Hold-to-light postcards....

Another quite popular novelty that turned up by early/mid 1898. D.R.G.M. no. 88077 was registered for the huge (‘Luxuspapierfabrik’) company of Wolf Hagelberg, Berlin. They produced quite a number of different designs and makes.

The second major hold-to-light card design was registered under D.R.G.M. number 88680, usually with the suffix “Meteor”. They could best be describes as “transparency-type”. I strongly believe “Meteor” was registered for E. A. Schwerdtfeger, also from Berlin.

The idea behind the Hagelberg design was quite simple. A image was printed by chromolitho or collotype process. Then a forme had to be arranged to stamp out carefully windows, doors, the moon or whatever. The address side was printed separately, and between the image and the sheet carrying the address side a blank sheet, usually of bright yellow colour was put. Some glue and pressed closely together. Ready.

The ”Meteor” hold-to-light cards were done in a different way. No stamping-out necessary, the cards have a smooth surface. How the impressive effect was arranged is unknown to me. However, it required motifs with some “blank” areas, without heavy illustration. Postage stamps could ruin the effect a bit.

Greetings from Berlin - Friedrichstrasse station. Hagelberg  36900, Dess. 25, L. Typical chromolitho. P/u Dec. 1900. The card is quite heavy.


George St., Hull  - This street view from the city in Britain was surely a challenge with all the tiny windows that had to be stamped out. Instead the D.R.G.M. imprint we find a “Made by WH (inside shield), Berlin” and the card no. 3164 at lower left corner. Collotype printed. P/u in Oct, 1903.

Greetings from Vienna  - The publisher Ed. Arenz from Vienna I had this design of a “transparent” postcard registered in Germany under number D.R.G.M. 121530. It looks a bit like the Hagelberg Hold-to-Light cards. However, the sample ‘Schoenbrunn’ I found is not intact, the address side/sheet missing. Somebody removed it, probably curious how it worked. Anyway, the instructions on picture side puzzle me. The left, right and upper side had to be cut off. Are there any intact Arenz cards around? Any information appreciated!


“Meteor” hold-to-light cards: The second major type around. Has always a smooth surface. The other image is seen in the ‘blank’ portions of the image when held to light. Left: Sleeping Beauty (no. 479), on the right: Barbarossa (no. 566)

I am not very familiar with this series, which appears to have many fairy tales / legend topics. Right: Sleeping beauty was p/u 1910 in Germany. The other card p/u in Hungary, but stamp / postmark missing. Both cards have a undivided back, of pre-1905. Most likely the work of E.A. Schwerdtfeger, Berlin.


Hagelberg and (most likely) Schwerdtfeger were not the only producers of (early) hold-to-light cards. Especially the ‘Meteor’ type cards where the effect was created during the printing I believe, was around elsewhere before the turn of the century.

This at first sight plain looking picture of a woman with a knife in her hand standing on a cloud is titled ‘Megaera’ It is the old mythical evil woman, the fury.

The card was published for the Hungarian market and the short message is dated 31 December 1899. The publisher (and printer?) was a company with the name KOSMOS and found at Budapest, Graz and Munich. I have seen other cards, usually fine chromolitho printed, with KOSMOS Munich on, all from about the turn of the century.

When held to light the image turns into a little bit different, coloured (!) view. The mythical fury is now an elderly woman, with a broom instead knife in her hand. Her husband has broken a mug in their bedroom He is seen in front of her down on his knees and awaiting punishment. Typical humour of the time and many years to come.


That’s it for the moment. Not yet included are novelties like: Luna cards, X-Ray cards, cards with smell of flowers, cards that turn colour under sunlight / held above candle light, mechanical and pull-out cards, “Glass eyes” cards and so on. There must be 100’s of different novelties cards around!     

Woman by firelight  - This is NOT a typical hold-to-light card, but it works the same way. The “glowing-red” effect is visible by daylight already, but when held to light/lamp it is marvellous. It appears to be a real photo card stuck onto red card (the complete address side is also red, either red card or printed in red ink. Hard to say). Picture side is covered with heavy glossy finish, most likely celluloid. Very unusual card of Austrian make. P/u in Germany in 1913.

Studies by Firelight must had been popular then. I have a card (p/u 1914) published by ‘The Churchill Studio’, Eastbourne, Great Britain offering portraits done this way. Quote: “There is something about a Firelight Portrait which makes it quite different from anything else. So many people look their best under the light and shade of firelight. We hope we may have the pleasure of a sitting from you....”.

“RADIANA” card no. 6  from AMAG series 63440 for French speaking markets. Albrecht & Meister (Berlin) used standard real photo cards, added hand colouring and then portions of the image received an additional thick ink application. Here the entire flowers and some parts of the clothing. Hold the card to sunlight or better a strong lamp for a moment and then into the shade or dark and the application begins to glow for a while. Well, it still works with this card, although c. 80-90 years old!


To be published soon...

A comprehensive work on ‘Hold-to-Light (HTL) postcards, the various types and how they were made, the publishers etc. Written and compiled by a long-time collector from Germany. All in full colour. Details follow as soon as available.

[Home] [Postcard History] [Identification] [Printer Logo's] [TPA Magazine] [Contact] [PPC Novelties] [Why cardboard?] [Finds & Curio] [Collecting Subjets]