Photograph Identification Guide
by David Rudd Cycleback


(c) cycleback 2003, 2005 all rights reserved



















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Duration: 1901 -
Popular use: Early 1900s-1920s

A real photo postcard is a postcard with a genuine photographic image on one side. Real photo postcards were used for a variety of purposes. Most were the equivalent of family photographs intended to be given to relatives or friends or to be put in the family album. The average early real photo postcard of a junior high football or baseball player belonged to the player or family.

Some real photo postcards were used for advertising or sold to the public at stores and stadiums. Many of these show famous athletes and teams. In the 1920s-50s, many European movie star postcards were made, with the occasional athlete turned actor depicted. The 1920s-30s European movie star postcards, including the pictured Babe Ruth/Harold Lloyd pictured, have distinct brown tinged images and are often sold by eBay sellers from places like Estonia, Romania and Germany. These are plentiful and often with second generation images.

c. 1930 German movie postcard featuring baseball star Babe Ruth with actor Harold Lloyd. The brownish tones are common to these postcards.


Most real photo postcards are gelatin-silver, with many to most of the early Pre-WWI examples having silvering in the images and thin stock. A few early vintage examples are cyanotypes, easily identified by the bright blue, matte images. Despite being rarer, cyanotypes usually sell for less than the gelatin silver, as most collectors prefer the black-and-white tones. Note that cyanotypes do not get silvering, even if old.

In the United States real photo postcards originated in 1901. Many vintage postcards have photomechanical (ink and printing press) images. These are distinguished under magnification by the dot or other printing pattern. Most ink and printing press postcards can also be identified by the naked eye as the images are not as clear and deep as the photographic image. Many early photomechanical postcards are collotypes and photoengravings, described in a later chapter. If an old postcard has 'Albertype' printed on the back, it's an antique collotype.

The American design of postcards was regulated by United States law. Below is a brief description of the vintage designs.

Post Card Era (1901-1907) The use of the word "POST CARD" was granted by the government to private printers on December 24 1901. Earlier cards were called 'Private Mailing Cards.' Only the address was allowed to be written on the back of the card during Post Card Era. A blank panel was put on the front for messages.

c. 1904 real photo postcards with blank panels on front.

Divided Back Era (1907- ) Postcards with a divided back began March 1 1907. The address was to be written on the right side and the left side was for writing messages. This is the same style used today. The early images were 'full bleed,' meaning that they went all the way to the edge of the card. White borders were popularly introduced in around 1915. In more modern time, both full bleed and white borders were made, but the white borders almost always date mid 1910s and after.

1910s real photo postcard with white border


* * * *


Giving an Approximate to a Real Photo
Postcard Date by Stampbox Markings

Many real photo postcards have marks identifying the brand of paper. If these marks exist, they will be found on the stampbox. The stampbox is the little square in the upper right hand corner.

If a real photo postcard has the stampbox markings, the below chart can help determine the general period in which the postcard was made. (Chart courtesy of
Mailed postcards will often have a dated stamp.

Stampbox / Markings / Dates
AGFA ANCO ' 1930s - 1940s
ANSCO (2 stars at top and bottom) ' 1940s - 1960
ARGO ' 1905 - 1920
ARTURA ' 1910 - 1924
AZO (Squares in each corner) ' 1925 - 1940s
AZO (4 triangles pointing upward) ' 1904 - 1918
AZO (2 triangles up, 2 triangles down) ' 1918-1930
AZO (diamonds in corners) ' 1907 - 1909
AZO (nothing in corners) ' 1922 - 1926
CYKO ' 1904 - 1920s
DEFENDER (diamond above & below stampbox) 1910 - 1920
DEFENDER (diamond inside stampbox) ' 1920 - 1940
Devolite Peerless ' 1950 and later
DOPS ' 1925 - 1942
EKC ' 1940 - 1950
EKKP ' 1904 - 1950
EKO ' 1942 - 1970
KODAK ' 1950 - present
KRUXO (nothing in corners) ' 1907 - 1920s
KRUXO (Xs in corners) ' 1910 - 1920s
NOKO ' 1907 - 1920s
PMO ' 1907 - 1915
SAILBOAT ' 1905 - 1908
SOLIO (diamonds in corners) ' 1903 - 1920s
VELOX (diamonds in corners) ' 1907 - 1914
VELOX (squares in corners) ' 1901 - 1914
VELOX (4 triangles pointing up) ' 1909 - 1914
VITAVA ' 1925 - 1934

Divided back postcard with stamp box in upper right main

(c) david rudd cycleback, all rights reserved


Illinois Mesothelioma Lawyer
Illinois Mesothelioma Lawyer Counter