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Beginner’s Guide – How to Grade Vintage Postcards

Beginners Guide - How to Grade Vintage Postcards

Hi I’m Darlene,  I’m a pretty curious  person.  I love doing my own research on topics that I want to understand better.  This was  especially true when I began Collecting Postcards.     And as a treasure hunter at heart, I love the search.   So I thought I would put together a Simple Guide for the Beginning Postcard Collector.    Here are some important points, that stood  out to me in trying to understand how Postcards are evaluated according to their condition,  This will also help you as you search to acquire for your own Collections.


This is the current  Grading system that is being used by Collectors and Dealers in the  the Fields of Deltiology ( The Study and Collection of Postcards) .  First named that by Professor Randall Rhoades of Ashland, Ohio in 1945.

  • Mint

  • Near Mint

  • Excellent

  • Very Good

  • Good

  • Fair

Infographic How to Grade a Postcard
Infographic How to Grade a Postcard

The most expensive postcard ever sold ($ 45,370.70) is believed to be world’s oldest card, sent by writer Theodore Hook to no one other than himself in 1840 .  Postcard Collecting is the third most popular collecting hobby, only behind to coins and stamps,  The Value of Postcards are closely in relation to the quality of the Postcard.  I have broken down the categories with the important characteristics of each.  This  will allow you to ask the right questions.   I’ve done some research and put together a table to help you get a rough idea of  the highlights for you .


  • M – Mint Condition

    • Perfect Card – Pristine -Just like fresh off the presses

    • No Marks

    • No Bends

    • No Creases

    • No Writing or Postmarks

    • Seldom Seen

    • Found many times in original packages

M - Mint Condition Perfect Card - Pristine -Just like fresh off the presses No Marks No Bends No Creases No Writing or Postmarks Seldom Seen Found many times in original packages

Finding Postcards that are in like new condition is rare, just the passing of time, tends to make them age.  To be graded Mint condition the card should look like it has just been printed, Fresh just Made,  Crisp – New – Sharp – No signs of wear or circulation.  These should be handled with gloves to keep that rating.

Like Mint, but showing some very slight aging or discoloration – probably from being in an album or other unprotected storage format. Otherwise, still a clean and perfect card.


  • NM – Near Mint Condition

    • Like Mint

    • Light Aging

    • Light Discoloration

NM - Near Mint Condition

The Near Mint Postcard is slightly less than the mint card , but not buy much.  They may have a slight tint as of age but only just detectable


  • EX -Excellent Condition

    • No Bends

    • No Creases

    • No Rounded Corners

    • Can be have  Corners that can be slightly Blunt

    • Clean Fresh Image on Picture Side

Infographic Excellent Grade
info-graphic Excellent Grade

The Majority of Postcards that are in great shape will fit in this category.  They probably have been posted and gone through the postal systems.  they will show no sign of damage.  With being able to view postcards on line you can visually check their appearance,  about as close as you can get without touching them

A postcard without obvious flaws and similar to Mint in appearance, without bends, creases or pinholes. It may be posted used or unused, but the corners of the card are square, not rounded or blunt. A clean, fresh card on the picture side, it may have writing and/or a postmark on the address side only, which does not detract from its appearance. When viewed at an angle or under strong light, it may show some signs of aging, a lightening of color or the hint of album marks. In terms of pricing, this is usually considered as the baseline condition.

  • VG – Very Good Condition

    • Corners can be Blunted

    • Undetectable Crease is OK

    • May have Writing and Posted

    • Minor defects

VG - Very Good Condition Corners can be Blunted Undetectable Crease is OK May have Writing and Posted Minor defects

Like an Excellent postcard but the corners may be slightly rounded and a few almost undetectable creases may be present. A very collectible postcard with a fine appearance, which may have writing and/or a postmark on the address side. If it is an early undivided back postcard, writing may appear on the front. The card may also have minor defects (such as album marks, signs of age and handling) but should show little or no discoloration. Most collectible cards are in this Very Good condition and should be worth about 20-25% less than an Excellent postcard.


  • G – Good Condition

    • Corners can be blunted

    • Slight Bends or Creases

    • Posted  used with Writing

    • Shows evidence of making its way through the postal systems

Infographic on Good Grade for Postcards
Info-graphic on Good Grade for Postcards

A postcard which has corners that are noticeably blunt or rounded with slight bends or creases, still collectible even if the condition is less than Very Good. Used or unused and showing noticeable defects (like handling or wear), it may have slight creasing and minor postal damage but this will not be detrimental to the overall appearance. The card may have writing and/or postmarks on the front or back (address) side or other noticeable album marks or discoloration. A postcard in this condition may be worth 40-50% less than one which is classed as being in Excellent condition.


  • FR – Fair Condition

    • Card is intact

    • May have Stains

    • May be Dirty

    • May have obvious creases

Info-graphic Fair Grade
Info-graphic Fair Grade

A postcard which is intact but with writing or a heavy postmark cancellation which affects the picture and spoils its appearance. It may have noticeably rounded corners and some creasing or edge damage, but it is still in a collectible state. The value would depend on rarity, but cards in this condition would not appeal to all collectors.


  • P – Poor Condition

Info-graphic on Poor Grade
Info-graphic on Poor Grade

This is an incomplete postcard which shows an image that has been seriously affected, or damaged.  These Postcards are classed as a space-fillers and worth very little.

I have seen some really rough postcards in terrible condition and still sell for a lot of money.


Some Things that Greatly Enhance its Value apart from Condition are

  • Rarity of image on Front of Card

  • Type of Picture it is – Hand Painted one at a time – Printed

  • Amount of Postcards Produced

  • Post dates

  • Author

  • To Whom Written (Abraham Lincoln etc)

We will Have more Vintage Postcards Guides to Follow


I found this You Tube Video  on Grading Cards – Its focus is mostly on Sports Cards, but alot of Good info

Beginner's Guide - How to Grade Vintage Postcards 1
Grading Sports/Non Cards

Resources for Professional Card Grading

Owner of Darlene's Old Postcards
Missionary – Mother – Grandmother
God Bless Darlene & Greg