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Dating postcards by stamp box postcard

opinion

This guide is meant to aid the collector in identifying and dating real photo postcards, and to act as a reminder that it is impossible to do so with great accuracy.

A lthough real photo postcards were made in a variety of ways, they hold one identifiable feature in common. The tonalities of photos are completely continuous to the eye producing true greys, for they are created by the reaction of individual photosensitive molecules to light rather than the transfer of ink from a plate.

In printed images the grey areas are usually made up of black marks that are spaced to create the optical illusion of greys. Though most of us today are familiar with the concept of photo grain, this is mostly because we have experienced very large prints made from small 35mm negatives.

But even here the effect is more of a softening of detail than a observable texture. Early real photo postcards are small by their very nature and since most were contact printed, not enlarged, there is no visible texture. Collotypes, which provide the finest detail of all printing methods are sometimes confused Dating postcards by stamp box postcard real photo postcards.

But even collotypes will exhibit a discernible grain when magnified.

PRIVATE MAILING CARD ERA (1898-1901)

And of course any image that contain a regularly patterned series of dots is not a photograph at all but a ink printed image. Some halftone cards were printed on high gloss paper to resemble a photograph but their screen patterns will give them away if one is vigilant. Most old photo papers used silver in their emulsions.

Real photo postcards are postcards...

As time passes this silver tends to migrate to the surface of the print creating tell-tale metallic patches. Observing this shiny crust, no mater what the color, is a quick and sure way of telling if you are looking at a real photo.

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