Yesterday morning at 5:17 EST, a Czech man named Tommy registered the 60 millionth Postcrossing postcard. The card came from Veronika in Belarus, and showed two cartoon characters. That’s it on the right.
This milestone means that since the project began in 2005, Postcrossing members like me have received 60 million postcards from each other, all around the world, each of them a little slice of art, culture, architecture, or nature from a distant place. Some are typical tourist cards; others are artwork, movie stills, animal pictures, humorous cards, handmade cards, vintage cards, and other types.
Postcrossing is easy. You join the free website and are encouraged to write a profile that can include whatever you want: who you are and where you live, what you do, what you like, what kinds of postcards you’d love to receive, what you’d love to know about other people and places, or anything else you want to share. It’s not required, but it helps other members select cards they think you’ll enjoy and write messages that might be of interest to you. The official language of Postcrossing is English, so profiles and cards should be written in English unless the recipient indicates that he or she is open to receiving cards in other languages. Some Postcrossers also write their profiles in both English and their own native languages.
When you tell the site you’re ready to send a card, it gives you a Postcrosser’s profile, with an address to send to. (Profiles can be seen by any Postcrosser, but the address if visible only to a member who is sending the card.) You choose a card, write a message on it, and drop it in the mail. After the card is received and registered, your name will come up when a different Postcrosser asks for someone to send to. You can have several postcards traveling at the same time; the more you’ve sent, the more you’re allowed to send. Details are on the site. If you’re worried about the expense (joining is free, but postage can really add up), you can limit the number of postcards you send, to keep your costs down.
Postcrossing offers some fun extras, all of them optional. If you and the person you’re sending to would like to exchange addresses and continue corresponding, that’s completely up to the two of you; it isn’t part of the Postcrossing process. Some Postcrossers like to send or receive little gifts (with postcards sent in an envelope). They might mention in their profiles that they love receiving teabags, extra stamps from your country, cardboard beer coasters, seed packets, and other small items. You don’t have to comply with such requests, but it can be a fun way to connect. There is also a Postcrossing blog that spotlights individual Postcrossers and includes fun postal-related news, and a forum that lets members talk on a variety of related subjects. Some local Postcrossing groups have in-person meetings too (or did, before the pandemic). But I’d guess that most Postcrossers stick with the basics and just mail and receive cards, and that’s OK too.
I joined in 2009 and in that time have sent 5,194 postcards (actually more than that, but they don’t get counted until they are received and registered) and have received about the same number. That means that of the 72,624 Postcrossing members in the United States, I rank 59th in most postcards sent. (At one point I was up to 12th, but I don’t send nearly as many cards as I used to.) So far, I’ve connected with Postcrossers in exactly 100 countries. Postcrossing has more then 800,000 members in 206 countries, so I have a lot more possible postcard connections to look forward to. I love receiving cards from around the world (and from the U.S.), but I think that my favorite part of Postcrossing is choosing the perfect postcard for each person. Of course, I’ve been a member for 12 years, so I’ve had a lot of time to amass a varied collection.
When Portuguese student Paulo Magalhães created the website in 2005, his goal was to create an international community of people of all ages, races, genders, and beliefs, who would connect with each other through postcards. It took off in a way that galloped past his wildest expectations. It took nearly three years to reach 1 million cards sent. But it took only two years to go from 50 million in December 2018 to 60 million this week. Postcrossers are on a roll!
Here is a page about the history of the project, for those who would like to know more.