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Much of the contents of these guidelines were excerpted with permission from the Beginners Guide to the Hobby of Postcard Collecting, The Capital of Texas Postcard Club.Thanks also to Chuck Harbert; and to Nina Webber, whose donated postcards are used for the examples on this page.These will show standard family poses, including little Jimmy in his school uniform, the family picnicking, a wedding photo.Some real photo postcards were used for advertising or sold to the public at stores.The scan at the top of this page is a real photo postcard; click on it to view a larger image.The easiest way to tell if a postcard is a real photo or not is to look at it with a magnifying glass.Compiled by Todd Ellison, Certified Archivist (last revised 8/7/2006)Although the world's first picture postcards date from the 1860s to the mid-1870s, most of the earliest American picture postcards extant today are those that were sold at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, starting on May 1, 1893. At this time, a dozen or more American printers began to take postcards seriously.These were illustrations on government-printed postal cards and on privately printed souvenir cards. Congress on May 19, 1898 granted private printers permission to print and sell cards that bore the inscription Private Mailing Card. Still, no message was permitted on the address side. postal regulations on December 24, 1901 stipulated that the words Post Card should be printed at the top of the address side of privately printed cards.
Dates can be approximated by the material and design of a postcard.Postcards that are actual photographic replications were first produced around 1900.They may or may not have a white border, or a divided back, or other features of postcards, depending on the paper the photographer used.Many of the real photo postcards being done at the current time are reproductions of earlier historic photos.The easiest way to distinguish a real photo postcard is to look at it under a magnifying glass; it will show smooth transitions from one tone to another. (Britain had already pioneered this in 1902.) The address was to be written on the right side; the left side was for writing messages.