We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

HTL Hold to Light Postcards - Rare and Wonderful!

This post focuses on Hold to Light (HTL) postcards, which come in two basic types - die-cut and transparency.  We will look at both types here.  Die-cut HTLs have several layers - on the front of the card openings have been cut allowing light to shine through the colored paper layer inside the card.  These come in a variety of designs, from simple Easter flowers to rare and fancy designs.  We love to collect New Year Date postcards so the image above was especially appealing to us.  Around each numeral you can see little ovals cut in the front layer.  Inside, colored paper allows bright light-up spots when the card is held to a light source.

These pretty girls look like the unsigned artwork of Frances Brundage, with rosy cheeks, big eyes and sweet expressions.  They are smiling from inside 1908 numerals with die-cut flowers.

These cheery snowmen hold forget-me-not numerals with die-cut yellow circles.  This postcard also has colorful HTL lettering at the bottom.  All of these year date cards have rich embossing.

Here we show two more beautifully embossed die-cut HTLs - the Christmas Angel perches in a tree decorated with starry candles and garlands that glow when held to light.  The Valentine card on the right features more fine artwork by Frances Brundage and a variety of die-cut embellishments from the windows in the background to the stars in the nighttime sky.  

The second type of HTLs feature transparency images that appear different when held to light.  These are flat cards and there is nothing visible, until you hold them to a light, to hint at what is hidden within.   The Paris exposition of 1900 produced lots of great transparencies, published by Meteor.  A search in titles and descriptions on eBay for Meteor (Hold to Light, HTL)  will show you a variety of these - frequently they change from a day-view to a night-view when held to light, with a moon appearing in the sky, reflections on water, etc. 

There are transparencies which show people in a space that appears blank when the postcard is not held to light - some of these have risque themes with a provocatively dressed lady appearing at the gentlemen's restaurant table, for instance.  There are some Christmas HTLs that show children, a tree, then add Santa Claus when held to light.  We show two transparency postcards  that show famous women performers of the time as marble statues who are transformed to warm-blooded women when held to light.   The first is Guerrero, who appears seated in a wicker chair, holding a cigarette and wearing a flower-patterned shawl when held to light. 

The second famous performer, Otero, appears in many real photo postcards - she was extremely popular.  Here she is portrayed as a statue first, and in a fancy Spanish-style outfit when held to light.  These are published in France, and have French instructions on the front, telling us to hold the image to a light.

There are so many different kinds of Hold to Light postcards that you can choose the sort you wish to collect, from U.S. scenes to risque designs.  These cards are surprising to people who do not collect, so if you want to demonstrate how much fun postcard collecting can be to non-believers, showing them a transparency will usually do the trick!   

Price estimates:   Hold to light postcards of both types are very desirable.  As with all cards, condition and the complexity of the design will count when the price is being set.  You can spend hundreds of dollars on Santa Claus HTLs or as little as $10 on the simplest transparencies - and everything in-between.  Prices range from about $35 - $100 for the cards in this post, with the embossed die-cuts costing the most.  Remember that these prices are for cards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates


  1. Toni,
    What an entertaining and educational post. I really enjoyed this.

  2. Hi,. nice post! I have 24 of these cards, and I want to sell them. Do I do this on ebay or do you know of an outfit or website that I should contact? Thanks Joe

  3. Hi Virgilio - you can click on the Postcard Dealers Directory link at the bottom of this blog to see if there are dealers who may be appropriate. Best wishes, Toni