In the 18th century, proper etiquette stated that you couldn't drop by someone's home without first presenting a card bearing your name. If a card with the homeowners name was dropped off at your place in response, you were welcome to return for a personal visit.
Calling cards were a precursor to the business cards. They were more common among aristocrats and royalty, as you would present them to the house servant. I'm sure not a lot of commoners had those laying around.
I came across a calling card last year in line at The Frick Museum. I chatted with an older lady in front of me about art and life in New York. She gave me a calling card and wrote her information on the back. I thought it was an elegant alternative to the business card problem I always had. Too many websites, too many e-mail addresses and a phone number I didn't want to give everybody.
It would be a hassle to print a unique card for each combination. Printing a card for one business and writing information on the back wasn't an option either, there are some people that I don't wish to share certain work with. The calling card and pen solution was perfect. I went with an engraved calling card by Terrapin Stationers, who've been in business since 1913 and provide stationary and invites for all the fashion shows around the world (seriously, just look at this client list.) I also got a matching correspondence card for thank you notes. I recommend you do the same too, especially if you want to impress some clients.
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