Deltiology 101: Hold To Light Postcards

St Louis 1904 World's Fair Hold To Light Postcard

During the Golden Age of Postcards – in the early 1900’s – publishers came up with many ways to make postcards unique and novel.  One of those designs is the Hold To Light postcard (or HTL for short).  The idea is that the image on the front of the card changes when a light source is shone from behind the card.  It’s like making yourself look like you belong in a horror film by holding a flashlight under your chin.  The difference being, the postcard designs bring out beauty or humor in the postcards – and a little less Bloody Mary.

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The postcards were expensive to produce – either because they used different ink or paper (transparencies), or because they were double layered with die-cuts.  The most popular were cards that turned a day scene into a night scene by making the moon, stars, windows and/or reflection on a water source glow.  The most valuable HTL postcards that I have found are Christmas postcards with Santa Claus – they are currently going for over $100 on ebay.

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HTL postcards almost always say “Hold to Light” in an obvious location on them.  They also may say” Transparency”, “Bitte gegen das Licht zuhalten” (in German) or Regardez par transparance” (in French).  The postcards that are die-cut are the easiest to spot – look for small die-cuts around windows, on reflections in water or in the sky.   Transparencies are harder to spot – the most obvious identifying feature will be a large blank space in the design (where the light will shine through).

I finally purchased my first HTL postcard.  It is from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.  After a little research once I brought my new treasure home, there is a whole set of HTL postcards from this World’s Fair – I am hoping to increase my collection now that I have a better idea of what I am looking for!  Do you have any HTL postcards in your collection?

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