The Post and Telegraph Department was the first to issue a picture postcard in New Zealand in December 1897. It carried four lithographed vignettes of well known scenic spots and was printed in London by Waterlow and Sons. Commercially published cards followed a year or two later, with businesses in New Plymouth and Queenstown leading the way.
Over the next few years collecting and exchanging picture postcards became a veritable craze in New Zealand, following the trend overseas. There was a collector in almost every family with friends and relatives participating by sending cards to one another. Cards were kept in special albums designed to display them.
In 1906 and 1907 postcard sales at the Christchurch Exhibition proved so popular that vending machines were set up to handle sales. Many of these cards received a special cancellation at a Post Office installed at the top of the Exhibition Tower in Hagley Park.
In 1908 it is reported that when 12,000 sailors from the American Great White Fleet came ashore in Auckland for their leave, they exhausted supplies of postcards in every shop in Queen Street.
During this collecting craze, millions of cards were produced depicting a myriad of topics. in 1909 five million postcards were posted in New Zealand, at a time when the population had just reached one million
In 1924, the Prime Minister, William Massey mooted the creation of a Postcard Week in New Zealand. His reason was simple. He wanted people to send postcards to their relatives in Great Britain, urging them to visit the New Zealand Court at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. Despite his plea, the idea never got off the ground.
After World War One postcard collecting virtually died out, with largely only scenic views produced to meet the needs of the public.
When colour film came back on to the market at the end of World war Two, firms A.H. and A.W. Reed and Whitcomb and Tombs brought out colour series that revitalised the industry. Foremost in this period were the photographs of Gladys Goodall who supplied images for postcards into the 1980s.
Recently there has been a further revival of interest with promotional postcards by advertising agencies.