Real-photo postcards (sometimes called RPPCs) are the result of developing a negative onto photo paper with a pre-printed postcard backing. Classic real-photo cards feature a variety of subjects, from mundane small- town street views to images of animals to photos that captured important political moments or terrifying natural disasters.

Though the first documented photo postcard was mailed in 1899, the style wasn’t firmly established until Eastman Kodak began selling Velox photo paper with a pre-printed postcard back in 1902. The following year, Kodak released its No. 3A Folding Pocket camera, which used film specifically designed for postcard-size prints. Amateur photographers were now able to have their own images printed directly onto postcard paper and send them through the mail. The affordability and ease of producing these new photo postcards quickly made traditional cabinet cards obsolete.

The vast majority of real-photo postcards were created in black and white, although some images were hand colored after printing. As camera technology improved and manufacturers moved toward a standard 35mm negative size, printing methods were adapted so postcards could continue to be developed from photographs. For example, the introduction of Kodak’s Velox rapid projection printer in 1937 meant that real-photo postcards could be easily mass produced through enlarging. Imprecise enlargement methods used during the '30s and '40s often required the addition of a decorative white border, which became customary on later photo cards.

Since it was expensive to have additional descriptive information printed on the reverse side of each postcard, many RPPCs made by smaller studios have no text to identify their images. Alternatives to printed text included using a company's handstamp or embossed mark, or exposing text directly onto the photograph’s negative.

The introduction of the CMYK color printing process in 1934 destroyed the popularity of real-photo postcards; though printed using lithography techniques, the resulting photochrome cards resembled color photographs. In 1939, Union Oil became one of the first companies to give out free photochrome cards at its service stations, and the style quickly caught on. Large corporations took over most postcard production, since the photochrome printing methods were easily mass produced and required no retouching, as many real-photo images did.

While photochrome cards featuring images printed on glossy paper are often mistaken for real-photo cards, the two can typically be distinguished by looking under a magnifying glass. Real-photo postcards are recognizable by their smooth gradation of color and form, whereas photochrome printing techniques created shapes from miniscule dot patterns.

All genres of RPPCs are collectible, though some particularly popular subjects include follies or pinups; sports teams; important historical events or expositions; ocean liners, airplanes, or zeppelins; images of soldiers or wartime; and portraits of children. Photographic postcards showing individual people are most desirable if they display specific occupations, mechanical equipment, uniforms, or toys.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



Andreas Praefcke's postcard collection of theatres and concert halls worldwide. Showcases 3700 images of over 1810 … [read review or visit site]

Tall Tale Postcards

Tall Tale Postcards

Don't let this one get away from you. This 'unbelievable' collection, from the Wisconsin Historical Society, featur… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Postcard Lot 1000+ Rppc Pre-linen Linen White Border No Chrome Estate!Lot 360+ Early 1900s Postcard Lot - Holidays Cities Towns Rppc Greeting PlacesWwi Army Nurse In Outdoor Uniform Rppc Photo Postcard 1919 Paris1907 Vintage Steam Engine Driven Logging Tractor At Rib Lake, Wisconsin RppcCirc. 1920s Rppc Gay Interest 2 Men In Woods Hugging Flowers No PostmarkChinese Custom’s Club Ground Kulangsu Amoy China Vintage Rppc PostcardWashington Indian Capt. Jim's Funeral - Frank Matsura Rppc Real Photo Postcard Chinese West Part Of Kulangsu And Amoy China Rppc PostcardVtg 1911 West Shore Railroad & Ship Dock Kiltc Kelleys Island Ohio Rppc PostcardPostcard Rppc Testing Fire Pump Packard Motor Car Co Detroit Mi Salladin's Marble & Granite Works, Norwich, New York Rppc PostcardLarge Antique Vintage Mixed Lot Over 500 Us Postcards Rppc Prelinen Linen ChromeOld Rppc Real Photo Postcard Ford Motor Co. Dealer Garage Model T2 Fairmont West Virginia Coal Or Oil Drilling Rig Derrick Pipe Real Photo 1907C1917 Cowgirl Rodeo Bronco Busting Champion Cheyenne Wyo Rppc Real Photo Harrold South Dakota Stewart Bros Land Store Post Office Real Photo 1909 Pop.124Chinese Between View Of Kulangsu And Amoy China Rppc Postcard2 Fairmont West Virginia Coal Miner Shack Company Housing Real Photo 1910Hong Kong Rppc 1955 Hong Kong The Peak Tramway Real Photo Postcard W/1 Dollar StC1900s Indian Native American Squaw On Horse Rppc Real Photo Rppc Lionville Pa Chester County General Store And Post Office Gas PumpRppc Henryetta Oklahoma Ok Frisco Rr Train Depot Real Photo Postcard 1912Rppc Dog Dressed As Motorist With Pretty Girl Driver~antique Real Photo Postcard1910 Rock Falls Il Rppc * Early Buick & Cars In Corn Carnival Parade Side Show Nantasket Bottling Works, Ransom Brothers Delivery Truck,real Photo,nantasket 1908 Train Railroad Station, Tremont Pa Rppc Photo Postcard Schuylkill CountyRppc Antioch Illinois Il Downtown Main Street Real Photo PostcardRppc Downers Grove Illinois Horse Drawn "adams Express Company" Wagon Postcard Shipwreck,s.s.northern Voyager,aground Juneau,alaska,jul 15,1946,rppcZu493 Vntg Rppc Cornelison's Pottery Ogg Studio Bybee, Kentucky 1940 Real PhotoMadison Wisconsin Pinckney Street Capitol Square Vintage Real Photo Postcard Early,crowds Arriving,(with Train & Depot),at Lena,illinois,real PhotoRppc Dog Wwi Era~pit Bull Terrier With Soldier~vintage Real Photo PostcardOld Rpps Real Photo Postcard Lee And Carr Millinery Elkhart Goshen Indiana?Circus Carnival Fair Booth Game Of Skill Duck Pond Ball Toss Real Photo 1908Davenport Nd Store Interior - Coin Operated & Post Card Rack Rppc Real Postcard Rppc Monte Rio, Ca Old Saw Mill Russian River Pelton Photo 1910s PostcardWest Virginia-real Photo-parkersburg-1913 Flood-parkersburg MillOrig 1930 Hong Kong Hotel Mac's Cafeteria Real Photo Postcard Rppc Real Photo Postcard Sioux Indians Mandan North Dakota American FlagAvalon Nj, Ninth Street, Vintage RppcRppc Grantsville Md Meadow Mountain Camp Gas Station Maryland Dops Real Photo PoVintage Rppc Real Photo Postcard Palm Springs California Houses Desert Mountains5/24,1910,g.a.r. Parade,freeport,illinois,real PhotoRppc Milwaukee Rr Depot, Burlington, Wisconsin Wi Real Photo Postcard 1912Circus Fair Globe Of Death 4th July Coon Valley Wisconsin Real Photo 1908Real Photo Postcard Copper Street Greenwood B.c.Vintage Rockford Il Ill Postcard Trucks Railyard S Main St Vault Door Rppc Rp NrAntique Rppc Postcard Of Lethbridge Alberta @ Night Starland Theater Horse WagonRare Yunnan China Real Photo Kai Yuen Gare Railroad Station 1939 Rppc Postcard The Body Of Pablo Lopez, 1916 Mexican Revolution RppcOld Real Photo Postcard Pavilion And Golf Course Aboyne AberdeenChina, Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour (1950s) S.n. Co. RppcOld Rpps Real Photo Postcard 1911 Railroad Depot Branch, Wisconsin By ManitowocCreighton Nebraska Carnival / Amusement Co. Rppc Real Photo Postcard Rppc 1913 Fort Wayne, In. Flood - Wells St & L.e. & W. Railroad Unused PostcardRppc Of The Creamery Co-op In Mt. Vision, New York. Ny Real Photo1928 Rppc Evening Parade Boy Scout Training Camp San Francisco Ca Roya-neh1910s Waiting For Train At Mountain View Station Ny. Antique Rppc PostcardBirdseye View Of Beach At Pentwater Michigan Vintage Rppc Photo Postcard