What is a greeting card? A "clinical" definition might be - "A greeting card is an illustrated, folded card featuring an expression of friendship or other sentiment. Although greeting cards are usually given on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, or other holidays, they are also sent to convey thanks or express other feelings." (Wikipedia)
A perfectly valid description, but a bit generic. Let's give it some substance with a bit of history.
The sending of greeting cards dates back to the ancient Chinese who sent New Years greetings and to the Egyptians who sent greetings on papyrus scrolls. In the early 15th century, handmade paper cards were being exchanged in Eurooe. With Valentine's Day leading the way followed closely by Christmas.
The 1840's-1850's saw greeting cards become an affordable means of personal communication. This was due in part to advances in paper making and printing technology. The post office, with the introduction of the postage stamp in 1847 made mailing cards easier still.
The 1860's saw companies start up which were devoted to the mass production if greeting cards. The 1930's saw advancements in color printing technology, while the 1940's and 1950's saw a growth in humorous greeting cards, also called studio cards.
In the 1970's, smaller greeting card companies, such as Recycled Paper Greetings (RPGS), fought for their identity against the "Hallmark look". RPG created whimsical cards which, as the name implied, were printed on reveled paper and featured the artist's name on the card back. And the 1970's to 90's also saw a change in how cards got to consumers. At the retail level, sales to chain variety stores and drug and grocery stores increased while sales to card shops decreased. This shift from card shops to departments of other retail stores resulted in large part from changes in consumer habits, as people wanted to purchase cards at the same store where they made other purchases.
The 1980's saw "alternative" greeting cards, cards not necessarily designed for a specific event.
Tomorrow - Greeting cards = Big business!