Postcrossing celebrates five years of postcard revolution

There’s something very special about sending or receiving a postcard. It’s one of the simple joys of travel, yet in the age of email, Skype, and social networking, you’d think the old-fashioned postcard would have become a thing of the past.

It hasn’t. Thanks to Postcrossing, a postcard trading organization, postcards are undergoing a revival. Postcrossing turns five years old this week and in that short time it has racked up some staggering statistics–more than 4.7 million postcards have been sent by more than 190,000 members to about 200 countries. Those postcards have logged 25,771,990,953 km. That’s 643,093 laps around the world!

One odd aspect of Postcrossing is that most correspondents are complete strangers. Postcrossing wants to start a “postcard revolution” by getting people to start sending more postcards, not just to their friends and family, but to random fans around the world.

Postcrossing is free to join. Members put their address into a secure database. When you request to send a card, another member’s address is sent to you. Once your card is received and registered, you’re next in line to get a card from another stranger! It’s a lot of fun and a good way to spread international friendship and teach geography to your kids. I and at least one other Gadling blogger are Postcrossing members. So if you’re tired of only receiving junk mail in your mailbox, give Postcrossing a try.

In case you’re wondering, this is the mailbox just outside the post office in Harar, Ethiopia. That’s the left arm of yours truly sending some cards to my son and some fellow Postcrossing members.

Postcard fans trade four million cards

Who says snail mail is dying?

Postcrossing is an organization where strangers from different countries can trade postcards. Once you get a free membership, you can request to send a card and another member’s address is sent to you, along with a unique country-coded number. You pick a card, write a message along with the code, and mail it. Once the recipient gets the card and registers it on the site, you’re next in line to get a card from a different stranger.

With almost 170,000 members from 209 countries, it’s a fast-growing club of postcard fans. So fast growing, in fact, that today they reached the landmark of trading four million cards. They only reached two million cards barely a year ago, so this idea is really catching on.

We’ve posted about Postcrossing in more detail here, and revealed the names of some Gadling bloggers past and present who are members. As one of them I can say it’s a lot of fun and a great way to teach your kids about the world. So if you like getting and sending postcards, give it a try and help Postcrossing get to five million cards sometime before the end of 2010.

Postcards have been around since the late 1800s. The card included here dates from 1919 and shows a place in Richmond, Virginia where three rail lines crossed one another. Personally I love the look of vintage cards, and many fellow Postcrossing members have received them from me.

Postcards from strangers

One of the coolest things about having lots of friends who travel is getting postcards from around the world. Sadly, letter and postcard writing don’t seem to be as common as they used to be. Much of the stuff coming through the mailbox these days is either bills or junk mail. Going to the mailbox has gotten to be a drag.

An organization called Postcrossing is trying to change that. This free group allows members to trade cards with strangers. You log in and request to send a card, and someone’s address is sent to you, along with a unique country-coded number. You pick a card, write a nice message with the code included, and pop it in the mail. Once the recipient gets the card and registers it on the site by using the number, you’re put next in line to get a card from a different stranger. There’s also a forum where people can arrange “private swaps” for particular countries or images.

With more than 100,000 members in 196 countries, the idea is catching on. I’m a member, as is former Gadling blogger Abha Malpani. Earlier this year Postcrossing reached the milestone of two million postcards received and one active member has racked up a thousand just by himself.

Various Postcrossers have created interesting spinoff blogs about their obsession, such as Wild Postcards and A Postcard a Day. Warning: Wild Postcards is occasionally not work safe, as the blogger likes old pin-up cards. Nude women with mom hair. Yipe!

Postcrossing is a great way to get cards from around the world and set up trading exchanges with people you may never meet. Consider it a form of staycation. It’s fun for kids too. My three-year-old son is learning a lot about the world. He specifically wants postcards of cars and trains and about half the cards I get are meant for him!

Postcrossing: Turn Your Mailbox Into a Surprise Box

Simple ideas are always brilliant, and the idea behind Postcrossing may be the most brilliant yet. Members of Postcrossing follow a simple process:

  1. Request an address from the website.
  2. Mail a postcard to the address.
  3. Wait to receive a postcard in return.
  4. Register the received postcard in the system. This makes you the next person whose address will be given out.

By participating, members can receive postcards from all over the world and transform their mailbox — which usually only sees boring old refinance requests and bills — into a little surprise box. The really proactive members scan or photograph the postcards and upload the images to Flickr. With over half a million postcards already sent, there are currently 30,000+ postcards in transit.
I just signed up! If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll receive a postcard sent from an underwater mailbox!

[Via Vagabondish]