Between 1975 and 1986 I made six different Hold-to-Light post cards. When I considered making additional cards in 1994, I created a little booklet about the period that I made the Hold-to-Light post cards. From this point onwards, I will be reprinting what I wrote in that booklet:
Hold-to-Light post cards were first produced in 1894 as far as is known. The post cards have been highly collected for a century now. The great majority of HTL's were produced in the 1903-1911 era which was at the beginning of the "post card era." (1904-1913) One of the old HTL's in my collection, which was postmarked on December 23, 1909, states "I was so afraid that you would not have one of these postals left to add to your collection. . . " so it seems that the cards were going out of general circulation about then.
While my personal collection of old HTL's is tiny, I do have a HTL advertising card (not post card) dated 1880 and a foreign HTL post card used in 1939, so the hold-to-light idea has been around for quite some time.
Below is a history of the "first six" HTL post cards that I have produced over the years. I hope that you will find it interesting and informative...
Avis Stamp Company was formed as a d/b/a in 1967 and my primary interest was in used stamps, first day covers and accumulating stamps for resale. In 1972 a stamp collector brought me a collection of stamps and post cards that he wanted to sell. This collection had an old Hold-to-Light (HTL) post card included in it. When I opened a part-time stamp shop in November of 1972, I had already started to accumulate post cards for resale also. Mr. Bill Martin who lived in the area at the time (now a post card dealer in Maryland), got me more interested in post card dealing.
In 1974 I started thinking about the possibility of making a HTL post card for the U.S. Bicentennial. A stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service on July 4, 1974 would be a great subject for my first card. I asked Helen Brown, who was a local artist, to draw a sketch of the Independence Hall stamp that could be used for my first HTL card.
Linked will be reproductions of the original summary letters that were sent with each card when people ordered one or more copies:
To see enlargements of the cards, just click on the photos.
After making the "1976" card, I had acquired a distributorship selling Albany, NY chrome post cards and knew that I would not have the time needed to continue to make HTL's.
In 1981 I decided to try again. The subject of that card was to be Mt. Vernon in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of George Washington's birth. The drawing was completed, but technical difficulties and timing did not seem to work out, so that projected HTL never came to be.
In 1984 I was encouraged to try again, thanks to Kathy Danielsen in Illinois who wanted a full history of HTL's to date and wanted me to continue... so I tried again. The idea of a fully lit Christmas tree seemed "simple" to me, but finding an artist was a challenge. Thankfully, another local artist, Mark Rucker, was willing to draw the tree, and we were on our way...
After the 1984 card was completed, Gayle Polsinello, another artist with local ties, contacted me and offered to draw the 1985 card if I could suggest the general layout and topics. I had been frustrated with the printing problems while hand printing the "tree" in 1984 in that the cards had a hard time drying even when left in direct sunlight for 2 days.
This was to be my first chrome HTL. The process generally remained the same, but after gluing, the cards began to curl some. What to do? The only solution that I had was to keep the cards "under pressure" (squeezed together) until they were sold. The cards that I put in my personal albums stayed flat, but still that seemed to be because they were kept in a flat environment.
The Statue of Liberty HTL was totally different than any previous card. Certainly an artists conception wouldn't do this time. When in New York City, I purchased a 4" x 6" (Continental size) post card that seemed perfect for the design. I contacted the publisher, Alfred Mainzer, Inc. in Long Island City, NY and asked for permission to use their photo for this card.
Three highlights to this card for me were the first use of gold ink, the first use of black ink as a highlight on the second layer (Who would want a HTL that lit up black?), and the old idea of fading rays from the torch. While it didn't seem like much lit up when held to the light, there were a lot of colors involved in the printing. Some customers questioned the line below the number 6 of 1986, but that was a scratch on the photo plate as I received it from the printer, and all had it.
Certainly the 1986 Christmas HTL was the most difficult so far. Because of delays in my schedule and other difficulties, the cards weren't available until mid-October of 1986. I had been busy on the Statue of Liberty and couldn't keep up with all the work in producing another card so quickly (in addition to working full-time).
Alignment was extremely difficult on this card. As you can see by the card, we had nearly every Christmas symbol on the card. Candles, wreath, garland, stars and the Christmas tree all lit up in different colors. I was pleased with the results again, but the timing was just too late, and I lost money because of my late start. I finally learned that making dated cards just wouldn't work unless I had at least a full year to prepare.
As time went on, I published the "printing statistics" for the first five Hold-to-Light post cards. On the first two cards, the number printed was very nearly equal to the number sold. I know that I have a few of each of the first two cards in my collection and "around", but not for sale as such.
The number printed for the final four cards represents the last number printed, but not the last number sold, thus I still have some of those cards for sale.
Below are the final printing statistics for the six Hold-to-Light post cards:
Some people may have asked for a number for the 1986 Christmas by individual letter, but since copies of those letters are not available, I will be using the number 1,536 as the final number printed on that card from now on.
What about the future?
As I am composing this booklet , I am considering making new Hold-to-Light post cards again. I don't want to make any promises. As you have seen by the old letters that were inserted with each of the previous HTL's, the process is a long one.
The printing of the colors on the second layer of the card would still have to be done by hand on my printing press to keep the expenses as low as possible. Depending on the cost, a newer die-cutting process is now available which could improve the quality of the cards, but again, the price will be the determining factor.
Hopefully I will be able to find an artist that can draw the designs that I have in mind, but there are far more subjects than could ever be produced! I still would like suggestions, but already know that I can't produce HTL's for individual cities or local special events. The cards will have to be of interest to people from all over the nation and world.
While my current thinking would stop the "dating" of cards, I don't want to eliminate a special dated event card in the future, if a special anniversary comes to mind.
If you have any suggestions, be sure to contact me!
Written in the Spring of 1994
Since I wrote this booklet in 1994, Gayle Polsinello drew 2 additional items for me to make into Hold-to-Light post cards. (Per my designed suggestion) They are still sitting in my house, but I got involved in Testimony Newsletter, then Avis Cards, so did not try to make additional cards in addition to those projects and my full-time employment.
The cards are two layer cards that you "Hold to the Light" and the die-cut windows light up.
While I am not making these cards anymore, I still have some on hand of most designs. Let me know if you are interested in purchasing one. The last four are currently selling for $6. each. The proceeds will be going towards this ministry.