Postcard categories: the sky’s the limit

You might think it would be clear right away. The card belongs in this category, or that one, just do it and move on. Right? Wrong. First, we need to explain something we mentioned elsewhere in the site, that the same card may be entered more than once. That’s why we mention “entries” on the home page, and not “postcards.” The two most obvious category possibilities are geography and topical theme, so (for example) a card that says “Greetings from Miami” might fit into “Florida” and “Greetings.” If only it were always that simple. As another example, look at the card we’ve chosen to illustrate this blog posting. From our existing categories, it belongs in: Hong Kong, Dogs, Fire, Prison, Police, and Maximum Cards. This is because the scan represents a set of six similar cards, each featuring a different type of dog. By the way, “Maximum Cards,” if you don’t already know, are postcards with a matching stamp on the front, often cancelled with a matching postmark. No need to be as elaborate as this, though. The typical “Greetings from” card might have a map with a state flag, a state flower, and so on. You can see where this is leading.

But the website isn’t just one card entered 10,000 times. No. That wouldn’t be right. There are plenty of different postcards.

We chose the theme categories according to probable popularity, availability, and practical limits. It wouldn’t surprise us if someone, somewhere, has a site with 1000 possible variables for each card, and customers can just tick the variables they want to screen down to the relevant cards available. This would be like stock screeners from a brokerage firm. That would be clinical and easy, but also take a lot of the fun away from browsing. So now we have roughly 100 theme categories and are planning to add more as soon as we have the critical mass of cards needed to make the new category worth doing. One really odd topic is just about ready, and you’ll know what we mean when it opens!

Some categories are too broad, like “Animals,” but imagine what it would be like if we tried to break this up into each type of animal. We already have Dogs and Cats (and Fishing), and that’s plenty for now. Speaking of Fishing, we thought of doing “Fish” too, but enough is enough. There are plenty of cards in here with fish on them. So go fishing!

Some categories are nicely item-specific, like “Volcanoes.” The volcano has a name, and there it is. But that doesn’t work all the time, as for example “Bus.” Surprisingly few of our cards show a bus of any kind, so when we find one, we put it into that category even if the bus is not the focus of the picture. Each category has its own little quirks of definition. A good example is “UNESCO World Heritage.” Unless the postcard itself was printed with this designation, we don’t put it into that category even if it qualifies by actually being a UNESCO site.

Our favourite category? Aviation. This catch-all includes airplanes, airports, cabin service, and most cards issued by airlines even if the picture isn’t of a plane. We like this because every aircraft has a registration number painted on it somewhere, and many postcards–though fewer now–show this number. There are a few great websites that identify these numbers and trace the history of that plane from beginning until now, or until it was decommissioned, or whatever happened to it. We enjoy that research and usually summarize it in the card’s description.

Finally, geography. It would probably be the dream of any generalist postcard website to have a few cards from every location. Ours too. Not long ago, we had the chance to visit a wonderful place, East Timor (Timor-Leste), and finally get some cards from there. But there are still several countries, territories, or authorities where we are still waiting to get postcards. Just watch this space. And if you have ideas for new categories that you would like to see, let us know.