Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

It feels like 2021 has just been the never-ending continuation of the previous year, and I think we could all use a reason to smile and lift our spirits before the new year comes, right? So we’re pleased to announce the upcoming 9th edition of our yearly partnership with Deutsche Post, where postcards count for a good cause! Without further ado:

For every postcard sent from Germany through Postcrossing during the month of December, Deutsche Post will make a donation of €0.10 to the non-profit organization Stiftung Lesen (Reading Foundation).

If you’re in Germany, you still have a few days to stock up on postcards and stamps, so that you can start writing postcards on December 1st! If the postcards you send throughout December are registered before the end of February 2022, you will be contributing to this cause and entering a draw to win some cool prizes! Seven lucky postcrossers (residents in Germany only) will be randomly selected to receive one of these:

Illustration of small birds peaking in a snowy forest

So by sending postcards from Germany in December, you’re not only helping a good cause, but can also win some custom stamps or maybe a football. Hurray! The more postcards you send, the more chances you have to win one of the prizes, and every postcard counts.

And although only postcards sent from Germany count, there’s always a recipient in every postcard exchange — so each time a card from Germany arrives to its destination, the recipient will be indirectly contributing to this donation too. Don’t forget to register your postcards promptly, so that more can be sent!

As usual, Paulo will run his random number generator in March next year, and we’ll reveal the total amount of postcards sent (and money raised to Stiftung Lesen) here in the blog. Last year, an amazing total of 11,729.40€ was raised for this good cause, which was brilliant (and a record)!

Stiftung LesenStiftung Lesen is a German non-profit organization, working to increase literacy in the population, especially among children and adolescents. Their activities include reading clubs, media literacy projects and initiatives to promote the learning of German language by refugee families in the country.

We hope you’re as excited as we are for the 9th edition of the Cards for Literacy campaign, and may this be a brilliant month of helping others with our postcards!

P.S. – As always, we respect your personal information and will not share it with any company without your explicit permission. The full details of this campaign can be read here (German only).

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Here we are, back again for the second instalment of our exploration of Kosmopolit, the 19th century precursor of Postcrossing (which we knew nothing about until a couple of years ago). You can catch our previous posts about this obscure postcard club here.

Our friends Claas (aka Speicher3) and Christine (aka reisegern) managed to get their hands on a great book about Kosmopolit by Claus-Torsten Schmidt, and are here to continue reporting back on their findings!

Images of old postcards

One year after its foundation in 1897, there were already more than 1000 members in the Kosmopolit. Since collecting postcards was a mass phenomenon in those days, there was a large number of various collectors associations, and also some competition between many of these clubs. Therefore, it was important to show that one had as many members as possible. And here Kosmopolit was very creative… but also not always honest. In the “Internationale Postkarten Zeitung” (the association’s magazine), membership numbers were regularly published. To make the numbers look as high as possible, however, these numbers weren’t necessarily the realistic numbers of the currently active members. They always published the number of registrations that had ever been made since their foundation, and resignations from the club were not deducted.

One also liked to cheat a little bit from time to time. When the 2000. member was welcomed in 1899, the next member received the number 2101… so the 100 in between never existed! 😅

The statistics do not reveal what happened during World War I, but we know that the sending of postcards wasn’t interrupted during the war. Many military mail postcards were sent, even across borders. Some Kosmopolit members got into trouble because they had “contact with the enemy” by writing postcards to their pen pals.

The highest Kosmopolit membership number was #18320 in 1923…

Membership ledger for the Kosmopolit club

… but that said, we later found a Kosmopolit postcard on Ebay sent in 1924, whose member stamp shows the membership number 18535!

Kosmopolit member number 18535

In another chapter of the book, we’ve found the historical archetype of the Postcrossing profile wish list! Although not that many people used English as a foreign language at the beginning of the 20th century, Kosmopolit members still wanted to inform other members about their preferred postcards. This is why Kosmopolit published a key of international exchange codes in up to seven languages. This way, participants were able to use simple code words to communicate their wishes for the reply card.

Kosmopolit's code of collectors

Here are some examples (see if you can find some similarities to today’s lists of preferences!):

  • § = Used postage stamps wanted
  • a = City views, squares, streets
  • nn = Handsome heads
  • zz = Photographs of members
  • Adele = Blank postcards
  • Berthe = Cards stamped from the place of origin
  • Henriette = Your last card did not have sufficient postage. I had to pay a tax.
  • Ida = With young ladies
  • Ketty = Are the cards which I send you according to your taste?
  • Micheline = Kindly excuse my tardy answer. a) I was sick, b) I was travelling, c) I was very busy, d) I was on maneuvres, e) I was flooded with cards, f) I thought I had already answered your card
  • Esp. = I am interested in Esperanto

These days, Postcrossing profiles and forum accounts have a few badges, and they existed also in Kosmopolit times, more than 100 years ago! Kosmopolit members could not only acquire melodious titles (consul, representative, consul general, etc) and there was even a medal for special merit.

Kosmopolit medal badge

Doesn’t that look super fancy?

Thank you Claas and Christine, for another fantastic report! What do you think, should we make a special Postcrossing medal? 🎖 In the third and final instalment of this series, we’re going to be talking about meetup postcards, the Kosmopolit museum and the demise of the association — stay tuned!

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It can be tough to find interesting and unique postcards locally—maybe you’ve sent them all before by now, or maybe you just don’t live in a very photogenic area. Don’t worry! Every so often, we do a little roundup of boxes of postcards that you can get online, which is a very cost-effective way to get your hands on some lovely designs.

Here’s another 20 boxes of 50 or 100 postcards that we haven’t featured recently.

Postcard boxes Postcard boxes Postcard boxes

I had no idea that some of my childhood favourites were out there on postcards, so that’s my next stop… though that Button Box set is pretty tempting too (every card has a little bit of history about the significance of the pin it displays!).

As always, we’d love to hear any suggestions you have to share in the comments!

PS: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you buy these postcards on Amazon, Postcrossing will receive a small commission for each sale (at no extra cost to you). Feel free to look for these postcard sets and boxes on your favourite bookstores though — supporting local businesses is always a good thing. 💪

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Back in 2017, we were in London to visit friends and took the Little Mail Carriers along for the ride. At the time, the newly revamped Postal Museum had just re-opened, and so we were super excited to check it out! Now that the museum has a new temporary exhibition all about postcards, this seems like a good time to fish those photos from the archives and show you a bit of what you can see there as part of their permanent exhibition. Here are the little guys, to tell you all about it! 🙂

The Little Mail Carriers sit atop a red British postbox

Hi everyone! We’re back in London, the city of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace… though we don’t much care for those — we were promised a tour of the fantastic Postal Museum, and we’re super excited to discover the treasures and stories hiding inside.

From cryptic Victorian Valentine cards, to pirates or a mischievous lioness that attacked a mail coach, the whole visit was lots of fun… but let’s start at the beginning.

The Little Mail Carriers look at a museum display of old letters and an illustration of a letter carrier

Check out these really old letters in their permanent exhibition! Through them, you can learn more about how there came to be a need for the uniform penny postage. Before the postal reform that Sir Rowland Hill brought about, postage was paid by the recipient according to the number of sheets in it, and the distance it traveled… which wasn’t very practical!

To save space, some letters were written in a particular style called “crossed writing”, which makes them extra hard to read.

Paulo pulls a display featuring the history of the ship SS Garisoppa

You know how sometimes big ships sometimes have the prefix RMS on their name, like the RMS Titanic or RMS Queen Mary? RMS stands for “Royal Mail Ship”, as these vessels were used to transport not just passengers but also mail. This wasn’t always an easy task though, and there are stories of captains fighting pirates to defend the mail, or ships torpedoed in wars. This was the case of the SS Gairsoppa, sunk in 1941 and found only in 2011. Some 700 pieces of mail from this ship have been recovered, and they offer a unique insight into the lives of ordinary people, living in extraordinary circumstances during the Second World War.

A Little Mail Carrier peeks into the hole of a green letter box

This green pillar box is from 1853, from the Channel islands — the first place where postboxes were trialed before being brought over to the UK. This first trial was a success, so postboxes started appearing around the British mainland soon after. Although these boxes were first painted red, their color was later standardised as green… but it was quickly discovered that the green color blended too much with the background, so, after many complaints by people who couldn’t seem to find mailboxes anywhere, their color was changed back to red again, to make them more conspicuous!

The Little Mail Carriers look at a display featuring a complete sheet of Penny Blacks, the first postage stamp.

Having heard so much about them, we were super excited to check out the only full sheet of the most famous stamp in the world, the Penny Black, which the museum shows in their exhibition! Before looking at them like this, we hadn’t realized that all the stamps in a single sheet are different — for extra security, they all bear a combination of two letters, with one changing from stamp to stamp. There are 240 stamps in each sheet, to make a total of £1 per sheet.

Paulo dressed as a mail coach guard, with a top hat and a heavy red felt coat Ana dressed as a postwoman, with a round hat and heavy blue felt coat

One of our favourite parts of the exhibition is that it is interactive! You can dress up and be like James Moses Nobbs, who was the longest serving (55 years!) and the last of the Mail Coach Guards in the Royal Mail. Or, you can don the postwoman uniform and try to deliver some secret pneumatic messages on their tube system! We were obviously a little too small for the clothes, but the real Paulo and Ana had fun instead. 😀

A display of several posters about the post office A poster with two crossed pens reads Think ahead, write instead

There are also lots of posters and other printed materials to peruse in the permanent exhibition, and we couldn’t help but admire the graphic design on them. The posters came about when Stephen Tallents was appointed Public Relations Officer to the General Post Office in 1933. He had extensive experience in PR, and set out on a radical programme to change the way in which the General Post Office communicated with its customers. One of these changes was to start using posters made by talented designers for marketing, and also to display in schools and post offices. Reproductions of many of these are available as postcards in the gift shop!

A yellow and red postbus

There’s even a 1983 Post Bus on display! These cute vehicles could once be seen throughout rural Britain, and they were a convenient hybrid between a normal bus for ferrying passengers and a mail van to deliver mail to those areas.

A display of illustrated envelopes, part of the Tolhurst envelopes collection

One of our favourite parts of the exhibition was looking through the Tolhurst envelopes — a collection of correspondence from Frederick Charles Tolhurst to his children. Each letter was posted in a carefully decorated envelope with hand-drawn images – some happy, some sad, but all gorgeous. It’s mailart from the early 20th century, and an illustrated slice of the events that were taking place at the time.

A worker of the Postal Museum signals the start of a trip on the Mail Rail, the train journey through London's underground postal network, which is now open to the public

The Mail Rail has opened to visitors since the last time we were in London, and so, as part of the museum tour, now you can discover the tunnels below London that used to carry the mail swiftly across the city. It was the first electric railway with driverless trains in the world, and it worked from 1927 until 2003, carrying 4 million letters every day at its peak. If you’re a little bit claustrophobic like big Ana, you can take a peek at the Mail Rail experience on this virtual tour.

Wish you were here — 151 years of the British postcard exhibition poster

Right now, the Museum has a brand new exhibition titled Wish You Were Here: 151 Years of the British Postcard, which looks amazing and right up our alley! Here’s a sneak peak:

You can explore postcards throughout history, reflect on their future and even mail one of four unique postcards by artist Peter Liversidge, especially created for the Postal Museum. Bonus points if you spot Postcrossing in the exhibition and send us a photo of the display! 😍

PS – If you’re planning to check out the museum, let other postcrossers know on the forum (maybe you can go as a group and get a discount!).

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The writing prompts invite postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcards’ messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

Gifts are on my mind lately, as I finally, gleefully begin to acquire the presents I’ll spoil my family with on Christmas Day. (No, Mum, I won’t be revealing it here, sorry!) So I was glad to notice one of the suggested prompts on the forum, from Eva (aka lauranalanthalasa)…

In November, write about the best present you ever received!
Parker the wooden giraffe

As usual, I’ll go first! My dad is famous, or infamous, for his gift for picking the right gift. Sometimes they’re useful, sometimes they just perfectly suit you, sometimes they’ve very silly… but he rarely misses the mark! So one Christmas a few years ago, I went downstairs to find a very mysterious wrapped shape. It was about 5 feet tall (1.5 metres), so only a little shorter than I was… and the shape just made no sense at all. I can’t remember if the other members of my family knew about it, or whether we were all equally befuddled, but my dad was definitely enjoying himself way too much.

Given the photo I’ve added, you all know where this is going. When I was eventually allowed to unwrap it, a beautiful carved wooden giraffe emerged! I’d admired it in a shop window about six months before, and I’d always been a big fan of giraffes… so my dad went back for him, kept him hidden somewhere, and produced him on Christmas Day when I’d forgotten all about him. He’s called Parker (after Detective-Inspector Charles Parker, in Dorothy L. Sayers’ books—I don’t remember why!) and he looms in the background of my Zoom calls to this day.

The next year, of course, there was another large and strangely shaped present, which he’d labelled prominently with the words “not a giraffe”.

What about you? What’s the best present you’ve ever received? Is it something you still have now, an experience you had, something you remember from childhood…? We’d love to hear about it in the comments here and on your postcards this month!

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