There are collectors of restaurant and café menus, placemats and napkins, and there are collectors of the once-common wall calendar too. I am not one of them and in fact I don't really know of any collector who collects these items solely from Route 66 businesses. However I may occasionally acquire such an item if it seems particularly interesting and is available at a good price. The most common Route 66 collectibles are postcards followed by matchcovers as a much-distant second but I discuss them on other web pages of this website. Other collectible paper items from Route 66 include business cards, promotional pamphlets, guidebooks and decals. Some of these items are shown in the collage below.
My knowledge of business cards came from my professional working life which was from the very early 1970s into the 21st century. Of course I never considered business cards "collectible" in the sense that we use that term today. If you had such a need you or your employer would purchase a box of business cards from a printer. These cards were an accepted element of the commercial protocol of informational exchange and making contacts. As silly as it seems now I remember decades ago my excitement when my employer presented me with my very first box of business cards when I was a rookie employee straight out of college.
Business cards through this era were all pretty much the same. They were printed on a bright white cardstock that was flexible and always cut to 2" by 3˝". (Consistency in the size of business cards allowed the Rolodex® Company to design their ingenious rotary file gadget to handle them all.) Most professional business cards were printed with black ink although some had an added color that was required usually for a company logo. A few business cards, usually ones from retail stores, were printed on fancier or slightly colored or patterned cardstock. Nearly all business cards from the late twentieth century were printed on one side only, the other being left blank. I do remember a few exceptions: some salespeople, known in my industry as "reps," represented several product lines from multiple small companies when they came calling (as opposed to a salesperson who was an employee or authorized agent of one particular company and was dedicated to promoting just that one company's products or services) and often the back of these "rep" business cards listed the product lines and companies that they represented. I also remember the business cards from some sales people who worked for companies based outside of the USA. One side of their business card would be printed in English and the other would be printed in their native language. (In the case of sales staff from Japanese companies, the back side of their business card would be printed with Kanji or Katakana characters!)
Well, that was then and this is now the 21st century. In the last dozen years anyone with a computer and printer can use software to design and print their own business cards at home. People today often go all out with color and graphics and may even include photographic-based images on their business cards. Contemporary home-made business cards are usually printed on a thinner, more flexible cardstock than used in the past because most home printers can not handle the traditional heavier cardstock material. But there are also many Web-based services that allow anyone to create business cards at home on their computer and then upload the file and order their own business cards mailed to their door a week or two later.
And so was my limited knowledge of business cards until I began collecting postcards in the 1990s. I noticed that occasionally among the postcards in dealers' boxes were these small items that looked like mini-postcards. What were they? On one side was a picture image like a little linen postcard or a little chrome postcard but printing on the other side was often like a business card. Most of these cards were sized similar in length to the modern business card (3˝") but the height or short dimension varied more, usually in the range of 2" to 2˝". I have talked to some postcard dealers at local venues and apparently there exists no official name for these types of cards. Several dealers informally refer to them as "miniatures" which is what I will call these miniature picture cards on this website until I find out a better name for them. I eventually discovered full size postcards with the same images of most of these miniatures. (For some of these miniatures I still have not seen a full-size postcard that matches the image but maybe I will someday.) Unlike nearly every printed postcard that I have seen, none of the miniatures in my small collection have a publisher name indicated but I have to think that the postcard manufacturers somehow made these cards. After all, a postcard manufacturer would have direct access to the image itself and the cardstock material and would have a process that allowed printing on both sides of the cardstock, and so could probably print the miniature relatively easily and quickly. The odd thing is that I have never seen a discussion about these miniatures among the books and internet websites on postcard manufacturers so I can not authoritatively state their origin. Does anyone know?
These miniatures seem to have performed some of the functions of a business card of today. I scanned twenty-two miniatures from Route 66 businesses below, both front and back, so you can get an idea of the variety of the back sides. The front and back sides of each miniature are butted up against each other below. Some back sides have fairly straightforward business card-like text, many have mileage tables, and one even has a map. The first twelve miniatures are linen cards (artist-drawn artwork and printed on a textured cardstock) and the last ten miniatures are chrome cards (smooth surface and usually photo-like). The miniatures are arranged in each group from west to east. All of these miniatures are about 3˝" long but the height varied from 2" to 2˝". I cheated and trimmed the pictures of the few taller miniatures so they uniformly fit into the display array below. The miniature for the Cactus Motor Lodge is something like a sepia postcard. The miniatures for the El Rancho in Barstow, the Blue Spruce Lodge in Gallup, and the La Loma Lodge in Santa Rosa are like early chrome postcards, using artist-drawn artwork but printed with a smooth-surface chrome process. I assume that these miniatures were printed about the same time as the similar full-size postcard.
While researching these miniature picture business cards I encountered more traditional printed business cards. Below is a collage of printed business cards from some Route 66 establishments. This collage consists of images that I found on the internet and from the collections of Mike Ward and my own. Some are the same size as the modern business card (2" by 3˝") and a few are slightly larger. But some are even larger, about 2˝" by 4", and a few are larger yet so we can not say that business cards from Route 66 traveler-oriented establishments were a consistent size. A majority were printed on white cardstock (many of these cards have aging or toning so the cardstock either looks dingy gray or slightly tan or yellow below) but quite a few cards were printed on colored cardstock. Most were printed using just black ink but there are examples where brown, dark blue, green and red ink are used. Three were printed in multiple colors.