The "Dear Doctor"
Postcard Collector Page
Details about Abbott Labs'
and other advertising
campaigns using postcards
from around the world.

by Tom Fortunato
Jump to:    Basics *** View Abbott Cards and Varieties *** Checklists *** Presentations *** References *** Members *** Join Us/Report Findings *** Publications

Dear Doctor Card Basics

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.

Card Images: Web Link

*** Checklists ***

  • Master checklist of Abbott and other postcard campaigns (updated 02/26/24): Excel spreadsheet
  • Roger Cichorz's Summary of Abbott Non-English Language Postcards (11/18/23): PDF

  • *** Presentations ***

  • Introduction to Dear Doctor Postcards 4 meg PDF, 14 meg PowerPoint presentation by Tom Fortunato
  • Fun with Abbott Labs Dear Doctor Postcards 11 meg PDF, 20 meg PowerPoint presentation by Tom Fortunato
  • 2022 YouTube Video Interview about Dear Doctor Basics Mark Jones/Tom Fortunato

  • *** References ***

    Abbott Post Cards

  • Abbott Laboratories Around the World Campaign by George Griffenhagen,
    Scalpel & Tongs ATA Study Unit,
    Volume 28, October 1984 (JPG images)
    Page 1  Page 2  Page 3
  • The Story Behind Pentathol (sic) Sodium Cards by Abbott by Daniel Friedman,
    Barr's Post Card News,
    Issue 567, July 19, 1993 (JPG images)
    Page 1  Page 2  Page 3
  • New Collecting Areas...
    by John M. Hotchner,
    Linn's Stamp News,
    November 13, 1995 (JPG images)
    Page 1  Page 2 
  • Stamps Promoting Medicine
    by George Griffenhagen,
    International Pharmacy Journal,
    Volume 9, Number 1, 1995 (JPG images)
    Page 1  Page 2 
  • Lundy Pentothal Postcards with
    Non-English Language Text

    by Roger Cichorz,
    Lundy Collectors Club Quarterly,
    Summer, 1996 (JPG image)
    Page 1 
  • More Advertising Covers from the Vatican
    by Michael G. Krejci,
    Vatican Notes, May, 2001 (JPG images)
    Page 1  Page 2  Page 3  Page 4 
  • The Pentothal Advertising Postcards Posted from Wilkes Base by Martin Walker, Philately in Australia, 2001
    WORD document
  • The Portuguese Pentothal Card
    by Everett Slosman,
    American Philatelist, August, 2001
    (JPG images)
    Page 1 Page 2
  • Still More Advertising from the Vatican
    by Michael G. Krejci,
    Vatican Notes, January, 2002 (JPG images)
    Page 1  Page 2 
  • A Postmark Collector's Delight
    by Henry Ratz,
    Liechtenstudy, October, 2002
    Web Page
  • Dear Doctor Cards- Junk Mail with a Difference
    by Tom Fortunato,
    March, 2003
    Web Page
  • Recent Advertising Discoveries
    by Michael G. Krejci,
    Vatican Notes, November, 2003 (JPG images)
    Page 1  Page 2  Page 3  Page 4  Page 5 
  • A Drug Company Primer
    by George Griffenhagen, December, 2003
    Web Page
  • Arabic Card Reported- With A Twist
    By Tom Fortunato, January 6, 2004
    Web Page
  • Pentothal Book Scheduled for Printing in 2004
    By Tom Fortunato, January 6, 2004
    Web Page
  • The Origins of Abbott's Dear Doctor Card Program
    by Tom Fortunato, January 18, 2004
    Web Page
  • South Africa Cards Reported
    by Tom Fortunato, June 23, 2004
    Web Page
  • Record eBay Price for "Dear Dr" Card
    by Tom Fortunato, September 19, 2004
    Web Page
  • 'Doctor Cards' of the Pacific
    by Bill Holland, October, 2004
    as published in Pacifica, vol. 42, #169
    Web Page
  • New "Dear Dr" Card Type Found
    by Tom Fortunato, August 15, 2005
    Web Page
  • Pentothal Postcard Book Review
    by George Griffenhagen, September, 2005
    Web Page
  • Lai Lundy Card Errata
    by Roger Cichorz, September 10, 2005
    Web Page
  • Pentothal Postcards and Beyond
    by Dr. Ian McClellan, The History of Anaesthesia Society Proceedings, September, 2006
    PDF Document
  • Dear Doctor Postcards from the Maldives
    by Larry Fillion, Malaria Philatelists International, July, 2009
    Offsite Link
  • Ad Cards from Kerguelen (French Southern & Antarctic Territories) in French
    added July 29, 2009
    no longer at
  • A New Discovery: Same Abbott Card, Same Message, but Different Script Typefaces!
    by Roger S. Cichorz, August 30, 2009
    Web Page
  • Additional Different Script Typefaces for Same-Picture Abbott Cards
    by Roger S. Cichorz, August 30, 2009, updated October 2, 2009
    Web Page
  • Wrong Language Cards
    by Tom Fortunato, October 3, 2009
    Web Page
  • Uncommon FDCs (First Day Covers)
    by Tom Fortunato, October 6, 2009
    Web Page
  • Unusual Variations in Abbott's Medical Post Cards
    by Roger S. Cichorz, November/December 2009 Scribblings from the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library
    PDF document
  • A New Destination Found- Luxembourg
    by Roger S. Cichorz, November 10, 2009
    Web Page
  • New Abbott Pentothal Postcard Discoveries- Same-Picture Cards
    by Roger S. Cichorz, December 23, 2010
    Web Page
  • New Abbott Pentothal Postcard Discovery- Different Picture Cards Used for the Same Kenya Mailing
    by Roger S. Cichorz, April 9, 2011
    Web Page
  • New Find: Peru Card
    by Tom Fortunato, August 23, 2012
    Web Page
  • Philippines Redirected Card
    by Tom Fortunato, September 16, 2012
    Web Page
  • $298 Dear Doctor Record Price
    by Tom Fortunato, October 7, 2012
    Web Page
  • La Campana Publicitaria del Farmaco Pentotal Mediante Tarjetas Postales
    by Maria de J. Rodr guez Flores, presentation to the 5th Mexican Postal Card Congress, June, 2012.
    PDF Document
  • Postcrossing Blog
    by Ana Campos, January 25, 2013
    PDF Document
  • Caro Doctor ti Scrivo (in Italian)
    by Carlo Clerici, L' Arte del Francobollo, June, 2013
    PDF Document
  • The Doctor Does Exist
    by Nan Burby, American Philatelist, August, 2014
    PDF Document
  • Duplication Proven
    by Tom Fortunato, May 27, 2015
    Web Page
  • Pentothal, Postcards and the Journey of a Drug from Life to Death
    by Nikhil Pandhi, WIRED, August 8, 2015
    PDF Document
  • Musings: Catching one s visual attention? Even PSLC Does It
    from Philatelic Society of Lancaster County, February, 2018
    PDF Document
  • 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
    PDF Document
  • Identification of AAT "Milner" Wilkes Base Cancels
    from Roger S. Cichorz, May, 2020
    PDF Document
  • Listing of Abbott Language Code Letters
    by Roger S. Cichorz, May, 2020
    PDF Document
  • Listing of Mailing Errors Found Among Abbott Cards
    by Roger S. Cichorz, May, 2020
    PDF Document
  • "Dear Doctor" Postcards
    by Malcolm A. Goldstein, Post Card History, July 30, 2020
    PDF Document
  • The Letters That Did Not Sink With The Titanic (Spanish with Eng. translation)
    by Sergio Manuel Hernandez de Leon y Perdomo, Other Ports, June 3, 2020
    PDF document
  • Postcards in the Time of Corona Virus
    by Charles W. Bush, Barr's Post Card News, July 1, 2020
    PDF document
  • ® Trade Mark Symbol Used to Canada
    December 22, 2021
    PDF Document

  • Sodium Pentothal magazine ads
    Deco-Dog ephemera
    Web Link
  • What is Truth Serum?
    Svetlana Kadoshnikov, Chemistry 1, Spring 1998
    WORD document
  • Pentothal Postcards and Beyond
    Dr. Ian McLellan, History of Anaesthesia Society, September 2006
    PDF document

  • 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)
    Page 1
  • 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
    [in French]
    formerly at
  • 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
  • Pentothal, Postcards and the Journey of a Drug from Life to Death
    by Nikhil Pandhi, The Wire, August 8, 2015
    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 page     Excel checklist

    Misc. Items of Interest

  • Dear Doctor Card Club Forming
    by Rob Haeseler, Linn's Stamp News,
    October 13, 2003 (JPG image)
    Page 1
  • Drug Company Produced First Day Covers by Tom Fortunato,
    updated January 4, 2004
    Excel checklist
  • 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
    PDF document

  • Il bastone di Asclepio (Italian)
    drug company underprints
    stamps with its product names
    posted September, 2019
    PDF document, Web Page
  • 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!

    Click the book to check out the details! List price is $24.95, Amazon's price is $9.98!

    Biomarine Dieppe, Campagnes Publicitaires
    Etude: Publicite et Philatelie

    Biomarine Dieppe, "Publicity Campaigns: Publicity and Philately"
    by Jeannine Godeau and Sandro Mele, September 2008,
    edited by the Philatelic Association of Dieppe, France (in French)


    Catalogue des Periples Ionyl (1947/1972)
    Editions YVERT & TELLIER

    "Catalog of Ionyl Journeys 1947-1972"
    by Jean Storch and Bertrand Sinaise, April 2014,
    available through Yvert & Tellier (in French)

    Monograph 9, "A Catalogue of Falkland Islands Postcards, 1950-1982," published by the Falkland Islands Philatelic Study Group.

    Updated April 5, 2024

    Email me at