Going Postal: Outsized

The first edition of my Going Postal: A Column About Postcards column.

According to Wikipedia, the United States Postal Service defines a postcard’s dimensions as being “rectangular, at least 3+12 inches (88.9 mm) high × 5 inches (127 mm) long × 0.007 inches (0.178 mm) thick and no more than 4+14 inches (108 mm) high × 6 inches (152.4 mm) long × 0.016 inches (0.406 mm) thick.”  It does go on to say that some postcards have deviated from these dimensions, especially during the modern “Chrome Age” of photo postcards, especially ones that are custom shaped.

Recently I have received increasing amount of postcards that are beyond these sizes, and the majority are not the shaped ones or specialty postcards, just regular large postcards from around the world.  Here are a few examples:

In 2006 I received a postcard from a youth leader who was spending time in Kenya.  It is a portrait, white-bordered photo of a male lion and is a regular rectangle shape.  It is, however, 17.1cm x 12cm, quite a bit larger than the above standard dimensions.  I was impressed by the amount of writing space on the back though as the address section was rather small in comparison and my youth leader was able to write above and around it for maximum story-telling effect.

I also received a postcard in the early spring of 2010 from my friend Ryan when he was travelling in New Zealand.  Not only was the Singapore Post sticker (where it must have been routed through) on the front hiding the upper portion of a dolphin-viewing boat, the postcard was 17.2cm x 12cm!  Another example of a large postcard, this time unfortunately the size was not taken advantage of by Ryan’s largely-spaced writing.  I did however appreciate (and moan over) what he wrote next to the Universal Mail New Zealand stamp: “There’s so much of the world you need to see, what are you waiting for?”  What I am waiting for, Ryan, is a lot of money and time off work!

Shaped postcards are common as well and have been for quite a while.  A recent example I received was from Holland and had the top half of a city’s name cut out.  This can often make a postcard larger or change the dimensions significantly.  Extended postcards also seem to be coming into popularity, at least among my circle of friends.  I remember purchasing “The World’s Largest Postcard” from the Sears Tower in Chicago, IL, as a young child.  It must have been a foot long and probably took more than normal postage to send.  I of course, kept it pinned to my bulletin board for years!  My friend (and TWOAB contributor) Natasha Helen sent me two extended postcards from Spain and Italy, both around 21cm x 10.5cm.

The Spanish postcard was of Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia cathedral, thus justifying the height or length of the postcard.  The Italian postcard was rather ingenious in my opinion.  It was designed to be written on the larger third of the postcard, with the smaller third acting as a privacy flap to cover what people write.  The pictures on the front were of Bellagio (larger two thirds) and Salita Serbelloni, and when folded over only the address portion of the back is visible.  Upon receiving the postcard I thought it was a mini photo often found as take-home souvenirs of postcards from postcard books, minis that the sender can keep for themselves, but I found there was no perforation, just a scored line.  Upon closer inspection, I found that the strip of self-adhesive hadn’t been uncovered and the flap was left to hang freely.  The flap’s backside has a map of the Lake Como region of Italy.

Perhaps it is just coincidence, or maybe high quality photos and the decrease in postcard sales are forcing the size and eye-catching nature of postcards, but whatever the reason I am seeing more and more out-of-scale postcards are crossing through my mail slot.

Any thoughts from you, oh reader of the blogosphere?  Are you seeing more larger-scale postcards?  Or is it just that the US Postal Service’s definition is out of date and perhaps too strict?

Until next time, happy sendings!


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