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Advertising card

An advertising card (also trade card, trading card) is usually a small card printed on card stock that a business either distributes to clients and potential customers or includes in the packaging of the business’ product. Many advertising cards were produced in series with popular or exotic imagery on one side and the business’ information or product promotion on the other. These latter cards, also known as trading cards, were popularly collected in the late nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century. Many advertising cards were produced for or by tobacco companies to include in their cigarette packages and these are also known as cigarette cards.

Advertising postcard

An advertising postcard is one used for advertising purposes as opposed to a souvenir, touristic, or greeting postcard. Advertising postcards usually contain the business’ name and address (sometimes with a map) and information about a product or service.


Albertype is a printing process whereby the image is printed from a gelatine-coated plate that is made from a photographic negative. The process was invented by Josef Albert in 1869. The albertype technique is similar to collotype but substitutes the gel plate for the lithographic stone used in collotype.


Chromolithography is a color lithographic printing process that uses chemicals rather than relief or intaglio printing. The basic technique involves the use of multiple lithographic stones, one for each color. Less expensive prints involve an initial black print (not always a lithograph) onto which colors are overprinted.

Cigarette card

See: Advertising card


Collotype is a printing process for making high-quality prints from a sheet of hardened light-sensitive gelatin on stone or glass that is exposed photographically to the image to be reproduced. Introduced in 1855 by Alphonse-Louis Poitevin (1819–1882), a French photographer and chemical engineer, the process quickly became important to the photographic reproduction industry. Many early photographic postcards were collotypes.


Black-and-white photographic images could be printed as postcards and then tinted by hand using watercolors and stencils.


A heliogravure is a photographic print made by a  photochemical process that etches the photographic image onto a copper plate which is then inked and used to print the image onto paper or card stock.


“Oilette” is a trade name used by Raphael Tuck & Sons for their postcards reproduced from original artworks.


Photochrom (also Fotochrom and Photochrome; also called the Aäc process) is a technique for producing colorized images from black-and-white photographic negatives. This involves the direct photographic transfer of the negative onto lithographic printing plates. The process is a photographic variation of chromolithography. The term Photochrom is also often used to refer to later color photographic postcards with glossy surfaces made after 1939.


A postcard (post card) is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard (card stock) intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. The size is usually regulated by a country’s postal service and is typically about 3.5 by 5 inches. Postcards are usually printed by private publishers. The first commercially produced postcard was created in 1861 by the Philadelphia printer and stationer John P. Charlton, who patented the card and sold the rights to Hyman Lipman (1817–1893). Lipman’s cards, issued between 1861 and 1872, had no images.

The first known printed picture postcard, with an image on one side, was created in France in 1870 by Léon Besnardeau (1829–1914). In the following year, the first known picture postcard in which the image functioned as a souvenir was sent from Vienna. The first advertising postcard appeared in 1872 in Great Britain, the first American picture postcard was printed in 1873 by the Morgan Envelope Factory of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the first German picture postcard appeared in 1874. Picture postcards increased in number during the 1880s leading up to the so-called “golden age” of picture postcards after the mid-1890s, an age which peaked in 1910 and ended ca. 1915.

British publishers were given permission by the Royal Mail to manufacture and distribute picture postcards in 1894. The first U.S. postcard to be printed as a souvenir was created in 1893 to advertise the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. However, these cards could not be mailed since the U.S. Post Office held a monopoly on postcards until May 19, 1898, when Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act, which allowed private publishers and printers to produce postcards. That act notwithstanding, the U.S. government prohibited these private companies from calling their cards “postcards;” these cards had to be labeled “Private Mailing Cards.” This restriction was rescinded on December 24, 1901, after which date private companies could use the word “postcard.” Until March 1, 1907, postcards were not allowed to have a divided back, and correspondents could only write on the front of the postcard; after March 1907, postcards were printed with “divided backs.”

Postcard designs can be grouped roughly into periods:

Court card period: 1894–1899 (G.B.) (when the regulated size for British postcards was 3.5 by 4.75 inches, although court cards continued to be produced until ca. 1902).

Undivided back period: 1898–1907 (U.S.);

Standard size period: 1899–present (G.B.) (when the regulated size for British postcards was 3.5 by 5.5 inches).

Divided back period: 1902–present (G.B.), 1907–present (U.S.) (named for postcards with the back divided into two sections, one for a message, the other for the address);

White border period: 1916–1930 (U.S.) (named for the presence of white borders around the picture area);

Linen postcard period: 1931–1959 (U.S.) (named for the use of card stock with a high rag content, finished with a front textured pattern which resembled linen);

Photochrom postcard period: 1939–present (U.S.) (named for the advent of the photochrom [also modern chrome] printing process).

[Based on:]

Postal laws in many countries required that postcards be identified as such in order to qualify for reduced postage rates. Some postcard publishers employed multiple translations for the word "postcard."

Post Card in multiple languages
Post Card in multiple languages


The publisher (publishing house, editor) is the person or entity that takes the initiative to have a text, graphic design, and/or photograph printed (published). The publication of printed ephemeral objects usually involves the making of a graphic illustration or photograph, the creation of accompanying text, the printing of the object, and its distribution. The publisher may be directly involved in all these activities of publication (artwork/photography, printing, distribution), depending on the business' capabilities, or the publisher may merely initiate the publication, acquiring graphics and photographs from others and having them printed by other companies.

Real Photograph (RP)

Real photograph (real photo) postcards are produced by a photograph developing process rather than a printing process. A real photo postcard (RPPC) is a continuous-tone photographic image printed on special postcard stock. Some real photo postcards are unique prints captured by amateur photographers; others were mass-produced by publishing companies.

Stamps (Commemorative, Non-Postal)

Commemorative, non-postal stamps, sometimes called seal stamps, were stamps without postal or fiscal value that were issued to seal letters, for promotion, or as collectibles. Called erinnofilo / erinnofila in Italian and Erinne-rungsmarke in German, commemorative stamps were issued to publicize or recall an event, as propaganda for a military, political, or religious cause, for assistance or charity purposes, and for advertising and tourism.

Trade card

See: Advertising card 

View Card

A view card (viewcard, view postcard) is a postcard with a photographic image of a building, monument, street, landscape, or garden.