While sometimes it can feel like a treasure hunt trying to find the exact postcard you’re looking for, other styles of postcards are incredibly ubiquitous.
This makes sense based on the way postcards are commonly sold—often in boxed sets of 10, 20, 50, or 100 at a time, unless you’re a tourist standing at a rack of photo cards.
Since most buyers are unlikely to want 100 takes on an esoteric subject, postcard publishers often go with the most common denominators as their subject matter for postcard sets. The following are 10 of these most popular types of postcards on the market today.
Like greeting cards, greeting postcards are often tied to a specific occasion, whether that’s a wedding, birthday, or simply a quick note to say “I miss you.” From postcards wishing loved ones happy holidays to more general sentiments such as “Thinking of You,” there’s a postcard out there for all of the occasions you’ll find represented on greeting card racks, too.
This category also includes “Greetings From” postcards—for instance, these cityscape postcards by Albertine Press, or these Greetings From Home cards made for the quarantine era by Amanda Weedmark. As postcards were first popularized as a way for tourists share their travels with friends and family back at home, “Greetings From” is perhaps the single most common phrase you’ll see printed on postcards.
Our fascination with beautiful hand-lettering, print design, and typography has been around practically since the invention of the written word. Today, postcards can say pretty much anything we can think of to send—and almost always in letters more beautiful than we could hand-write ourselves.
Because words themselves figure so prominently in our mail, you’ll often see elegant calligraphy, drop-cap designs, and other word art depicted on modern postcards—frequently as part of a larger design, but just as often standing alone as artistry in and of itself. Some postcards break things down even beyond the word level: Alphabet postcards, featuring a single letter at a time, let you spell out any message of your choosing, whether via mail or hung up as a banner on your wall.
U.S. National Parks have captured the American imagination since the early 20th century, particularly in their promotional heyday between the 1940s and 1960s. During this period, many beautiful posters were developed to encourage citizens to get out and explore the beautiful and varied countryside surrounding them.
More recently, these same posters (and many more designed in their style) have been reprinted on a variety of media, and postcards offer the perfect way to save and share these unique park-specific pieces of Americana.
In many ways, all postcards are art postcards, but many artists specifically use this format to print and share small-scale versions of their artwork, and these are the types of cards I’m referring to here. Postcards are one of the most cost-effective ways for artists (and most people, really) to reach new audiences, and postcard senders and savers are lucky to be able to collect these palm-sized drawings, paintings, photos, digital creations, and more at a far cheaper price than the art itself demands.
Many artists on Etsy and elsewhere get their start reprinting their early work on postcards, T-shirts, tote bags, and more, so keep an eye out for these keepsakes from your favorite new artist next time you’re browsing a gallery, local craft market, festival, or café.
For better or worse, we live in a human-centric world, so it’s no surprise that other humans—particularly recognizable ones—figure prominently on our postcards. Royal family members are common postcard depictions in countries that have them, while local heroes and historical figures are similarly popular regardless of region.
Many postcards of famous people have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor—for example, take the Vegetable Celebrity postcards by the women at Rutabaga Bodega in New Orleans. From veggie-armed Okra Winfrey to gourd-headed George Squashington, celeb postcards like these are an easy way to make us and our recipients laugh out loud.
From prehistoric times through the Renaissance and Enlightment eras to now, we’ve been captivated by the heavens above, which explains why stars, planets, constellations, galaxies, and (more recently) space travel paraphernalia have been so commonly printed on postcards.
Case in point: Check out the Vintage Celestial collection by Cavallini & Co., the glowing stars and moons of Miss-Time’s Glow in the Dark postcard set, and the Visions of the Future posters envisioning the future of space travel as depicted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Plant postcards are incredibly popular. Perhaps it’s because looking at natural landscapes—including when they’re printed on paper—can reduce stress and provide health benefits even after a short period of time.
Do we somehow subconsciously know that sending a postcard with a picture of trees to a friend can make both us and them feel a little bit better, even before getting to the sentiments on the reverse side of the card? If we did, it would explain the well-loved nature of these natural postcards.
From pets to zoo denizens to wild fauna, animals are one of the most popular topics featured on postcards: Besides being suitable for kids as well as adults, they’re a major influence on most humans’ lives, making them widely relevant and enjoyed. A number of the most popular large postcard sets are centered on animals, including Dieter Braun’s Wild Animals of the World, Kyler Martz’s Whaleboats, and the Sibley Birds set from Clarkson Potter.
Dog and cat postcards are popular of course, but the wilder natural world also features prominently, meaning monkeys, tigers, birds, and sea creatures all get their due on postcards too.
View-cards, as they’re known, are so common that the encyclopedic postcard website MetroPostcards.com separates the postcard universe into two broad categories: view-cards, and everything else. According to the website, view-cards “form the bulk of cards produced.”
Because they’re so common, view-cards are loved by some postcard people and disliked by others. On Postcrossing.com, a website that lets postcard lovers send and receive postcards to and from strangers around the world, some Postcrossers specifically ask others to send view-cards from their locations, while others request not to receive view-cards.
Whether you love them or not, view-cards’ ubiquity is on display at nearly every tourist attraction, gift shop, and gas station around the world—meaning these are the best places to find postcards of city skylines, natural vistas, local attractions, and anything else that makes a place uniquely recognizable.
1. Antique & Vintage Postcards
Since postcards have been made since 1861, it makes sense that there are far more vintage postcards, as a category, than there are of any one topical postcard variety.
What is a vintage postcard? While the term is used widely and loosely to mean any non-modern postcard, antiques dealers often define “vintage” as anything 40 years old or older, while “antique” refers to anything 100 years old and over. That said, postcard collectors often refer to “antique postcards” as being from the period between 1893 and 1920—also known as the Golden Age of Postcards.
The best places to buy vintage and antique postcards are the same places you’d find other vintage items and antiques—antique malls and stores, deltiology meet-ups and conventions, and the attics, desks, and closets of your elder family members.
Looking for something less commonplace? Shop our complete range of postcard designs here!