Brief History and Categories of Greeting Cards
The history of greeting cards is as old as history itself. Their origins can be traced as far back as the ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations. The custom of giving greeting cards in China was mainly in connection with the celebration of New Year. The first Chinese greeting cards were written on bamboos rather and later written on papers. Hence, greeting cards predate the invention of paper.
Ancient Egyptians wrote special greetings, including birthday greetings, on papyrus. It was only in the later part of the 15th century C.E. that the custom of exchanging greeting cards became popular in Europe. These were mostly handmade and highly personalized cards. The Germans were the first to produce woodcut prints in 1400. Even after Gutenberg’s invention of movable type printing, it took more than three centuries before printing technology has advanced enough to mass-produce greeting cards. It was in the 1850’s that the expensive handmade cards were largely replaced by the more affordable printed cards.
Aside from the advancement in printing technology, the popularization of special cards for greetings was also made possible by the reduction of postal costs. Transportation also became faster with the invention of the locomotive and steam ships. Acquaintances, friends and family members can exchange cards over large distances in just a matter of few days or weeks.
It was in 1860’s that the large-scale productions of special cards started and became highly profitable business. Some of the pioneering companies that have gained profits from the new trend included Marcus Ward & Co, Goodall and Charles Bennett. These European companies hired well-known artists in designing the cards.
Further technological developments in printing such as the color lithography in the 1930’s have boosted the card printing business. It became possible to print less expensive and realistic colored cards. The level of competition in this industry increased as a result of the advancements in printing technology. Several companies expanded to other categories of cards aside from the traditional seasonal cards. These included humorous cards and customized cards for almost all conceivable sentiments.
The card printing industry has expanded well beyond the seasonal greetings or special occasions. The cards that are produced are varied with ever-changing graphic designs but they can be categorized into seven basic categories. These include standard cards, personalized cards, reusable cards, risqué cards, musical cards and pop-up cards. The e-cards are not included in the printed classifications for obvious reasons. These are digital cards that can be sent via email or through mobile devices.
Standard cards are still the most popular because of their seasonal and special occasion motifs. These cards are generally rectangular and folded. They have decorative front designs that are specific to an occasion such as birthday. There is also pre-printed message on one side of the inner leaf of the each card. The other inner leaf is usually left blank intended for the personal message of the sender. These cards may also include special decorations such as golden ribbons or glitter. They are sold with matching envelopes.