My friend Karen is a collector…of many categories of things, of people, of quotes. Of postcards.

Croix de St Nicloas de Verona, July, 1939

…and recently she sent me some cards, along with an article by Russell Lynes from 1977 (Architectural Digest, July-August, 1977…she collects magazines) wherein we learn that that a post card collector is called a Deltiologist. This term was coined in 1945 by Professor Randall Rhoades, though the word was not to appear in dictionaries as the accepted description of the study of postcards until 1965.

The first postcard was published in 1869 and by 1875 the trend had caught on in Europe where it was referred to as an “open letter.” After 1900 deltiology became (and remains) one of the most popular types of collecting with millions of cards printed on a wide range of topics. In the early part of the 20th century cards that were written, stamped and mailed were the most sought after. Now collectors prefer those that have never been mailed. (BTW Cards with “divided backs” date from 1907-1915.)

In 1993 Donald Brown established the Institute of American Deltiology in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. Himself a collector, Mr. Brown began collecting in 1943 and has since given a portion of the 800,000 postcards in his collection to the archives at University of Maryland. Karen and I are pikers when compared with Mr. Brown. We both favor the “real photographic” cards.

and in Snail blog news..

card number 3988 arrived today from Ellen…inching us ever closer to the 4000 mark. Stay tuned!! Happy birthday Karen!


  1. Postcards…I have hundreds! In a weak moment I bought 3 big boxes of maybe 200 each. I try to write to the 5 grandkids and Jim’s mom often..I wrote the g’kids all thru college…but now I write more sporadically. I keep a book of p’card stamps in my wallet and go through them pretty fast!

  2. Your friend Karen is a marvel!! She is so attuned to looking, she has only to casually cast her eye to pick out the very best of whatever category it may be!! What a joy that is for those who are included in her generosity! She reminds me of my Mother who had a similar talent for collecting: as if by the mere act of her gaze, things unseen by others came into focused reality. The coming-soon of the 4000th postcard is a marvel!! What a faithful long term project!! Surely belongs in a record book! I loved this post. As I do all your posts now that I think about it. Thank you.

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