The Four Printings
There were four different printings of 10,000 cards each, except the first where 20,000 were printed. The printings were issued in the follow dates:
- Between July and August, 1880.
- June 18, 1883
- February 1884
- Between March and April, 1885.
Based on my research, the second and third printings were definitively printed in the workshops of La Opinión Nacional and it is very possible that the other printings were also printed there but I haven’t found, yet, definitive proof of that.
La Opinión Nacional, originally just a newspaper founded by Fausto Teodoro de Aldrey, became the spokesman of the newly formed government of Guzmán Blanco in 1870, publishing not just the greatness of El Regenerador but also La Gaceta Oficial, medium use to publish the official decrees. It quickly expanded its product catalog to include invitation cards and, as we now know, our first Formula Cards. It was the first printing house in Venezuela that used steam presses (designed and sold to the Venezuelan government by the french company property of Hermann-Lachapelle).
For the Second Printing, the government paid Bs. 280 to Juan Luis Aldrey, acting director of La Opinión Nacional, on June 16th, 1883. They received the cards on June 18th, 1883.
For the Third Printing, the government paid another Bs. 280 but this time to Teófilo Aldrey Jimenez, General Administrator of La Opinión Nacional, on February 1884, the same month they received the 10,000 cards. I haven’t found the exact date.
For the Fourth Printing I couldn’t find the exact dates either but I found that for January 1st, 1885 there were only 1,167 cards in the Public Instruction General Treasury (PIGT), guardian entity of stamps and “postal cards” for this period. A few months later, in July 1st of the same year, there where 9,032 cards and no records of the general treasure receiving cards from the subordinate treasuries (for this year or any year previous or after this one). That necessary means that there was a printing happening during those six months.
A similar deduction had to be done for the First Printing. I couldn’t find the original records were the cards were authorized or received however I found a cite in the Report and Accounts of the Ministry of Public Instruction for 1882 where they mentioned that there were no numbers for the postal cards because “they were issued and sold during the current year that started last July”. I also found that for July 1st 1882 there were 8,060 cards in the PIGT. In addition to this, I happen to have a formula card dated September 6, 1880. From all of these facts we can safely deduct that there was a printing between July 1st, 1880 and September 6th, 1880.
The Challenge: How to tell them apart?
There are a few tricks we can use to differentiate cards quickly.
For instance, the First Printing has the best printing all-round of them all: The outer frame is well-aligned in the corners, it is usually well-centered and the cards’ width itself is pretty consistent at 130x92mm. The cuts are clean, likely done by a machine.
The Fourth Printing is the easiest one to tell apart: It is the larger in size of all the printings, averaging 134x96mm. However, if that’s too complex, you can take a look at the words “TARJETA POSTAL”. If they are in solid, fancy letters, the card belongs to the fourth printing.
The Second and Third Printings are the hardest cards to tell apart. Both have misaligned corners, rough cuts likely done by a manual guillotine, and off-centered cards.
I highly recommend to use a catalog for them (I know a nice one that I highly recommend!).