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A postcard or post card is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. Shapes other than rectangular may also be used. There are novelty exceptions, such as wood postcards, made of thin wood, and copper postcards sold in the Copper Country of the U.S. state of Michigan, and coconut "postcards" from tropical islands.
In some places, one can send a postcard for a lower fee than a letter. Stamp collectors distinguish between postcards (which require a postage stamp) and postal cards (which have the postage pre-printed on them). While a postcard is usually printed by a private company, individual or organization, a postal card is issued by the relevant postal authority.
The world's oldest postcard was sent in 1840 to the writer Theodore Hook from Fulham in London, England. The study and collecting of postcards is termed deltiology.
Collecting postcards is a widely spread hobby. The value of a postcard is mainly determined by the image illustrated on it. Other important factors for collectors can be countries, issuers, and authors. Online catalogs can be found on collector websites and clubs. These catalogs provide detailed information about each postcard alongside their picture. In addition, these websites include collection management tools, trading platforms, and forums to assist with discussions between collectors.
Old picture postcards are primary source records of places. Postcards document the natural landscape as well as the built environment- buildings, gardens, parks, cemeteries, and tourist sites. Postcards also commemorate major events, popular humor, and many other aspects of daily life – transportation, entertainment, sports, work, religion, or advertising. Postcards also give insight into how new forms of communication media are adopted, adapted, and discarded. Museums and archives have extensive collections of picture postcards; many of the postcards in these collections are digitized
Specialist marketing companies in many countries produce and distribute advertising postcards which are available for free. These are normally offered on wire rack displays in plazas, coffee shops and other commercial locations, usually not intended to be mailed.
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