Wednesday, March 27, 2013

From Playing Card to Business Card

Without the development of the printing press in 1445 the Renaissance may never have happened, and Johann Gutenberg the inventor certainly did not know he was sowing the seeds of the business card entrepreneur's bonanza we have today. What civilisation gained from Gutenberg's invention is incalculable.

Visting Cards

Visiting cards (also known as calling cards) first appeared in China in the 15th century, and the earliest European form of visiting cards appeared in France in the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV - "Le Roi Soleil". They were normal playing cards on which visitors wrote their signatures, promissory notes and other messages. The cards were just a little smaller than the size of a man's hand. As time went by, these visiting cards further developed into greeting and other cards.

The business card evolved from the Visiting card over time, but through it's evolution it's purpose remains the same.

Trade Cards

Trade cards, another early form of the Business card, existed in England around the same time. Trade cards were used as a form of advertising and sometimes contained a map directing potential customers to merchant stores, as there was no form of street numbering system at the time.

Other printing materials, such as newspapers, has not yet caught on as a vehicle for business marketing, so the earliest Trade cards were printed and issued using a letterpress method. However, copperplate engraving became the most popular method of producing the cards by the 18th century, and up to the 19th century, Trade cards were printed using a single colour (monotone). But as businesses thrived throughout the Industrial Revolution, so did the production and distribution of Trade cards.


Around 1830, lithography using several colours became an established method in Europe and was the primary method for printing cards. As printing techniques became increasingly advanced, Trade cards became more elaborate, with pictures and full colour designs. Since colour images were not widely available, these cards became collector's items, and as the hobby elevated, many tobacco companies put the sporting celebrities on one side and photos with text about their products on the reverse. This was the start of the modern day trading cards. Meanwhile, Visiting Cards arrived in Europe around the middle of the 1800's.

Calling Cards arrived

Visiting Cards, or "Calling Cards" as they became known, were essential to the 19th century middle classes.
The initial letters on personal Visiting "Calling Cards" denote French words:

p. f. - congratulations (pour feliciter)

p. r. - expressing one's thanks (pour remercier) - even if one is presented with flowers

p. c. - mourning expression (pour condolence)

p. f. N. A - Happy New Year (pour feliciter Nouvel An)

p. p. c. - meaning to take leave (pour prendre conge)

p. p. - if you want to be introduced to anybody, send your visiting card (pour presenter)

Soon, the Business card evolved from a fusion of traditional trade cards and visiting cards. A distinction between "business" and "visiting" cards quickly developed with the ornate Visiting card serving social obligations only, whilst Business cards on the other hand, were used solely for promoting business. It was considered to be in very poor taste to use a Business card when making a social call.

These days, the modern business card is used primarily for the purpose of promoting a business, but it also serves as a calling card.

First Salesman's Business card

Whilst Visiting Cards were at first the domain of the upper classes, and trade cards were made to advertise and promote particular firms, the salesman who did the footwork calling on prospective clients needed a means to exchange information in a simple, concise manner. To fill this void the Business card was introduced with address or telephone contact information in fancy printing and graphics.

Today, the salesman's Business card takes on many forms, including custom die cut shapes and sizes, with glossy coatings and top quality photo graphics.

Business Card Printers Turn to Plastic

Known for their durability, plastic business cards were manufactured using a variety of plastic substrates, including but not limited to: Polystyrene, Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Polycarbonate, Polyester and synthetic Papers.

20th century advances in printing technologies and synthetic materials made it possible to print liquid inks onto plastics. In addition to the wide range of commercial applications of this technology.

Today in the 21st century the more adventurous entrepreneur Business card printer has developed an array of sophisticated products. These include Silk art board, single and double sided Business cards, quality labels, complimentary slips, letterheads for all industries in superior quality papers, and laminated single and double sided Postcards for all occasions. All of which can be designed on line and uploaded to your personal computer. A boon to the busy firm requiring special needs.

For the rest of the world, the exchange of business cards has become common even for social introductions. Even today, some people still carry "personal" Business cards which contain only personal contact information and have no relation to their employer or business.

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