Souvenir sheets are distinguished from cards in several ways: they contain postage stamps that can be legitimately
used in the mail and they are printed on text weight paper similar to stamps (as opposed to card stock). They are
also usually gummed on the back. Many souvenir sheets were issued imperforate, but more often they have perforations
around the stamps. Perforations are almost never found on souvenir cards.
Souvenir sheets are typically released to note an event (usually philatelic) so they can be deemed souvenirs, but
because they are postally valid they are cataloged as stamps not souvenir cards.
Seen in person, souvenir pages don't seem much like souvenir cards, but the term itself can be confusing.
These were first issued by the US Postal Service in 1972; they changed the name to "American Commemorative
Cancellation Pages" in 2002. These pages are offset printed on 8" x 10.5" sheets of tinted bond paper,
with a picture of the stamp(s) at top and an actual stamp at the bottom attached to the page and first-day
cancelled. (The printed picture was removed after 2001.) The page also includes details about the production
and topic of the stamp. Not cards, not really souvenirs, and not included in the SCCS catalog.
Back in the late 1890s picture postcards were first becoming popular in the United States. The term "postcard"
had not yet been firmly established, so these were known by a number of terms, including "mail cards,"
"private mailing cards," "souvenir mailing cards," and just "souvenir cards." The American Souvenir Card
Company was one of the largest printers of picture postcards, producing hundreds of designs over about 15 years.
Souvenir post cards are not considered souvenir cards in the modern sense, as they were intended for postal
use and were produced by commercial printers. Souvenir cards listed by the SCCS were issued by security
printing entities or national hobby organizations.
Also known as maxi-cards, these started out postcard-sized and featured a first-day cancelled stamp along with
an enlargement of the stamp. They are popular with collectors of first day covers. In Europe and elsewhere,
these were often issued by government postal agencies, but in the U.S. they are privately produced. Maximum
cards have gotten larger over time and the term has also grown to include cards that feature special cancellations,
not just first day. They are no longer limited to enlarged stamp designs, but generally show corresponding
thematic artwork. They are not considered souvenir cards, as they aren't souvenirs of an event, apart from
the issuance of a stamp.
VonCorp printed a large series of "Educards" for stamp collectors in the 1970s and '80s. These were not
engraved, but were high quality color enlargements of U.S. postage stamps and essays. They came with write-ups
and historical data about the stamps in an effort to educate collectors. Though printed on card stock about
the same size as souvenir cards, they were never intended to be souvenirs.
USPS Commemorative Panels
The U.S. Postal Service started putting these out in 1972 to capitalize on collector demand for their
commemorative stamps. They contracted American Bank Note Co. to create each panel with usually three
engraved vignettes, thematically related. Then the USPS would attach a block of mint stamps and seal
them in plastic. These are still being sold today, but the intaglio printing stopped after 2001.
These panels are printed on card stock, roughly the same size as souvenir cards (8.5" x 11.25"), by a
security printer for a government agency. But they aren't souvenirs of anything and as such they aren't
cataloged as souvenir cards. Let's just call them kissing cousins.
American Bank Note Archive Series
For six years (1987-92) ABNC put out annual portfolios each containing 12 panels devoted to different topics
like trains, Native Americans, animals, rural America, etc. Each panel featured five to ten engraved vignettes,
portraits or stamp reprints. It's a spectacular series.
The individual panels often show up on Ebay without much explanation. They are the same size as the USPS
Commemorative Panels, also on card stock, so they can easily be mistaken for some type of souvenir card. Again,
however, they are not souvenirs of any occasion, so they don't meet the criteria, but they do merit catalog
numbers. You can find them in the SCCS catalog as SOA1987(a,b,c,d.), etc.
BEP Portrait/Vignette Cards
The Bureau of Engraving & Printing has printed examples of their work on cards going back to the 1870s.
These were often bound into
and presented to dignitaries, but some individual prints of portraits and vignettes were also sold. In the
1960s, the BEP started reprinting portraits of chief justices and presidents, and vignettes of historical
buildings, mostly in DC. Some of these
remain on sale today;
they are fairly inexpensive.
These cards usually have only the portrait name or vignette title and don't commemorate an event, so they are
not considered souvenir cards, but they have been given catalog numbers in the SCCS numbering system. There
are more than 85 different engravings.
Non-souvenir intaglio prints
Numerous prints have been made from engraved plates formerly property of bank note printing firms. The sale of
the American Bank Note Company Archives in the 1990s released a large number of these plates into the collector
marketplace. Some have been subsequently used to print souvenir cards in various categories, but they have also
been printed in large and small quantities with no connection to any show or event. Consequently they are not
catalogued as souvenir cards.
Certificates of merit and diplomas
American Bank Note and other banknote engraving companies produced certificates like these for institutions
and organizations to mark a specific achievement. These are typically printed on card stock and some are similar
in size to souvenir cards, though some may be quite large, like these examples of a grammar school diploma
and masonic certificate. Although you could argue these are souvenirs of a graduation ceremony or award
presentation, certificates like these are intended to honor individuals not for public distribution, so they
are not considered souvenir cards.
Intaglio greeting cards
In the early 1980s, American Bank Note put out a series of greeting cards, each featuring an engraved vignette.
These were folded and blank on the inside. There were five different sets on various themes, from ships to horses.
More recently, Mike Bean has printed his own line of blank greeting cards, using old ABNC printing plates - some
of these same vignettes show up on souvenir cards Mike also printed in various categories. Many souvenir card
enthusiasts added these greeting cards to their collections but they are not souvenirs and are not included in
the SCCS numbering system.
— Greg Alexander