Back in the mid-1950's, doctors in the United States began receiving colorful postcards from
exotic locations around the world advertising a popular anesthetic drug known as Pentothal
Sodium. Its manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories of Illinois, developed a scheme to mail a
postcard every couple of weeks to hundreds of thousands of doctors and health facilities on
its giant mailing list, first to US addresses and then others abroad.
Each card starts with the salutation, "Dear Doctor," hence the nickname of these collectibles
sometimes referred to as "Dear Doctor" cards, followed by a message regarding the virtues of
the drug. By the way, you probably know the drug by its more common name, truth serum, made
popular in movies and TV shows during the spy era! This was "junk mail" at its finest.
There has been rather little written about these cards by either or deltiologists (postcard
collectors) or philatelists (stamp collectors). But each group will find them interesting,
as did their lucky recipients.
The cards all bear native scenes depicting the people, places, or culture of the country it
was mailed from. They came from every corner of the globe, including such locales as
Antarctica, French Polynesia, Panama, and Spanish Sahara.
Each was mailed the cheapest way by surface (boat) mail using colorful stamps of the period.
Some were mailed in bulk and postmarked all on the same day. Others were spread out over
several months and can be found with different stamps and postmark types on them. They were
even sent on the first day of issue for some stamps.
This web site is a resource for collectors of the 183 face-different cards and their many varieties
by Abbott Labs. Little is documented on their origin, and few collectors have ever
been attempted to definitively catalog them... until now.
For an introduction to these postcards and others like them, read my article
Dear Doctor Cards- Junk Mail with a Difference below.
You'll also find several other articles of interest about them.
Do you collect these cards? Then consider joining
our group. We are all interested in collecting them and share information about new finds.
To date, we have found Abbott cards in these 10 languages:
Arabic, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
And sent to these 37 countries and territories:
Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Australian Antarctic Territory, Belgian Congo, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Canal Zone, Chile, Colombia,
Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Hawaii (pre-statehood), Hong Kong, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands
Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Uruguay, USA
To join or just ask a question, send me an email!
Members- include your name, city/state/country, describe what you type of
around the world cards you collect (Abbott, Squibb, etc.) and feel free to pass along a
buy/sell/trade offer. Send a photo if you have one in JPG format. I'll then post your
name on our member page. There is no charge to join and no membership dues!
Do you have these cards?
Help us build the data base of all Abbott and other drug and non-drug advertising cards.
Check your cards against the master checklist and let us know if you have a new find.
Send a scanned image of the card (minimum 100 DPI and 500 pixels in width) or send a
photocopy of the item.
*** View Abbott Cards and Varieties ***
Click the link below to view images of each known card, then click any individual card to see a few of their message and text varieties.
A Drug Company Primer
by George Griffenhagen, December, 2003
Arabic Card Reported- With A Twist
By Tom Fortunato, January 6, 2004
Pentothal Book Scheduled for Printing in 2004
By Tom Fortunato, January 6, 2004
The Origins of Abbott's Dear Doctor Card Program
by Tom Fortunato, January 18, 2004
South Africa Cards Reported
by Tom Fortunato, June 23, 2004
Record eBay Price for "Dear Dr" Card
by Tom Fortunato, September 19, 2004
'Doctor Cards' of the Pacific
by Bill Holland, October, 2004
as published in Pacifica, vol. 42, #169
New "Dear Dr" Card Type Found
by Tom Fortunato, August 15, 2005
Pentothal Postcard Book Review
by George Griffenhagen, September, 2005
Lai Lundy Card Errata
by Roger Cichorz, September 10, 2005
Dear Doctor Postcards from the Maldives
by Larry Fillion, Malaria Philatelists International, July, 2009
Ad Cards from Kerguelen (French Southern & Antarctic Territories) in French
added July 29, 2009
no longer at www.philateliedestaaf.fr/HTML/Articles/Article-cartes-postales-pub-pharma.htm
A New Discovery: Same Abbott Card, Same Message, but Different Script Typefaces!
by Roger S. Cichorz, August 30, 2009
Additional Different Script Typefaces for Same-Picture Abbott Cards
by Roger S. Cichorz, August 30, 2009, updated October 2, 2009
Wrong Language Cards
by Tom Fortunato, October 3, 2009
Uncommon FDCs (First Day Covers)
by Tom Fortunato, October 6, 2009
Unusual Variations in Abbott's Medical Post Cards
by Roger S. Cichorz, November/December 2009 Scribblings from the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library
A New Destination Found- Luxembourg
by Roger S. Cichorz, November 10, 2009
New Abbott Pentothal Postcard Discoveries- Same-Picture Cards
by Roger S. Cichorz, December 23, 2010
New Abbott Pentothal Postcard Discovery- Different Picture Cards Used for the Same Kenya Mailing
by Roger S. Cichorz, April 9, 2011
New Find: Peru Card
by Tom Fortunato, August 23, 2012
Philippines Redirected Card
by Tom Fortunato, September 16, 2012
$298 Dear Doctor Record Price
by Tom Fortunato, October 7, 2012
La Campana Publicitaria del Farmaco Pentotal Mediante Tarjetas Postales
by Maria de J. Rodríguez Flores, presentation to the 5th Mexican Postal Card Congress, June, 2012.
by Ana Campos, January 25, 2013
Caro Doctor ti Scrivo (in Italian)
by Carlo Clerici, L' Arte del Francobollo, June, 2013
The Doctor Does Exist
by Nan Burby, American Philatelist, August, 2014
by Tom Fortunato, May 27, 2015
Pentothal, Postcards and the Journey of a Drug from Life to Death
by Nikhil Pandhi, WIRED, August 8, 2015
Musings: Catching one’s visual attention? Even PSLC Does It…
from Philatelic Society of Lancaster County, February, 2018
Collecting on a Shoestring- Abbott Labs 1950s Pentothal Ad Postcards from Nordic Countries
by Roger S. Cichorz, September/November, The Posthorn, 4/2018, Scandinavian Collectors Club PDF document
Acqua di Mare E Pubblicita/Seawater and Advertising (Italian)
from "Atti e Memorie", August 2018
Identification of AAT "Milner" Wilkes Base Cancels
from Roger S. Cichorz, May, 2020
Listing of Abbott Language Code Letters
by Roger S. Cichorz, May, 2020
Listing of Mailing Errors Found Among Abbott Cards
by Roger S. Cichorz, May, 2020
"Dear Doctor" Postcards
by Malcolm A. Goldstein, July 30, 2020
® Trade Mark Symbol Used to Canada
December 22, 2021
Sodium Pentothal magazine ads
What is Truth Serum?
Svetlana Kadoshnikov, Chemistry 1, Spring 1998
Non-Abbott Advertising Post Cards
It's a long way from New York to Ohio if you go by way of Yokohama
by Bruce Cameron and Varro Tyler,
Japanese Philately, Vol. 35, No. 3, p. 128-129 Web Page
Pseudo Postal Stationery
by Joseph E. Foley,
The Revealer, Fall 2000 (JPG images)
1958 Burroughs Wellcome "Livingstone" Mailing
by Tom Fortunato, December 29, 2003 Web Page
1913 French Card
by Tom Fortunato, September 5, 2004 Web Page
The Origins of Pfizer Cards
by Tom Fortunato, June 18, 2005 Web Page
German Bayer Cards of 1937
by Tom Fortunato, September 10, 2005 Web Page
Fournier Cards 1911-1917, the First Dear Dr Cards?
by Tom Fortunato, July 3, 2008 Web Page
The Origins of La Biomarine and Similar Cards by Publimer
by Tom Fortunato, July 5, 2008
Updated June 24, 2011 Web Page
Doctor, Marinol et Ionyl vous saluent bien! (Doctor, Marinol and Ionyl greet you well!)
from Timbres Magazine, March 2009 [in French] PDF document
La collection Amora 1950-1972 (Amora Collection 1950-1972 with La Biomarine listing)
[in French] Offsite link
Kerguelen Publicity Postcards
from http://www.philateliedestaaf.fr [in French]
formerly at www.philateliedestaaf.fr/HTML/Articles/Cartes-Pub/00-Generalites.php
The "Doctor" Series of Medical Advertising Postcards, 1952-55
by Hugh Osborne, The Upland Goose, Vol. XXI, No. 4 (June, 2011), The Falkland Islands Philatelic Study Group PDF document
Burroughs Wellcome Matched Pair
by Tom Fortunato, June 24, 2011 Web link
Variations of an Early "Dear Doctor" Postcard
by Roger Cichorz, September/November, 2011 Scribblings, Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library PDF document
Variations of Postcard Map IV: Tahiti- Dancers of the Bougaineville Biomarine Series (in French)
by Emmanuel Riou, sent in May, 2014 PDF document
Medical Advertisment on Postcards from Lebanon
by Fadi Maassarani, May 19, 2016 PDF document
Collecting on a Shoestring- Dumex Ad Postcards to Nordic Countries
by Roger S. Cichorz, April/June, The Posthorn, 2/2020, Scandinavian Collectors Club PDF document
Other Abbott Advertising Mailings
* 1965 Abbott Lettersheet Mailing (and earlier!)
by Tom Fortunato, November 9, 2003
Updated September 19, 2004
Web pageExcel checklist
Misc. Items of Interest
Dear Doctor Card Club Forming
by Rob Haeseler, Linn's Stamp News,
October 13, 2003 (JPG image)
Drug Company Produced First Day Covers
by Tom Fortunato,
updated January 4, 2004
Medical Mailing International
The Use of Special Stamps in Pharmaceutical
Promotions Overseas, (1969 letter and 4
page booklet, Jersey, Channel Islands)
posted May 29, 2005, reported by Bruce
Ellison of Youngtown, AZ
Il bastone di Asclepio (Italian)
drug company underprints stamps with its product names posted September, 2019 PDF document,
Poulenc Butterfly Mailing
by Tom Fortunato, June 11, 2011 Web Page
Actifed Stamp Inserts
by Tom Fortunato, June 11, 2011 Web Page
W. C. Abbott and Abbott Lab History
by the Made in Chicago Museum, 2017 Web Page
Other known articles not online
* World Tour, by Louis Gaitanis, Barr's Post Card News, March, 1991
*** Members ***
Click the link here to see a current listing of club members.
Membership Listing: Web Page
*** Join Us/Report Findings ***
There is no charge to join the Dear Doctor club. Simply send along your name, email address,
and city/state or city and country where you reside.
Also send along a brief offer to sell or
exchange your items, or note special interests. Send a picture of yourself if you'd like!
We encourage all members and non-members alike to report finds to us of their holdings,
especially ones in languages other than English or to non-US addresses.
Typical information we need include:
* Company sending the card (Abbott, Poulenc, etc.)
* Country where the item was mailed from
* City and date of the postmark
* Description of the postcard's picture
* Language the card is written in
* City and country to where the card was mailed
Email the info to the email address below.
*** Publications ***
You can now order David Lai's book depicting Pentothal cards on Amazon.com!
Click the book to check out the details! List price is $24.95, Amazon's price is $9.98!