With Father’s Day this weekend, many Americans are bound to make last-minute trips to find that perfect humorous card for good ol’ Dad.
Not my roommate. She has a stockpile of greeting cards that she buys not for a specific occasion, not to send to a particular person. She purchases cards just because.
Or maybe you buy cards like my mother. “Remind me to get a card for Aunt Tracy,” she’d say as we strolled into the mall when I was a kid. Then she would spend what felt like hours perusing the shelves, looking for a card with the perfect touch of corny.
But whatever your card-choosing strategy, here are five things you may not have known about greeting cards.
1. Americans buy a ton of greeting cards
While greeting card sales have gradually declined since the advent of e-cards and other digital modes of communication, Americans still buy about 6.5 billion cards each year. The most popular card-giving occasions are for birthdays and Christmas, according to the Greeting Card Association. Women buy 80 percent of all greeting cards.
2. Pets’ names often appear on cards
You’ve probably received many cards with messages like this: Happy birthday! Love, Mark, Joan, Bobby, Susie and Taffy. Many people view their pets as if they were part of the family, so it makes sense they would include pet names on cards. An American Animal Hospital Association survey found that 70 percent of people include their pet’s name on greeting cards.
3. The name “Hallmark” was inspired by goldsmiths
The ancient Chinese would send cards to celebrate the New Year, as did the Egyptians, who would mark papyrus scrolls with messages. In Europe, people began giving handmade paper cards for Valentine’s Day around the early 1400s. But cards really took off in the 1850s as the printing press made card production quicker and cheaper.
And that little company called Hallmark? The Hall Brothers card company was founded in 1910 by Joyce Clyde Hall and his brother in Kansas City, Mo. They crafted picture postcards for about five years until sales declined, and they began making greeting cards in response to people’s desire for more private communication. The word “hallmark” was used by goldsmiths to describe a “mark of quality.” It fit perfectly, and the company name was changed in 1928. Hallmark was also the first to display cards on shelves standing up. Before that they were placed in drawers.
4. The Louie Awards recognize the best cards annually
The International Greeting Cards Award Competition, or the Louies, have recognized the best cards each year since 1988. The Louies are named after Louis Prang, a German immigrant who is credited with producing one of the first lines of Christmas cards in the U.S., in 1875. Submissions to the Louies are blind-judged on originality, impact, design excellence, sendability and value, and winners are announced in May during the National Stationery Show (yes, that’s a thing) in New York City. The Card of the Year in 2014 featured a picture of a dog with a red velvet cupcake wrapper in its mouth.
5. Millennials reject greeting card technology
Millennials are also eschewing e-cards and seeking a feeling of nostalgia in card-giving. As a result, fancy, often pricey cards from sites such as Etsy are gaining popularity, perhaps in response to digital communication exhaustion. Older generations, however, seem content to send e-cards. Or if you’re like my roommate, you love a spontaneous trip to Papyrus.