History of the Business Card

You use them everyday and they are as versatile as any tool in your arsenal, but just how much do you really know about business card history and evolution? In this short article we will briefly discuss business card history, development and some innovative ways that business card history has developed, turning them into effective promotional tools.

Business Card History evolved from a synthesis of traditional visiting cards and trading cards. Visiting cards first appeared in the 15th century and were used as a means for aristocrats and royalty to announce their arrival to their hosts. They quickly gained favor and became an obligatory part of proper visiting etiquette. Upper class families would have a card holder in their front hallway and the cards of visiting friends and acquaintances were placed into this holder as an index of visitors and an efficient means of introduction. Visiting Cards become an essential precursor to business card history.

Business Card History also comes from Trade Cards, which became popular at the beginning of the 17th century in London. They served as means to advertise specific businesses and usually included a map directing potential customers to the store, as there was no formal street addressing system in place at the time. Throughout business card history, printing techniques became increasingly advanced and more elaborate. Since color images were not widely available, these cards become a collector’s item of sorts. As the collection of these cards was elevated to a hobby, many tobacco companies began to put baseball players on one side and photos and text about their products on the reverse. This was the start of modern day trading cards and the basis for modern business card history.

While Visiting Cards remained the domain of the upper classes and trade cards were made specifically to advertise and promote particular firms, there was still a niche in the market that needed to be filled. Salesmen that called upon prospective clients or met at a trade show or social event needed a means to exchange information in a simple, concise manner. Business Card History states that cards were established to fill this void and was often pragmatic in their design. As business card history and the cards themselves continued to grow in popularity, their designs have become increasingly more intricate in step with advancements in printing processes. Business card history proves that today, cards take on many forms, including custom die cut shapes and sizes, with glossy coatings and fancy, photo quality graphics.

While they may seem like an "old school" way to promote you and your company, business card history shows that they remain an essential element to successfully publicizing and growing your business. Here are a few tips to effectively use a business card to your advantage.

  • When you give a business card, ask for one in return – This may seem like a simple exercise, but it makes good sense to seize this opportunity to make the other person feel important. Also, don’t just take the business card and put it in your pocket. Look it over, read their name a few times and after the meeting, write a quick line or two on the back, indicating where you met them and anything else to jog your memory later on. At the end of a 3 or 4 day conference, you will be glad you took this extra step.
  • Always have a supply on hand – You never know when you will come across a person or situation that may benefit you. Have business cards available at all times and don’t be afraid to pass them out when the moment is right.
  • Consider a catch phrase or slogan – While this may not work for everyone, you have to admit that catchy slogans do help brand a company in the public consciousness. If you can develop an effective slogan and add it to your business card, it will certainly help clients remember you and your firm.
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