Strange Greeting Cards I Have Known

Cats with cigars. Comfort for the newly divorced. I explore the wild world of greeting cards!


March 2014

I typically limit my fixations to Internet media, but lately I’m fascinated by “real life” greeting cards. Greeting cards are like congealed zeitgeist. They’re personalized memes for sale.

Unlike memes, greeting cards are intended for one person. They’re usually meant to express comfort, support, and/or love. Most Americans know what the typical greeting card is like. It is exceptionally inoffensive and quotidian, and it says something like “Happy birthday and many happy returns!”

Here’s an example of the typical greeting card message, although the actual card edges towards weirdness:

And then… then there are the really weird ones. I have been hunting these Weird Ones, tracking them through their habitat of indie bookstores and hipster boutiques. Behold my Instagram trophies:

Number One

This is probably my favorite greeting card of all time, yet I have no idea what the creator intended it for. I found it in a small stationery shop in Alameda and, to my eternal regret, I did not buy one. Nor did I record the shop’s name. I have only this photo to remind me of my greatest find.

I wish I’d bought 200 of these cigar-wielding cats. If I ever get married, they’d make great wedding invitations.

Praying Skeleton

This praying-skeleton card is from a hipster stationery shop near the Seattle waterfront. Like the cat with the cigar, I cannot imagine what this card is intended to mean. In what context would you send this card? Who would you send it to?

Sorry About Your Divorce

I like this divorce comfort card, actually. It’s relatively tasteful, considering its content. (I seem to recall that it’s on sale at Diesel Bookstore in Oakland.)

Better Than Facebook

The modern greeting card struggles to justify its existence in the face of social media. (This one’s from Merch, on San Francisco’s Haight Street.)

Heart Harvest

If a tree grows hearts in the forest, and they fall into your picnic basket, then can you be prosecuted for organ trafficking? (Via San Francisco’s Aardvark Bookshop.)

Your First Marriage

And finally: This one’s my second favorite. (It, too, is from Merch.)

Inevitably, I am not the first person to document ridiculous greeting cards, because Internet. In fact, apparently there was once a relevant blog, but it stopped updating in 2010. I was unimpressed by most of the cards listed there, but this one is sheer class:

Last but not least, I give you some astonishing 1955 artifacts — images from Christmas postcards that were intended to reach both the Japanese and American markets. I’ll start with the back of the postcard…

Ready? Here’s the front!

The greeting card company that produced this masterpiece failed (I can’t imagine why). But you can buy modern copies at the creator’s grandson’s website!

Update: One of my friends let me know that the American Christmas Devil was part of a Japanese trend of anatomical drawing of fictional monsters. There are more examples here.

I got my start in digital media at age 15, when I was invited to intern at a game design company. I went on to write games for White Wolf Game Studio; from there, I branched out into blogs, articles, a few books, and general social media mayhem. I have spoken at universities across America and at South By Southwest Interactive. I have also traveled extensively, including Peace Corps service in Swaziland, Africa.

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