What counts as 'Vintage'?

I recently found a tiny shop in town that sells local postcards! Yay! I’d been searching everywhere for some and finding nothing, even at historical sites, universities, and stationary shops. I definitely had my Postcrosser moment of walking up to the counter with at least 30 postcards.

That said, some of these postcards have clearly been in the store for awhile-- the paper on some is starting to go yellow. They aren’t what I’d call vintage; at the most, they’re from the early 2000s, so far from it. But I know some users don’t want to receive vintage cards and specifically mention cards that are yellowing.

I definitely want to send these out, since they have fun and cool designs of my city and nearby places, and I’ve been hoping to get them to Postcrossers who ask for something related to your hometown or state, but I’m worried about the cards being perceived as ‘rude’, since they’re turning a bit yellow at the edges.

I do also know that Postcrossing is all about serendipity, and I don’t need to meet every demand, but I do still like being polite. What’s the verdict on these lovely (but yellowing) cards?


I’m fine with them as long as it’s not covered in filth or anything. Sometimes you get cards that have been on a stand outside for too long and they end up sun bleached and dusty. Wouldn’t call it vintage though unless it was actually old enough or had a vintage theme.


My verdict is send them!
Like Elanlei mentioned as long as there not truly “damaged” ( torn, sun bleached beyond recognizable, or scratched up badly) I’m sure there are people out there that would love to receive them. I recently purchased 250 cards off a auction site because I like you I couldn’t find local postcards. There obviously from the 90’s but the images were still bright and colorful. The card stock itself is a bit dark but not truly yellowed. And for example when people mention liking " nature" cards or “Mountains” or my" local area" I’m able to pull one out and send them so far no complaints.


I say send them, as I would. Postcards get damaged, wet or brushed against machines in the postal system, so expecting a pristine card to reach its recipient is quite unlikely. A little bit of discolouration isn’t going to offend anyone with an ounce of sense.

Here’s a card I bought in 2022 in Wales, which must have been printed in about 1970. It was in the giftshop for the Devil’s punchbowl and must have been sat there for at least 50 years. Still “new” and loved by me, despite the “vintage” 1970s yellow-tinted film photography.


I agree with everyone above that there is no need to feel ashamed of the card or of yourself for sending it. And yet if you still do feel a bit apologetic, as part of your letter you can say you are sending them a card of your hometown but since it is so small, the last photographer to take pictures of the town sadly passed away back in the days of the dinosaurs. I find a little humor will often defuse people’s anger or irritation


From Merriam-Webster –



vin·​tage ˈvin-tij

Synonyms of *vintage*

: a season’s yield of grapes or wine from a vineyard


especially : a usually superior wine all or most of which comes from a single year

: a collection of contemporaneous and similar persons or things : CROP

: the act or time of harvesting grapes or making wine

: a period of origin or manufacture

a piano of 1845 vintage

: length of existence : AGE


1 of wine : of, relating to, or produced in a particular vintage

2 : of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality : CLASSIC

3a : dating from the past : OLD


4 : of the best and most characteristic —used with a proper noun

vintage Shaw: a wise and winning comedy—Time


I have a lot of vintage yellowing cards, and I usually get a ton of appreciation for them! The linen ones are especially popular.


To me “vintage”, “retro”, and “antique” type words are very VERY vague, it could mean something from the 1700s, it could be from the 1800s, it could even be something from the 1900s, I could even mean just the look of it being “vintage” even though it was made last year.

I wouldn’t worry about if something is really “vintage”, as long as it looks old(ish) and/or has a “vintage” type style, someone would probably call it vintage. So leave it to your best judgment.


I will give you my observations regarding your question. First, if you are limiting your search for postcards to retail shops, you will be severely disappointed. There are multiple online sites that sell modern postcards …including mine

Regarding the definition of what constitutes “vintage”…as a buyer/seller/trader/collector of postcards for 45 years, US postcards that are published before 1950 are considered vintage. By 1960, you start to hear the word “modern” being used. Interestingly, I consigned a very large lot (2300 cards) from the 1960-1980 period to an auction house. Not one bidder! Being old doesn’t mean vintage.

In view of the above, I have on occasion received B&W cards, yellowing, and other unsuitable conditions. I don’t regard the senders as being “rude;” rather I consider them to be cheap. I know you have good intentions, but you never know how these types of cards will be perceived by the recipient.


There are many members who state “I don’t really care about the card itself, far more about the message.” There are also members who specify they are interested in cards the sender thinks are undesirable. I’d advise using those cards in those cases.


The Vintage Round Robin uses these definitions:

  • Vintage = antique cards older than 1959* though the older the better! (pre 1960)
  • Retro = Cards that date between 1960 - 1990*
  • Vintage Reprints = new store-bought cards that depict retro or vintage motifs

Elsewhere on Postcrossing, the terms are used more subjectively.


Funny I find older especially black and white cards are dearer to purchase especially with interesting subject matter. Postage is expensive too.
The 'cheapest ’ cards are those recently printed in box sets. Very economical but I suspect people sending them wouldn’t be accused of being ‘cheap’
Older cards that already exist are much kinder to the environment also.


ah, that’s lovely!! I love stuff like that, especially at landmarks/hiking spots/national park type places.


I’ve definitely purchased the majority of mine online so far-- I was just sad my city didn’t seem to have anything as far as touristy cards or photocards. Not even a California card. So finding these was a jackpot for me! And I’m always glad to find more online sources to get my cards :slight_smile:

Thanks for your responses everyone-- I figured all would be well, but wanted to check a general consensus. I’ll definitely send these out to someone who I think would really appreciate them. I know I always appreciate the front and the care put into the content!


I love vintage postcards and appreciate some wear and tear! I remember learning some time ago that items over 50 years old are considered vintage. Now that I’m turning 65 next month, I’m more willing than ever to appreciate vintage stuff!


I’m not a collector but I do appreciate old cards. A few years back, I bought a box full of vintage cards and then put them away. Today, I began looking through the box and found one that I’d like to share.

This image shows the front and back side of card. It is from Bartlesville, Oklahoma but was created before statehood. The description and the post mark indicate that it’s from “Indian Territory.” I think it’s pretty cool. You’ll notice that one side of card was designed for the address information and then on the back, you’ll find the image and sender’s message.


Vintage is something that is over 25 years old if I remember correctly. Retro is something that’s made to look old. Like for example: New cards that look like the 50’s style and make to believe they were made in the 50’s (or another time period). For antique I honestly don’t know xD

My general rule of thumb is that I wouldn’t send a friend or a stranger a card that I wouldn’t consider sending to myself. And for myself, I’m totally fine with an older card that shows standard yellowing with age so long as the paper is otherwise clean and I find the design interesting. I apply the same rule to more modern postcard sets and individually ordered postcards as well–I think it also encourages more thoughtful buying of cards in the first place.

One of my favorite vintage postcards is one I picked up in Yellowstone, of the Morning Glory Spring. Between the look of the photo and card’s small size, it was a fun deviation from regular postcards. I was sending a lot of postcards home throughout that trip, so that card in particular didn’t get mailed, but it was still written and stamped with commemorative visitor center stamps (it was the 150th anniversary so all the stamps reflected that). But since that was a card that I picked up for myself, I would have been happy to pick up a similar one to mail to a friend.


I’m feeling nostalgic today so here I am looking through my box of vintage cards. I wonder if anyone here has seen this card or even visited this resort before? Of course, that would go back many years.

The Hotel Agua Caliente near Tijuana. Image below shows front and back. From what I’ve read, this place had a colorful history.

Further reading: Agua Caliente Casino and Hotel - Wikipedia


I’d love to receive cards like this, particularly because you say they have some cool designs. I love to find cards from several years ago in charity shops or small stores. Cards from the 80s, 90s and 2000s now look a bit kitsch or quirky.

I live in Leeds, UK, and the choice of contemporary cards of the city is really limited and a bit disappointing. They’re only available in a couple of shops or online and the printing quality isn’t so good. So I was thrilled to find some great not-vintage but definitely not-new postcards in a charity bookstore recently.

Here are a few examples. The city looks a bit different now - for example, the post office building is now a restaurant - but it’s still recognisable.

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