What is "a real postcard"?

Recently I read a thread about receiving re-used postcards in Postcrossing, which we all know is a no-no practice, and it is worse if you are re-using an official card you received from another postcrosser.
But one sentence made me raise an eyebrow and start wondering what did I missed in the time I’ve been away from the forums…
Because this user claimed to have received some print from IKEA, which was not a “real postcard”.

When I started Postcrossing in 2011, I only had touristic postcards and few prints I found at IKEA, with cute animals, flowers, black and white scooters with a touch of color. I’ve sent a few in the past 10 years, most of all if I seen them favorited by the receiver, otherwise I keep them for tags, games, random lotteries.

However, my doubt is: it is not a postcard because I didn’t bought it at a souvenir store?. Or it is not because is completetly blank in the back?. Or it is because is printed by a furniture company instead a famous publisher company?. It is because it doens’t belong to a postcards box purchased by Amazon, Bookdepository, AliExpress?.

I was checking the FAQ to see if they have added something about it, but even handmade cards are ok to send if the case applies.

What can I send on Postcrossing?

Postcrossing is a postcard exchange community, so each exchange that you make must include at least one postcard. It can be a postcard you bought in a store or a handmade postcard, as long as it hasn’t been previously used.

If you want, you can also send other things with your postcard (for instance, a letter, photo or pamphlet). However, this isn’t required nor expected of you: the only thing you have to send in Postcrossing is a postcard.

So, help me to understand what is going on, because to be fair, General forum topics full of complains are a scary place for new Postcrossers or for people like me, trying to coming back to the hobby and to the forum experience.


I personally wouldn’t worry about it too much. Some people have very particular idea what is and what isn’t a postcard but there are many different types of postcards. I guess it might be an issue for some people that the whole back is blank but I have seen “real postcards” that did not have the lines for address. It totally depends on the printing company. Also don’t forget the people writing in the forum are minority of the whole postcrossing community.


Folded greeting cards are not postcards. Letters are not postcards. Little hymn booklets (I’ve got one!) are not postcards. Slips of newspaper are not postcards. A4 sized potato prints (I’ve got one of these too) may be postcards but few would like to receive them.

If it’s got two sides with space for writing, stamps and the address on one side and an image or something else on the other, it is a postcard. You could also specify that this must travel on its on and putting it inside an envelope would make it a letter. Handmade cards meeting this definition are real postcards.


I remember that, and meant to comment it, but obviously forgot.
For me, they are postcards. I have bought a set from second hand store, and as I remember, the package said “IKEA kort” -> card.
Many cards sold in other shops have equally blank writing side.


I’d say a postcard is everything that can be sent through the mail without an envelope and with the message openly displayed for the postman to read :slight_smile:
The weirdest postcard I ever received was actually a shoe, used as a postcard. The post delivered it, so YES, I’d say it’s a postcard:

However, if a user points out in her/his profile, that she/he wants only “real postcards”, I would only send a storebought postcard, sized between 9x13 and 13x18 cm, with an appointed space for the address marked on it. That is, I guess, the thing that EVERYBODY will (have to) agree IS “a real postcard”. And, of course, I’d send it written & stamped, that is WITHOUT an envelope.


Loads of my postcards that I send are blank on the back before I write on them (i.e. no lines for address, says the word ‘postcard’) but they are a postcard size and to all intents and purposes still a postcard.

I’ll say this: you can’t please everyone. There’s bound to be a few people who aren’t happy with what you send them, but that’s not for you to worry about as long as you’ve fulfilled writing a message, putting correct postage on it, ID and sending it.

I received a folded greeting card in a tag - it’s a nice card but I was like well, it isn’t a postcard…


My latest cards I bought from IKEA (images of succulents) aren’t recognizable as such as they are missing the IKEA logo on the back. So far nobody has complained about them. Quite the contrary, they loved them.


Another kind of a postcard that I would consider to not be a real card is a card sent through a third party service where you don’t even see it yourself. They are real enough to send to a friend but for the purposes of postcrossing I think they are fake and should be firmly banned.


A postcard is a piece of paper stock, thick enough to safely travel through the mail without an envelope. It typically has an image on one side, and space for the stamps, address and message on the back.

That’s it! Shape, sizes, printing or sending methods, logos or markings don’t change this broader definition — they’re more like personal preferences and details.


I l.ike Ludek’s definition. That being said, no need to worry, I have no plans to send any shoes in the near future.

While the admin has spoken, I respectfully disagree with her definition to some degree. Paper card stock is one type of material used, but copper, leather and wood have been (and in some cases still are) used as postcard materials. My sister recently sent me a gorgeous porcelain postcard. I would hope that the official guidance would be written so that no one would be discouraged from sending me any of those.


Still not everything post delivers is a postcard. For me, that is a shoe :slight_smile:

But, I hope it’s not a shoe you forgot somewhere, and someone kindly sent it back to you :sweat_smile:
although it looks fun!


We have been discussing this with a focus on handmade cards here:


Latvia’s Post provides the service “Mail Pigeon”. You can send them a photo by e-mail, they will make a postcard out of it, print the text you wrote and send it to the address of your choice. I haven’t used it, but I think if I got something infectious, I would send my postcrossing postcards exactly this way.


I remember we had a huge discussion in 2012 about using third party services for the postcards, dua matter of privacy. This happened for London Olympics, when Samsung made free the service “Touchnote” and many Postcrossers used it to send official postcards.

In the Spanish forum we were agree to send those postcards to each other, but no for official Postcrossing purposes. I have around 100 of those Touchnote postcards in a box :joy::joy::joy:


This is so lovely!.
I’ve seen in th past a few posts with “experiments” made by Postcrossers to see if random items could be sent as a postcard. I specifically can remember a leaf (it was big, no idea from which plant) and also a flip-flop.


I for one really don’t like it when people use these third-party services, like Touchnote, to send official postcards. I got one from a German member that was a total joke. There is a huge variety of cards available in Germany. It just requires a little effort that this person chose not to do.


That mailed shoe is not a postcard. It’s a “postcardized” package. Package by size and weight, with outside writing that the Post has tolerated, so the mail piece was accepted for circulation. The postage may or may not be enough for that kind of package.
I have a Facebook group “How to create your own postcards?”.


I once received a picture cut out of a Magazine accompanied by a letter. That is not a real postcard.


As we obviously love discussing this question, and I’m a linguist by profession, let me give you a scientific definition of a postcard. And no, that’s not the one you would find in a dictionary!!!

Language has been around long before dictionaries, and even before the concept of a “definition”. So if words have a concrete meaning, this meaning cannot possibly be defined by a definition - because HOW would people have communicated before they came up with the abstract idea of definitions???
The real meaning of words actually cannot be strictly defined in such a way that you can tell in absolute terms whether or not a given word can be applied to a given thing. To use some examples a bit easier - and less controversial :wink: - than postcards:

  1. A plane may in poetic terms be referred to as a “beautiful bird” - though usually we all would agree that a bird is an animal and a plane is not.
  2. While biologists have been explaining over and over again that a whale is not a fish for decades if not centuries, they will NEVER get done with it, as any human child first seeing a whale will describe it as “a big fish”. Somehow its “fishy” appearance just brings the word to mind…
  3. I once came across a furniture factory that had a gigantic structure placed in front of it - some 20 metres high - which I immediately recognized as “a chair”. Now how could that be possible if the meanings of words were defined by definitions??? By definition, a chair is “a piece of furniture designed to accommodate one sitting or reclining person (…)”. But this thing? No way anybody could ever sit on it or you could put it inside a house! And yet, my wife also thought it was a chair.

Well, the secret behind all this is actually pretty simple. The meaning of a word is stored in our brains as a so-called “prototype” - that is, we all have a concrete picture in our mind of what an X should look like. And then we apply the word to anything that appears similar.
As we all learn our language in different contexts, these prototypes can differ - but they are similar enough for us to be able to communicate…

So my prototype of “a postcard” would be:
a piece of cardboard sized 10x15 cm with a picture on one side and space for writing on the other, with a line dividing the spaces for message and address as well as lines for writing the address on, and a little box indicating where you should put the stamp.

For most of us, I guess, the thing we have in mind when we think “postcard” will be fairly similar. The arguments arise only about HOW MUCH we allow a thing to differ from the prototype to still be willing to call it a postcard. And that, I’m afraid, is a personal choice - and thus a matter that cannot be settled :wink:


I always, when someone plays dumb, like “yes a pen is a postcard”, think, if you put a postcard, a pen, a shoe, a photo and paper to the table, and tell a child to choose the items that are postcards, they choose the postcard.

Yes, dictionaries and definitions are old dated already when they are published.
People who use the language, are most often correct, or changing the language to the direction it one day will be in the dictionary and definitions. (edit. maybe the nowadays children are not so familiar with postcard, but the idea is this).

Still I like the shoe :rofl: it looks like bent blackboard :school: