Postcard Collecting Terminology
Home Postcard Collecting Tips


Postcard Collecting Terminology

The joy of postcard collecting can be increased through a comprehensive  knowledge of postcard terminology.

When describing a postcard, specific terms are used to identify the item. Use of accurate terms will improve communication between collectors, sellers, and dealers. The importance of accuracy in description is obvious.

What follows is a list of postcard terminology. This Postcard Terminology Literacy List is made up of words, terms, symbol and abbreviations used in the hobby. Please suggest additions, corrections and or modifications to

Go through this list thinking of a definition for each word. If there are words you do not know, look them up in a dictionary or ask another collector. Eventually you will know them all.

album corners
been there
bent corners
bring back
bumped corners
carry back
chrome lithograph
color changeling
contact defect
corner crease
corner indent
corner missing
cut down size
cut rounded corners
die cut
expo cancel
fan fold
finger print
first day
folded card
forwarding marks
greetings from
gruss aus
hand cancel
hand colored
hand drawn
hand made
hand painted
hand tinted
hard sleeves
hold to light
ink smear
ink stained
ink transfer
insufficient postage
large letter
machine cancel
mansurrated card
mint on back
museum card
never used
on cover
pen and ink cancel
pencil marks
perforated edge
personal postcard
picture side
postage due
postal card
postally used
postmark obliterated
postmark skip
primary subject
privately printed
private mailing
punched hole
real photo
return to sender
rubbed spot
secondary subject
sharp corners
signed artist
stamp on picture side
stamp side
tape residue
tissue interleaf
water stain
white border

Now that you have  had a chance to look over the terminology list, here are short definitions for each word.

Postcard Terminology Dictionary

album - a binder where postcards can be displayed. Pages are available which are clear with pockets for cards.
album corners - small glue backed corner holders are available to mount postcards on boards. 
art - a kind of postcard which depicts famous paintings or statuary. 
been there - cards which are from the places you have lived or visited.
bent - folded over. This is not a good thing for a postcard because it usually makes it  worthless.
bent corners - In the process of handling, corners get bent. This is not good.
bring back - cards that were not sent back from a vacation, for example, but were brought back.
bumped corners - sharp corners are desirable. Bumped corners are not.
carry back - cards brought back from a vacation without being postally used.
category - the type of subject depicted on the postcard.
chrome - a printing process which is like a colored photograph.
chrome lithograph - the process of printing with lithography.
color changeling - a card subjected to an environment which caused colors to change.
contact defect - where pieces of any adjacent material have stuck to a postcard is not a good thing.
continental - the size postcard currently in use.
corner crease - a bend at a corner from removing the card from an album or from rough handling.
corner indent - this happens when cards are kept in an old time album where slits in the album page grasped the postcard. Over time this causes a bend.
corner missing - probably due to rough removal from an old time album,.
crease - a bend that runs from side to side or edge to edge. Not good.
cut down size - sometimes a person for one reason or another will take a pair of scissors to a card to make it fit something. This is not a good thing to do to a card. The value is ruined, typically.
cut rounded corners - a card which has cut rounded corners from the manufacturer. This may be seen in more modern cards.
deckled - a treatment to the edge of a card giving a rough appearance.
die cut - where a printing method removes some part of the postcard by design.
embossed - where a postcard has raised aspects to accentuate the design.
engraved - a printing method which usually leaves a ridge of ink for the design. This printing method has a deep look which is desirable.
expo - exposition
expo cancel - a postal mark made at an exposition which usually raised the value of a card.
faded - where the original colors have dulled due to exposure to some deleterious environmental effect.
fan fold - where a card is intentionally made to have several faces.
finger print - obviously not a desirable effect. Oils in the fingers can build up over time to make smudge marks on any paper. That is why sleeves are desirable.
first day - a postal cancel which is provided on the first day a stamp went on sale.
flap - a die cut method of providing a window in the face of a postcard where other images might be placed to increase the interest of the postcard.
folded card - usually a double postcard which is folded to the size of a single card.
folder - a postcard type which has as many as 18 images all folded in a fanfold arrangement so the folder can have many more than just a single image.
foreign - postcards from outside the USA.
forwarding marks - postal marks added by postal workers to send a postcard on when someone has moved. Many of these marks can be found on cards sent overseas.
foxing - brown spots which develop on paper through a process of oxidation. Not a good thing.
greetings from - a type postcard collected by many.
gruss aus - same as greetings from but from a foreign country, usually Germany.
hand cancel - a postal marking which is made by a hand held device rather than a machine. Often used at expositions.
hand colored - where color is added to the picture of a postcard by the hand of an artist. Not a printing technique by machine.
hand drawn - a postal card which is a single item drawn by an artist.
hand made - not machine made. But made one by one.
hand painted - where paint is added to the picture side if a card by hand.
hand tinted - where an air brush or other equipment is used to add a tint color to the picture side of a postcard.
hard sleeves - sleeves which will not bend when handling. Desirable for fragile postcards.
hold to light - a postcard which when held to a light source shows highlights.
holiday - any of the holiday periods from New Year to Christmas.
ink smear - usually from post office action but could be from sender.
ink transfer - often on the picture side if the ink from another card is pressed on the card.
insufficient postage - hard to do except for foreign cards. Not enough.
laminated - a layer of plastic on both sides for protection. Not good.
large letter - cards where letters spell out a place name. Neat.
linen - cards with a texture to the paper. 1940's or so.
machine cancel - when a card is run through a canceling machine to deface the stamp.
mansurrated card - made from ground up paper.
maximum - card with stamp of same design canceled on picture side.
mint on back - never used, no message, no stamp.
miscut - when a card is cut in a way that was not intended. Not good.
missent - post office sent postcard to wrong place then corrected it.
museum card - cards produced from objects in a museum. Not great.
never used - no message, no stamp, not sent through the mail.
NPCW - National Postcard Week
on cover - stamp still attached to the envelope with postal markings.
pen and ink cancel - older method of making sure stamp will not be used again.
pencil marks - could be price of card, could be inscription. Erase them.
perforated - with holes arranged to make it easier to tear.
perforated edge - the edge that results when card torn from booklet or album.
personal postcard - card that has meaning to collector as in from family.
philatelic - stamp collector type item usually with more stamps than is necessary.
photochrome - a colorful card with a glossy picture.
photograph - a postcard made from a photograph
picture side - side opposite the address side.
pinhole - where a pin was stuck through a postcard to display it.
pioneer - earliest era for postcard. 1983 forward.
postage due - where not enough postage was applied, more is needed.
postal card - card sold by the post office with postage already attached.
postally used - a postcard that went through the mail stream.
postmark - identification of where card was sent or received.
postmark obliterated - where ink was so great that place name or time is not readable.
postmark skip - when a card goes through the mail but the postmark misses the stamp.
primary subject - largest aspect of a postcard usually larger than a silver dollar.
privately printed - not a production item. The one-of-a-kind item.
private mailing - early designation of a postcard about 1900.
punched hole - a hole used to display postcards for sale.
QSL - a postcard used to acknowledge reception by a short wave radio operator.
rack -0 the metal holder which held cards pending sale.
real photo - postcard made by photographer of people and places.
repaired - where tape or glue was used to fix a bad spot, tear, or rip.
returned - brought back to the sender.
return to sender - when postcard could not be delivered, it is returned.
rip - damage to a postcard from use or postal machines.
rubbed spot - where machine removed part of the picture on a card.
secondary subject - not the primary subject. Usually smaller than a nickel.
separated - pulled apart.
serrated - a straight line perforation to aid in removal from an album or folder.
set - where several postcards with similar subjects were produced at the same time.
sewn - where thread is used to accent the design.
sharp corners - no rounding or bends to corners. This is good.
signed artist - person who drew or painted the face of the card signed their work.
sleeves - plastic holders to protect postcards.
smudge - where dirt or ink is on the surface in an undesirable place.
stained - either from water or other foreign substance, the image is obscured or toned.
stamp on picture side - where the post office allowed the stamp top be on the same side as the picture and is cancelled there.
stamp side - the side where the picture is not, typically the same side as the address.
stapled - where someone has run a staple through the image of the postcard. Not good.
state - obvious as a category for collecting.
tape residue - when tape is removed, there remains a sticky substance. Not good.
tear - obviously not good.
tissue interleaf - where in a postcard album there is a thin sheet of tissue paper to separate the cards.
topical m- the general term for collecting cards of various topics.
trimmed - someone has taken a pair of scissors to the edge of a card for what ever reason. Not good.
UV - ultraviolet rays will damage a card if left in the sunlight, for example.
warp - a bend due to moisture or storage technique. Not good.
watermark - part of the manufacturing process where an imprint is made in the paper itself.,
water stain - made through improper handling or storage. Not good.
white border - where a white trim extends around the image of a card like a frame.


Click on these hyperlinks to visit the main pages of this website:

Main Page

Postcards For Sale PC1-999

Postcards For Sale PC1000-1999

Postcards For Sale PC2000-2999

Postcards For Sale PC3000-3999

Postcards For Sale PC4000-4999

Postcard Mixtures For Sale


Postcard Archives

Postcard Education

Selling Postcards

Bidding On Postcards




Find items of interest to buy in this book rack from


Old Postcards For Sale   2006-2013
Other websites by David Ullian Larson which may be of interest: