The Word “Cartophilic?

It is believed that this unusual word was coined in the 1920s by Col. Bagnall, an Englishman, who was the father of the hobby of cigarette card and trade card collecting. It is thought to be a combination of a Latin word, “carto” meaning “card and the Greek word “philic”, meaning “love”.- lover of cards. The term originally related to the collection of the two types mentioned, however, our Society has included postcards in the range of items collected by our members.


The Origins of Postcards

The earliest British postcard was issued in 1870 and was designed to send short messages; the stamp was printed on the card, therefore it did not require an envelope. It was considered by many to be lowering the postal standards because the texts were no longer private. However the cards were a great success as on the first day of issue in 1870, half a million passed through the London postal centre.

The first illustrated postcards are said to be those introduced by a French stationer in 1870. He realized that French troops fighting in the Franco-Prussian War needed to be able to send short messages to their families and designed a “postcard” to suit the purpose. As many of the soldiers were illiterate they decorated their cards with sketches of their many activities at the front rather than writing; thus creating a picture postcard. Private enterprise soon saw the great financial possibilities of this new easy and attractive way of communication by post; also sending a postcard cost less than postage for letters. It was correctly assumed that postcards were likely to overtake letter writing in many instances.

Between 1875 and 1882 every state in Australia introduced official postcards, N.S.W. first and Tasmania last. Each state produced a simple type of postcard with a pre printed stamp allied to that state. The stamp side stated “The Address Only To Be Written On This Side”; the reverse side sometimes carried a simple illustration or decoration with space for a short message, each state extolling their own state’s virtues. In 1901, with the advent of Federation, the new Government became responsible for all postal services in Australia and produced postcards for sale in every state. With several mail deliveries each day in most towns, postcards were used for many purposes. One 1906 postcard, with an illustration of fruit, was sent from Mrs X in the morning to her greengrocer ordering her fruit and vegetables to be delivered that afternoon. Another lady asks her charlady to “come this afternoon”!

Australian private enterprise also began selling pictorial postcards, most companies using the very experienced German printing works who were the worlds best in the field of lithography and fine detailed colour-printing. Many of these beautiful German cards still exist today, 100 years later. Australia did have a few fine printers but they were in the minority. Black and white postcards printed in Australia in the early 1900s were often of good quality e.g. postcards printed by “The Bulletin”, illustrating the works of “The Bulletins” top artists.

Between c1903-09 The Melbourne company Osboldstone and Atkins etc. printed coloured reproductions of 46 J.A. Turner bush/rural life paintings, which were generally of good quality and became hugely popular and still sought after today. Like thousands of homes in Europe, Britain and U.S.A., many Australia homes had albums of cherished postcards, which were given pride of place for visitors to see and enjoy.

Postcard collecting remained popular but was changing with the times. About 1912 the Australian photographer George Rose of Melbourne began to produce topographical B/W real photographic postcards covering most of Australia and other photographers began to do likewise. These cards soon found their way into collections as well.

WW1 and the horrors of war suddenly changed the world; postcards were still in great demand but the subject matter was far more serious. Thousands of postcards from the trenches in European war zones arrived in Australia to be included in family albums. Propaganda and recruitment messages were produced to encourage enlistment. Australian postcard producers began to create cards decorated with gum leaves, boomerangs, wattle etc., which were designed for sending to Australian troops serving overseas. Very few “pretty” cards were available, as access to the German printing works was no longer possible and exporting of postcards from Britain was very limited. By the end of WW1 people had other more serious problems to contend with and the avid postcard collecting hobby declined; fold greetings took over and topographical photographic postcards became a small but steady income for the producers and newsagents etc. in every town.

Fortunately many of these old postcards still exist and are avidly collected by a new generation of postcard collectors. The Australian Cartophilic Society Inc. is one of four postcard/cigarette card organizations in Australia. They are, N.S.W. Post Card Collectors Society; Queensland Card Collectors’ Society Inc. and West Australian Card Collectors Society, and across the Tasman there is a New Zealand Postcard Society.


Picture Postcards of the Golden Age A Collector's Guide by Toni & Valmai Holt.
Picture Postcards in Australia 1898 - 1920 by David Cook


If you would like more information on Cigarette Cards - click here
If you would like more information on Trade Cards - click here