Postcard Components

Parts of a postcard

Below is a list of the official and unofficial parts of postcards. As I get more into deltiology, I find the components of a postcard interesting, particularly when postcard makers play around with what we’d expect.

I 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.

From stuff only found on antique ones (e.g. undivided backs) to new innovations (e.g. QR codes), here’s what you’ll find on postcards:

On the Back:

  • Backside imagery = images printed on the back either as a feint, background image (often a  monochrome mirror or detail of front image, a thematically related image, or a pattern) or small (often black and white) images on the top left, bottom left or centre (see more)
  • Cachet – public or private ink stamps with imagery or slogans that commemorate special places or events
  • Cancellation stamp = ink stamp applied by a postal service to cancel a stamp so it cannot be used again
  • Credit Line = a line with the publisher’s details
  • Divided Back = printed division line that divides back into an address area and message area
  • Undivided back =  people were not allowed to write on the back of postcards circa 1901 to 1907. So postcards backs were not allowed to have a dividing line (as now standard) between the message area and the address area – as the entire back (which would have been deemed the front back then) was to be used exclusively for the recipient’s address. (see more)
  • Message: Normally a hand-written message by the sender or often pre-printed for advertising postcards
  • Postmark = ink stamp applied by a postal service to indicate the place and date the card entered the postal system
  • QR or bar code = visual codes on the back of postcards, QR codes allow one to take a picture and be taken to a companion website
  • Stamp = postage stamp applied (or preprinted in postal cards)
  • Stamp box = printed square to indicate where the stamp should be placed

On the Front:

  • Appliqué = decorative items added as a gimmick to get attention (such as ribbon, feathers, etc.)
  • Framing = border or frame surrounding the perimeter of the front image
  • Postcard blanks = area in the front of postcard with an area left blank for the sender to fill in
  • Appendages =  things added to postcard that aren’t part of original postcard, pretty much just stickers added by the postal service

Entire Postcard:

  • Caption = Printed text supplied by the publisher about the image or subject – placed in various spots on the front and back
  • Edging = edge style of postcard, a straight cut is standard, but there are other styles, such as:
    • scallop = a rounded tooth-like edge
    • zigzag
    • perforated
    • deckled (a.k.a. feathered) = a ragged edge that comes out during the papermaking process  (popular with fancy greeting cards)
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