My readers are pretty good at solving encrypted postcards. However, the two specimens I am going to introduce today look pretty hard to decipher, as the messages are pretty short.

The first question I want to ask today is not about encryption but about the English language. Can somebody explain me what the motif and the text on the following postcard mean?


Does “9.50 per” refer to the hourly wage of the flower sales woman? If so, what does the question mean?


A very short encrypted love message?

I found this postcard on the website of Nick Gessler, a professor at Duke University and crypto collector, whom I have met several times at the Charlotte International Cryptologic Symposium. The next issue of this event will take place in March 2018. I hope, Nick will again bring along a number of his crypto collectibles, like a cast-iron cipher cylinder from the 1920s or a Beyer pocket cryptograph.

Let’s now look at the text side of the postcard:


As we see, the message written on the left side is encrypted. It consists of only five words, which gives us little material to analyse. Can a reader break this cryptogram anyway?

Apparently, the recipient of the card was a Velma Camel living in Hanford, CA, a town between Los Angeles and San Francicso. The stamp contains a date, but it’s hard to read. The sender is unknown, but I’m pretty sure that he was the lover of Velma Camel (about 90 percent of the encrypted postcards I know are love messages written by young men to their spouses).

To my surprise, the word “Germany” can be read in the left lower corner. The word “Serie” (series) is German, too. Does this mean that this postcard was produced in Germany, although the motif is English?


Another short message

There’s another short cryptogram I found online when googling for encrypted postcards. Here it is:


This scan stems from the The British Postal Museum & Archive blog. According to the blog post, the postcard and its solution are explained in a podcast episode. However, the link to this podcast is dead.

Can a reader solve this ciphertext, although only an excerpt is available?

Further reading: Who can solve this encrypted postcard from Christmas 1906?


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Kommentare (17)

  1. #1 Annette
    23. Februar 2018

    The postcard to Velma clearly reads “Dear Velma I love you”.

  2. #2 JA
    23. Februar 2018

    The top one says: DEAR VELMA I LOVE YOU
    It’s a standard masonic alphabet with the top row reading AJS, BKT, CLU… The V in Velma is missing a dot, but this is a common mistake.

  3. #3 Rossignol
    Paris - France
    23. Februar 2018

    The text on the first postcard is
    Dear Velma
    I love you

  4. #4 Klaus Schmeh
    23. Februar 2018

    Brett Zingler via Facebook:
    The second one is pigpen and says “Dear Velma I Love You”.

  5. #5 Gerhard F. Strasser
    23. Februar 2018

    Great work–the cryptogram looked like a masonic alphabet. A propos post card printed in Germany: Before WWI (the 1-cent post card postage went up to 2 cents in 1917), and even between the wars, “high quality” (color or colorized) cards were often imported in the US from Germany.

  6. #6 Lercherl
    23. Februar 2018

    My interpretation of the first postcard: the flower girl thinks her customer is a prostitute who charges 9.50 for a trick, which is a plausible figure according to this source:

    Prostitutes in a 1916 study reported earnings between $30 to $50 per week, at a time when skilled male trade union members averaged roughly $20.

    The flower girl herself probably made 9 cents per hour rather than 9 dollars.

  7. #7 Rallinger
    23. Februar 2018

    The logo says this card was printed by Ottmar Zieher Kunst- und Verlagsanstalt, München-Leipzig.

    It was drawn by Clare Victor Dwiggins and it’s part of a set with the same punchline.

    The line ‘How can you do it on 9.50 per?” means something like “Living a high life” or “travelling high on the hog” (in german “Auf großem Fuß leben.”) with only 9.50 per week.

    BTW, here’s another card of the set that was apparently also sent with a coded message:

  8. #8 Armin
    23. Februar 2018

    The second card could be the confirmation of a rendezvous. The followig text would fit the pattern:

    In the ?AL?S
    at the USUAL

    ,where “?AL?S” would be the name of a place (cafe, restaurant). Not easy to find the correct name with so few ciphertext material.

  9. #9 Rich SantaColoma
    24. Februar 2018

    On the missing blog entry, I used the wayback machine to identify the author: Guy Atkins. He writes a blog on postcards, and has a category: Codes. I didn’t see the card in your image on the list of Code posts, but perhaps a note to him would help. Meanwhile, he has some interesting coded post cards:

  10. #10 Rich SantaColoma
    24. Februar 2018

    I found the video, with the card, on his site. Here is a screenshot of the whole card:


    Here is the link to the post with the video discussion of his card collection, including this card:

  11. #11 ...
    24. Februar 2018

    While the original podcast seems to be gone, The Postal Museum has uploaded all podcasts to an mp3 site. The relevant episode is here:

    Downloading the “ringtone” will give you the full episode as an mp3 file.

  12. #12 Thomas
    24. Februar 2018

    The encrypted words in the second part of the postcard in Rich’s screenshot (#10, great find!): SAMMY, ADAM, YOURSELF. Does that make sense?

  13. #13 Thomas
    24. Februar 2018

    The first encrypted word in the plaintext found by Armin could be completed to ‘WALKS’, which is a historic park in King’s Lynn But the distance to Dorchester (adress and postmark) is about 200 miles…

  14. #14 Thomas
    24. Februar 2018

    Oh no, not The Walks in King’s Lynn, that was too far away, but most likely “The Walks” in Dorchester were meant. E.g. there was a postcard from 1901 showing “The Grove” (see the address of the postcard in post #10) and “The New Walks” in Dorchester (, No. 5).

  15. #15 Rich SantaColoma
    25. Februar 2018

    Hi Thomas: You wrote, “The encrypted words in the second part of the postcard in Rich’s screenshot (#10, great find!): SAMMY, ADAM, YOURSELF. Does that make sense?”

    From looking at your suggestion, that would make the two letter cipher on the second line, probably, “at”. It was one of the two letter words I myself had tried there… but then discarded because “Adam” was one of the best words for your choice, but still didn’t seem to fit: “… it was not he that ‘Adam'”? but then, I could see it as “…it was not he that Adam have you been talking to.”

    Your suggestion would explain the lack of a “?” at the end of that line… that it is not a question, after all, just a different way of expressing that statement.

    I’ll play with it more, later, using your ideas as a base. Did you get further with it? Good luck…

    But I think your choices are still the best. So if that is the cipher for “T”, as in “at”, what do you think of the rest?

  16. #16 Thomas
    25. Februar 2018


    The rest: Armin has solved it, #8
    The complete text:

    “In the Walks at the usual time tonight.
    I asked Sammy and he said it was not he that Adam have you been talking to yourself since Monday.”

  17. #17 Rich SantaColoma
    25. Februar 2018

    Thomas… I would say you and Armin solved it together. And congrats!