Postcard terms A-M


Album Marks

When acid leaches out of album pages, it can cause discoloration on the corners of the cards. When the condition of a postcard is assessed, such discolorations are usually referred to as album marks. Album marks can also be heavy indentations on cards caused by weight.

Arcade Cards

Arcade cards looked a lot like standard postcards, but had plain backs. Arcade cards were sold by vending machines in penny arcades and typically features pinup art.



Postcards with a shiny paper surface created after 1939 are known as chromes, a term derived from Kodachrome.


Condition refers to the physical condition of a postcard. There are seven categories:

  • Mint
  • Near Mint
  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor

It’s important to keep in mind that each auction house, dealer or appraiser can apply their own criteria when assessing postcards. That is why the same postcard can be considered Excellent by one expert and just Good or even Fair by another, and vice versa.

Copper Window

A flat printed view card where copper metallic paint has been applied to the windows of the depicted building. The result is similar to Hold to Lights.



Deeks are postcard puzzles that change from one view to another when the picture is tilted or when a tab is pulled.


A person studying postcards. It is often used to refer to postcard collectors as well.


The study of postcards. It is often used to refer to post card collecting as well.

The term is derived from the Greek words deltion and logos.

Die cut

When the publisher cuts a paper object into something else than a rectangle, it is called a die cut. There are many examples of die cut postcards, e.g. postcards shaped like animals, or seasonal postcard shaped like Santa Claus, a Halloween witch, a Christmas tree, etc.

Die Cut Hold to Light

A hold-to-light postcard that changes from one view to another when a bright light shows through tiny holes cut on the card’s surface.

Divided Back

When the back of the postcard is divided by a centreline, creating one designated area for the message and another area for the address.

Divided backs grew popular during the first decade of the 20th century. The oldest known divided back postcards from England were made in 1902.



A printed or hand written item that would normally be discarded after its intended use, such as a post card, valentine card or calendar.



When the quality of a postcard is assessed, brown spots formed by mildew on the surface are referred to as foxing. The spots penetrate the paper and cannot be removed by erasing. In some circumstances, gentle bleaching can make the foxing less noticeable.



A card with a glossy surface produced by a varnish-like coating. This type of surface will typically crack or shatter.

Golden Age Miniature

During the Golden Age of Postcards, miniature novelty postcards became popular. In the United States, they were typically half the size of the standard 3 1/2 inch by 5 1/2 inch postcard.

One of the most famous publishers of miniature postcards from the era is the Scandinavian publisher and artist John Winsch.

Government Postal

In the United States, a postcard where the stamp is integrated into the design (instead of affixed before mailing) is known as a government postal. The U.S. Post Office used to issue such post cards.


Hold to Light

A postcard where the picture changes if the postcard is held to the light. A very common style is to make the image change from night to day. Cards changing from one season to another, such as from winter to spring, have also been very popular historically.

The hold to light effect can be achieved in various ways and this postcard category can therefore be divided into several different subcategories.



Hidden picture postcards, jigsaw puzzle postcards, rebus cards or anything else with a puzzle to solve for the recipient.

The term instalments is mostly used in North America. In Europe, the term puzzle card is more common.



Postcards made from textured paper with a crosshatched surface, created from the 1920s through the 1950s, are referred to as linens, since the surface resembles linen fabric. They are not actually made from linen fabric.


The process of printing from a flat surface (such as a metal plate) treated to repel the ink except where it is required for printing. It was invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder.



Postcards with moving parts are known as Mechanicals.


  • Wheels that change the year, moth and date on a calender.
  • A pulling tab that makes it possible to open a curtain.
  • A die cut top that can be opened to reveal a different idea of the previous image.