Stamps, Materials & Design

In addition to their cover images, explanatory text, and message, postcards contain many other features that make them interesting, including the stamps and postal markings used in mailing, the various materials it can be made of, and its design and artistic qualities. All of these features can make an otherwise ordinary postcard into a highly entertaining and perhaps very valuable item.

Philatelic (Stamp) Artifacts on Postcards: Stamp collectors are most interested in the back side of mailed postcards. They examine the stamp, the postmark that identifies where the card was mailed, the postmark date, the cancellation marks, and other special postal markings.  Every stamp ever issued in the United States is assigned a "Scott catalog number" by the Scott Publishing Company as a means for identifying stamps and their characteristics. Foreign stamps have their own catalogs. Stamp collectors can access histories of post offices, both past and present, to help them identify the postal history for a particular mailing. The American Philatelic Society and the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library are excellent resources for researching stamps and post offices.

Materials:  Postcard publishers have found endless ways to make postcards more interesting and to convey more information than a basic card. Paper is not the only material used in postcards. They have also been made from leather, wood, and plastic. Ornamentation can be added - metallic sparkles, ribbon, silk and yarn. The lamination in 'hold-to-light' cards can create windows or new images when the card is held up to bright light.  Sliding sleeves can selectively present messages or calendar segments, and embossing (a technique for creating 3-dimensional patterns) can add objects in relief. Lenticular postcards (also known as 3-D cards) use a textured plastic sheet to display multiple images that depend on the angle of view. Such frills can come and go in fads, or may be typical of certain postcard topics or sources. Not only are the varieties of card construction fun to find, they are also fun to make.

Design:  The design, layout, and artwork of postcards has evolved over the past century, but all are critical to the appeal, longevity, and value of an individual postcard. Simple or elaborate borders can frame a message or an eye-catching graphic for maximum impact. Images can be exquisitely detailed, or bold and memorable. Layouts can mix reality-based images with imaginative - and even evocative - artistic elements. Design is not just important to the card face; efficient design and layout makes the postal components and the message compact and easy to complete and process. Good postcard design is sought by collectors, consumers, artists, and publishers.  



Denver Postcard Club