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Technique • Postcard Format

The divided back postcard dates from 1904 before then only the address could be written on the back.


A fraction of one percent of portrait postcards were actually sent with a postage stamp through the mail.

If they were, the postmark date will hopefully be legible. Many more were sent enclosed in an envelope and the postmark shows only as a circular indent. More often than you would imagine held at the right angle, in the right light, dates can still be read from these.
The majority of photgraphers had their name and address printed on the back of the portrait postcards they produced. A minority had these same details embossed in the bottom right hand corner on the front of the card. This can be easily overlooked.
The stamp rectangle in the top right hand corner of a postcard often has the postage rates.
The word halfpenny was always pronounced heypenny. The word twopenny was always pronounced tuppenny.

Stamps of the following value and design were applied to Inland Postcards as shown.

half-penny stamp blue green  1902-1904 • King Edward VII - "blue green" halfpenny postage stamp
halfpenny stamp yellow green  1904-1910 • King Edward VII - "yellow green" halfpenny postage stamp
halfpenny stamp downey  1911-1912 • King George V - "Downey" ¾ Face halfpenny postage stamp
halfpenny stamp profile 1912-1918 • King George V - "Profile" halfpenny postage stamp
In 1918 a postcard stamp was doubled to one penny
penny stamp KGV  1918-1921 • King George V - "red" penny postage stamp
In 1921 the postage was increased to one penny halfpenny
threehalfpenny stamp  1921-1922 • King George V - "brown" three-halfpenny postage stamp
In 1922 it was reduced back to one penny
penny stamp  1922-1934 • The same King George V - "red" penny postage stamp
stamp  1934-1936 • King George V - "dark oval" penny postage stamp
penny edward 8th stamp  1936   • (Abdicated) Edward VIII - "uncrowned" penny postage stamp
George 6th penny stamp  1937-40   • King George VI penny postage stamp
In 1940 a postcard stamp was doubled to two pence
 1940-41  • King George VI "dark orange" twopenny postage stamp
 1941-50  • King George VI "pale orange" twopenny postage stamp
twopenny stamp  1950-52  • King George VI "pale brown" twopenny postage stamp


The increase in postage plus the introduction of purchase tax on postcards in 1940 ended the standard use of this format by most photographers.

Of course combinations of halfpenny and one penny stamps could be used for the higher postage rates.

The postcard is by far the most frequent format you will see for family studio portraits.