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 the2Buds.com).
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
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Divided back postcard with stamp box in upper