Assignment #7: Real Photo Postcards

Assignment: Read chapters 11 (real photo postcards) in the textbook  (free pdf version here or purchase hard copy here).

1920s-30s movie star real photo postcards (such as this one of Joan Crawford) often have a distinct brownish tone
1920s-30s movie star real photo postcards (such as this one of Joan Crawford) often have a distinct brownish tone
Early 1900s real photo postcard with silvering that demonstrates the old age
Early 1900s real photo postcard with silvering that demonstrates the old age

Antique photomechanical postcards with photorealstic images

Beyond real photo postcards, in the old days there were many photo-realistic postcards made from photomechanical (ink and printing press not photography) postcards that resemble real photo cards.  They are identified as photomechanical by the ink and printing patterns under magnification.  Though ink and printing press prints are really beyond the topic of this course, this post will look at the common antique photomechanical postcards.  These are also popularly collected.

Collotype: Collotype real photo postcards have a matte suface and under the microscope have a distinct reticulated pattern, meaning an assortment of different shape pieces.  I often say it looks like a bowl of noodles.  At normal naked eye level, the images are usually sepia or black and white.  Albertype was a company that made collotype printing, so the Albertye Co. name on back will identify a collotype.

The distinct reticulated collotype pattern maginfication.
The distinct reticulated collotype pattern magnification.
Under the microscope, collotype printing can resemble a bowl of noodles.
Under the microscope, collotype printing can resemble a bowl of noodles.

 Photoengraving.  Many antique photorealistic postcards are photoengravings.  Under the microscope the printing has a dot pattern a distinct dark rim to the edges, from how the ink as physically pressed to the edges during printing.  Any text on the postcard will have a similar dark edge or rim to th printing.  Photoengraving is still used in the fine art, but hasn’t used commercially for many years, so this ink pattern demonstrates the old age of a postcard.

photoengraving under the microscope
photoengraving under the microscope with the distinct dark edges.

Photogravure/gravure/rotogravure.  This type of antique printing made excellent photoreastic images.  There are two main types.  Photogravure has speckly quality under the microscope while rotogravure has a distinct mesh-like pattern.

the mesh pattern of rotogravure under the microscope
the mesh pattern of rotogravure under the microscope
photogravure ink pattern under the microscope
photogravure ink pattern under the microscope

The key is if you have an otherwise antique looking postcard that matches the above, you can be confident it is antique.

Also note that these processes aren’t reserved only for postcards, but other antique prints and the fine arts.  Many old magazines, premiums and prints are made from these processes.

photogravure postcard
photogravure postcard
1915 kid's notebook with a photoengraving picture
1915 kid’s notebook with a photoengraving picture
Famed American Indian photographer Edward Curtis made many highly collectible turn of the 20th century photoravure prints of Indian life
Famed American Indian photographer Edward Curtis made many highly collectible turn of the 20th century photoravure prints of Indian life

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Homework questions for assignment #7

28) According to chapter 11, what are the differences (both in physical look and time period) between a ‘Postcard Era’ postcard and a ‘Divided Back’ postcard?

29) According to the stampbox listing in the chapter, what era does the ‘AZO (2 triangles up, 2 triangles down)’ stampbox come from?

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Course Assignments:

Assignment #1 : Introductory Reading

Assignment #2: Albumen Prints

Assignment #3: Gelatin Silver Prints

Assignment #4: Daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and other ‘hard’ early photos

Assignment #5: Stamps and Tags

Assignment #6: Color Photographs

Assignment #7: Real Photo Postcards

Assignment #8: Antique Mounted and Card Photographs

Assignment #9: News Photos and Press Photos

Assignment #10: More News Photos

Assignment #11: Provenance

Assignment #12: Other Antique Paper Photo Processes

Assignment #13: Modern Photomechanical and Digital Processes

Assignment #14: Making Final Identification Judgments

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