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(formerly philocarty), the hobby of collecting postcards, usually picture postcards. Deltiology emerged in the late 19th century, when postcards were first produced in large quantities and became widespread internationally as the least expensive type of mail. The first postcard was printed in 1869 in Austria-Hungary (in Russia in 1872), and the first picture postcards, in 1870 in Germany and France (in Russia in 1895). The first Soviet picture postcards were put out in November 1917.

In 1878 the Universal Postal Convention in Paris established the standard size for postcards as 9 × 14 cm, which in 1925 was changed to 10.5 × 14.8 cm. At first the reverse side was designated for the address, and no specific place for the message was designated. Since 1904 the portion of the card to the left of the address has been designated for the message. Modern picture postcards display paintings and other works of art (either specially designed for the card or reproductions of famous works), as well as photographs. Postcards issued by postal departments have an imprinted sign of the postal fee, while those put out by art publishers and other firms provide a place for the stamp.

The first postcards to be collected showed pictorial views and ethnographic scenes. They were among the most accessible means of becoming acquainted with the nature, daily life, and culture of foreign countries. Deltiology has played an important role in acquainting people with works of art from museums and exhibitions. Postcards relating to contemporary history, geography, architecture, and monuments of material culture in time become valuable historical sources.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the first organizations of deltiologists were established. Specialized journals and catalogs were published in Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Russia, Great Britain, the USA, Italy, Switzerland, and Spain. International exhibitions were held in Leipzig, St. Petersburg, Nice, Paris, Florence, Nuremberg, and London, and congresses of collectors and publishers of postcards were held in Leipzig (1896, 1910) and Nice (1899).

In the early 20th century deltiology became one of the most popular collecting hobbies. This was due in part to the diversity of the postcards, which dealt with geography, ethnography, history, art, technology, sports, and famous people, as well as to their high aesthetic value and general quality. The hobby was considerably popularized by the growth in postal exchange among countries. The USSR alone annually issues 2.5–3.5 billion postcards with 7,000–8,000 different designs. Postcards are printed by the Ministry of Communications of the USSR and the publishing houses Izobrazitel’noe Iskusstvo, Sovetskii Khudozhnik, Planeta, Plakat, Khudozhnik RSFSR, Aurora, and Mistetsvo. The first Soviet deltiological associations were founded in the 1930’s in Moscow and Leningrad. Soviet postcard enthusiasts may join the All-Union Society of Philatelists.

Postcards issued in the USSR are listed in Letopis’ izoizdanii (Chronicle of Pictorial Publications). Postcard collections are maintained by state institutions, for example, the All-Union Book Chamber and the V. I. Lenin State Library. Articles on the hobby are published in the collection Sovetskii kollektsionner (Soviet Collector) and the bulletin Filateliia SSSR (Philately in the USSR).

International postcard exhibitions have been held in Brno in 1967 and in Budapest in 1970. Unique collections include those of G. Angoletti of Italy (1.5 million), A. Kocenda of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (as many as 1.5 million), N. S. Tagrin of the USSR (650,000), and L. Petrakovics of Hungary (500,000).


Shleev, V. V., and E. B. Fainshtein. Khudozhestvennye otkrytki i ikh sobiranie. Moscow, 1960.
Tagrin, N. S. V poiskakh neobychainogo: Iz zapisok kollektsionera.. Leningrad, 1962.
Zabochen’, M. S. Leniniana v otkrytkakh. Moscow, 1970.
Babintsev, S. M., and N. S. Tagrin. “Bibliografiia filokartii (1897–1967).” Sovetskii kollektsioner, 1970, no. 7.
Shleev, V. “Bibliografiia filokartii (1900–1970).” Ibid., 1971, no. 9.
Zabochen’, M. “Bibliografiia filokartii (1897–1970).” Ibid., 1974, no. 12.
Zabochen’, M. S. Filokartiia. Moscow, 1973.
Fainshtein, E. B. V mire otkrytki. Moscow, 1976.


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Compared to the glorious heyday of deltiology, so cogently described in your article, picture postcards have come to a very sorry pass.
You know, I actually thought I was reasonably familiar with the history of deltiology, until I read "An Entangled Object.
Practitioners of philately (stamp collecting) and deltiology (postcard collecting) will show off their hobbies at the San Jose Convention Center on February 21, 22, and 23.