Postcard Identification by Age

Postcard Types By Age

The size of a postcard is a tip off as to age. Other markings will help you identify the age. Here is a guide of how to determine the age of any postcard you may have. Take a trip through my museum to see what you can see. Have fun. Remember to copy an image with a right click and put it in your book of favorite images. No charge. More about copying images from the internet HERE.

Postal Cards

Private Mailing Card

Post Card



Early Folder

White Border


Linen Folder

Photo chrome



Unusual sizes

Rack cards

Postal Cards

The post office produced tons of postal cards well before any postcards were even dreamed about. The postal card had the postage printed on the card. It was intended exclusively for a message. There was no picture on the card. They were used as an important communication tool in the later part of the 1800's. They make a great collection depending on the messages. 

Here are numerous examples of postal cards from early years. Most are worth 25 cents regardless of date. Check a stamp catalog for values of these items. There are rare ones which are valuable, but not many can be found these days. You had to be there.


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. Here is an example of this early postcard type. These postcards can be quite pricey.

More on Chicago History and the 1893 Expo HERE.

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."  Postage required was  a 1 cent adhesive stamp. A dozen or more American printers began to take postcards seriously. Writing was not permitted on the address side. Here is an example of a private mailing card. Although the cards may be a hundred years old, many are worth a dollar or less depending on the picture side. Others can be hundreds of dollars. 


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. 

Real Photo

These are cards which were produced by photographers in their studio or while touring the countryside. Not everyone owned a camera, please. But this photographic technique was less expensive and often recorded family members for the future. They are invaluable to family members, but serve less well in collections when the subject is not known. If there are secondary aspects of a postcard which are collectable, they can get quite expensive. Some of the more expensive cards are of aviation, automobiles, occupations, events, notable personages, and what ever else anyone can think of to collect that they like.

Real Photo Dating Guide

AGFA ANSCO 1930-1940s

ANSCO 1940-1960 Two stars at top & bottom

ARGO 1905-1920

ARTURA 1910-1924

AZO SQUARE 1927-1940s  Square in corners

AZO DIA 1907-1908 Diamonds in corners

AZO TRI 1 1904-1918 Four Triangles pointed up

AZO TRI 2 1918-1930 Triangles 2 up 2 down

CYKO 1904-1920s Hollow letters

CYKO 2 1906-1908 Solid letters

DEFENDER 1 1910-1920 Diamond above and below

DEFENDER 2 1920-1940 Diamond inside

DOPS 1925-1942---EKC 1945-1950---EKKP 1904-1950---EKO 1942-1970---KODAK 1950 on---KRUXO 1907-1920s---NOKO---1907-1920s---PMO 1907-1915---Sailboat 1905-1908---SOLIO 1903-1920s---VELOX 1 1901-1914 has squares in corners---VELOX 2 1907-1914 Diamonds in corners---VITV 1925-1934.



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. The value of these cards starts to go down due to the availability. There are probably zillions of these cards still in boxes, trunks, and albums just waiting for discovery.


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. 

Linen Era (1930-1945)

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 colorful dyes. Once of no interest to collectors, they are popular today due to their availability and price: often low, but on the rise. Now perhaps 25 cents to a dollar. Eventually they may be valued at perhaps several dollars depending on content and image.

Photochrome Era (1945 to 1960 - regular size cards)

The "chrome" postcards started to dominate the scene soon after the WWII. These cards are very colorful and are full bleed off the edges. 


Continental Era (1950 in Europe, 1970 in the USA to present)

Postcards printed and sold on the European continent went to this larger size earlier than the USA. Thus the name Continental has been assigned to this size postcard. Although this size is not popular with collectors, typically, and may not even be found at postcard shows, the day will come when this size enters the collecting market. Now most continentals are 5 cents or 10 cents each.

Rack Postcards

These cards are an advertising method which is strong in Europe and now in the United States. The cards are free for the taking. When a rack is filled with rack cards, it is not unusual for someone to come along and take them all. If you ever find a rack of free cards, go ahead and take a few of each, but leave some for the next person. These cards are quite labor intensive to build a collection since they mostly travel due to a trade. They are valued at what ever the market will support, as are all cards. But a good rule of thumb is that 25 cents should get you most cards. There are exceptions.