (example 3) has a line down the
middle, or some other indication that one half
of the back is for the address and the other
half is for a message. Early postcards had an
undivided back (example 2). The back of the postcard was for
the address only. There was often a statement
that said "this side for address only." The
postal service started allowing the use of
divided back postcards in March of 1907. If
your postcard has an undivided back, it is from
1907 or earlier.
- undivided back
- divided back
postcard back indicated that it was printed in
Many early postcards were printed in Germany.
The German cards were of exceptional quality and
are some of the best examples of old postcards
available. However, World War I shut down the
German printing presses and cards started being
printed in the United States or imported from
Great Britain. If your early postcard says it
was printed in Germany, it is from before 1915.
example 4 - mark
is underlined in red
Is there a white border around the picture?
The White Border era dates from 1915 to 1930.
The white border was introduced by the U.S.
during World War I in order to save ink and
estimated to have saved 20% more ink.
example 5 - white
Does the postcard paper have a texture like
Postcards from 1930 to 1944 were printed on a
linen texture paper. They also used brightly
colored inks. Borders are not uncommon.
example 6 - linen
with a border
Does the postcard have a shiny finish on the
front, with a color photographic image?
Photochrome postcards have been produced from
1945 to present. Colored borders, partial
borders and scalloped edges can be found.
example 7 -
photochrome with scalloped edging
postcard should not be confused
with Real Photo Postcards. Real photo postcards
are actual photographs printed on postcard
paper. The vintage ones are black and white
may be some indication on the back of the
card about the type of photo paper used - this is often
indicated by the stamp box, which will be
visible if your postcard is unused.
example 8 - real
photo card ca. 1900 (undivided back)
Postcard Postage Rate History.
The postage stamp can help you figure out an
approximate age of your postcard. There may be an
exact amount of how much postage required to
mail the postcard printed on the back of the postcard in
the stamp box.
chart below shows the postcard postage rates and may be helpful
in determining the age of your card.
Postcard Postage Rate Changes
May 1, 1873
November 2, 1917
July 1, 1919
April 15, 1925
June 30, 1928
January 1, 1952
August 1, 1958
January 7, 1963
January 7, 1968
May 16, 1971
March 2, 1974
September 14, 1975
December 31, 1975
May 29, 1978
March 22, 1981
November 1, 1981
February 17, 1985
April 3, 1988
February 3, 1991
January 1, 1995
July 1, 2001
June 30, 2002
January 8, 2006
May 14, 2007
May 12, 2008
May 11, 2009
April 17, 2011
January 22, 2012