Classifications & Genres

My classification of the types and genres of postcards

I have assembled this list from various postcard collecting websites as well as my own research and Collection. Where a term is already in popular usage, I have used it but I had added new terms as necessary. Links below go to samples on this site.

  • Announcement = created to announce a specific, limited time event
  • At Night” – all black on front but with a city’s name and the words “At Night” – may have illustrated white eyes
  • Advertising = designed to promote a company or brand – not sold but given away or mailed in bulk, includes
    • Gallery postcard = published by art galleries to announce a showing, mailed to customers or given in the gallery for a limited time (not a Museum postcards that public art galleries sell)
    • Giveaway = free for the taking (esp. from hotels & restaurants) to advertise the business
    • Rack = given away for free in a rack at restaurants or bars
  • Art = front image depicts a work of art
  • Comic = usually a single-panel illustrated comic – often humourous
  • DIY  = do-it-yourself postcards wherein the front image or entire postcard is home-made
  • Exaggerations or tall tale = depicting fictional oversized or imaginative creatures or food
  • Field-post = given to soldiers during war-time  to send home, often depict military themes or locations
  • Foldout = a series of images printed on both sides on a long strip of paper but folded into one another to create a standard size for mailing. There are two types 1) “folder” folds accordion style and 2) “foldout” a triptych with 3 panels folding into one
  • Glamour =  pictures beautiful, alluring, possibly risqué women
  • Greetings  = similar to greeting cards, sent for life’s special events or “just because”, includes thank-you notes
  • Historical = depicts a specific historic event (such as a fair, parade, royal birth, etc.) contemporaneous with the event
  • Holiday = depict religious or government holidays, common ones include:
  • Humour = delivers a joke via text and images on front – two main types a greeting-type ones with no focus on a specific place on front or vacation ones where the vacation destination and joke are tied together
  • Large Letter = features a word (usually a place name) in very large letters
  • Legend of…” = features text of  a story, usually of a local legend or historical event
  • Map = a actual map is the predominant front image
  • Message Face = sender’s message is on the front side (this was required in early days of postcards)
  • Museum = sold by museums, historic sites, or public art galleries to promote the institution or specific items in their collection ( includes travelling exhibits)
  • Multi-image  = front image is comprised of multiple images which can be separated by frames for a montage,  or blended together into a collage  (also known as multiview)
  • Novelty/ Gimmick = any postcard that isn’t a standard size, shape, format, or material or includes something really different to get buyers’ attention can include:
    • Appliqué – non-paper materials (e.g. fabric) adhered to front
    • Cut through – a shape is cut through the postcard
    • 3D / Lenticular– simulates three-dimensional imagery
    • Mechanical – has moving points
    • Non-paper – made of any material other than paper (or linen) such as bark, metal, cork, plastic, etc.
    • Pullout = attached pouch with a strip of images to pull out
    • Squeakers – makes noise
  • Real Photo = uses real photographs for front image. These can be official in that they are printer with a firm backing or by individuals who use photographs as postcards
  • Recipe = front has actual recipe usually of a locally famous or bizarre dish with a photo of the dish too
  • Reminder = originally sent to remind people to write (a letter) but now sent by organizations to remind customers to call for an appointment (e.g. dentists, financial advisors)
  • Repro postcard = reproduction of old postcards
  • Topical postcard = postcards with imagery focusing on a theme or concept (such as animals, food, or religion)
  • View postcard = postcards with a view of a place (typical type of postcard sent on vacation), includes:
    • Birds’ eye = view of a place (usually landscapes or cityscapes)  from an airplane or high-building
    • Giant things = photographs of real giant sculptures, installations, or creations

Bad, Boring, Bizarre & Tacky

My favourite types of postcards aren’t actually a category such much as a subjective judgement, but they are by far the most fun!

  • Bad – poor quality imagery or subject matter of postcard front, makes one wonder “Why would they make a postcard of that?” or “Why did they use that image?”
  • Bizarre – pretty much begs the question “WTF” – these postcards either feature imagery or subject matter that makes no sense or is just mentally disturbing or they can just feature life’s real oddities
  • Boring – similar to bad postcards these are professionally crafted, it’s just the subject matter (e.g. plain buildings) is boring – often the photos don’t help
  • Kitsch – tacky or tasteless imagery or subject matter

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