Many of the postcards in my collection have been posted and so are easy to date, even if the postmark is unreadable. But even more haven’t been posted and so, whilst the photograph can be very important in dating a card, the back of the card can be equally useful.

Relevant dates for UK postcards:

  • 1870: Plain postcards began being issued by the Post Office. The address was written on one side of the card and the message on the other.
  • 1870: Posting price set at ½d
  • 1894: The Post Office allowed pictures on postcards on 1 September, so any picture postcard posted in the UK has to be after that date.
  • 1895: A standardised size of 4¾ inches by 3½ inches. The address was written on one side of the card and a picture, with space for a message on the other.
  • 1899: A larger standard size of 5½ inches by 3½ inches was adopted. The address was written on one side, with the picture and message on the other.
  • 1902: Divided backs were introduced. This meant that the address would be written on the back right of the card and a message on the back left. The picture was now allowed to cover all of the front.
  • 1918: Postal price within the UK increased to 1d on 3 June
  • 1921: Postal price within the UK increased to 1½d on 13 January
  • 1922: Postal price within the UK reduced back to 1d on 22 May following protests over the price increase
  • 1926: New standard postcard sizes were introduced – 4 inches by 2&frac75; inches up to 5⅞ inches by 4⅛ inches.

Of course if the card has been posted you simply use the postmark to date the card, if the postmark is not readable, then you can try to date the stamp used.