The History of Diplomas: Exploring Our Shop's Unique Finds and Surprising Discoveries

Can you imagine being part of a business that lives and breathes diplomas? A business where you have access to graduation certificates from prestigious schools all over the world? If you do, you probably know a thing or two about the history of diplomas. You may have even contemplated writing a paper on the subject!

At Diploma Company, we take our love for diplomas seriously. As the most trusted provider of fake diplomas, we receive countless photographs of real diplomas from our customers. They share these images with us to request a replication of their original diploma or simply to confirm that we are aware of the design and details of the actual certificate. Thanks to our vast collection of diplomas, spanning different schools and countries, our design team is able to create unique templates that honour the original document.

What is the oldest diploma you've collected?

The oldest diploma in our collection dates back to the early 1910s. One of our employees stumbled upon it at an estate sale and brought it back to the office for us all to admire. As passionate diploma enthusiasts, we were fascinated by this rare find! While this is the oldest diploma we've come across, the oldest document we've replicated for a client was from the early 1930s. A customer asked us to create a replica of her grandmother's graduation certificate, as a special gift for her 90th birthday. We were honoured to help preserve such an important family keepsake.

What surprises you most about older diplomas?

One of the things that surprises us the most about older diplomas is their intricate and detailed designs. Back in the day, graduation certificates were works of art, featuring beautiful calligraphy, ornate borders, and intricate emblems. However, as time has passed, diploma designs have become more simplistic and streamlined. Nowadays, many schools opt for clean and simple layouts, often with the goal of streamlining production and taking advantage of modern printing techniques. While these modern designs certainly have their appeal, we can't help but marvel at the artistic details of older diplomas.

Evolution of Diploma Design (1900s-1980s)

copy of vinage and collectable 1923 tennessee public high school diplomacopy of vinage and collectable 1923 tennessee public high school diploma
Although weathered with age, the elegant design and intricate borders on this old diploma showcase the artistry and attention to detail put into diplomas of the past.
diploma fail of a vinage dallas school diploma that looks too fakediploma fail of a vinage dallas school diploma that looks too fake
This vintage diploma showcases the art of handwritten signatures, a testament to the time when fewer graduates made the personal touch of signing each document more feasible.

Modern Era Diploma Design (1980s-2000s)

Before the digital printing revolution, diplomas were more than just certificates of achievement—they were works of art. With fewer graduates overall, schools could focus on creating a limited number of beautifully crafted documents rather than mass-producing thousands of them at once.

One of the most striking differences between diplomas from the 1900s to 1980s and those produced today are the decorative borders that wrap around the edge of the certificate. Some schools even included the school's name within the border. And although these diplomas featured rich black inks, colour printing was not as easily obtainable as it is today.

Another lesser-known fact about older diplomas is that many were printed on sheepskin instead of the typical diploma paper used by schools today. However, sheepskin ages over time, which is why many older diplomas show signs of wear and tear and yellowing.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between older diplomas and those produced today are the signatures. As you can see in the examples above, the signatures were hand-signed, which was very common during this period. With fewer graduates, officials had time to sign each diploma individually. Today, however, with thousands of graduates per semester at many top schools, signatures are digitally printed with an auto-pen onto each document. A hand-signed diploma is truly a piece of our history. While some schools still hand-sign diplomas today, they are rare and often associated with lesser-known private institutes.

master of education diploma from Minneapolis universitymaster of education diploma from Minneapolis university
image of a 1984 high school diploma from dover ohio shiny shiny gold embossed state sealimage of a 1984 high school diploma from dover ohio shiny shiny gold embossed state seal

Despite the changes in design, one thing remained constant: the use of high-quality paper. While the sheepskin used in older diplomas was phased out, schools still opted for thick, durable paper that could withstand the test of time. It wasn't until later in the 80s when some schools began experimenting with glossy finishes and even plastic-like materials for their diplomas, but this trend didn't last long as they proved to be less durable and susceptible to damage.

As we approach the end of the 80s, the use of computer technology and digital printing began to revolutionize the diploma production process. While this was initially met with some resistance due to concerns over authenticity, the benefits of efficiency and cost-effectiveness ultimately won out. This led to a shift towards more uniform designs and standardized templates, resulting in less variation in diploma design across different schools and institutions.

Overall, the evolution of diplomas from the 1900s to the 1980s highlights the importance of balancing aesthetics and functionality. While older diplomas showcased intricate designs and hand-signed signatures, the need for mass production in the latter half of the 20th century led to a shift towards simpler designs and the use of printing technology. However, even with these changes, the diploma remains a symbol of achievement and a cherished artifact of one's educational journey.

Diploma History -- Present

Upclose image of a Western College University diploma featuring shiny gold lettering in school nameUpclose image of a Western College University diploma featuring shiny gold lettering in school name
Diplomas commonly feature gold foil printing, adding a luxurious touch to the document. This detail can be admired up close, as seen in this image.
closedup of diploma from Thomas Edison State University featuring shiny gold and red embossed school sealclosedup of diploma from Thomas Edison State University featuring shiny gold and red embossed school seal
Close-up of a diploma with raised ink, showcasing modern printing techniques. The signature and part of the seal are visible in the hands of a proud graduate.

Due to the arrival of online colleges and private institutes, the number of college attendees continued to skyrocket at an even faster rate. Fortunately, modern advances in printing and lower cost materials including colour inks, have kept up with the demand of custom diplomas obtainable by these institutes. These days, students are awarded with graduate diplomas that showcase less decorative borders than those graduates before them but documents with more colours and applied crafts, such as embossing techniques that were not available before. You can see a great assortment of diplomas from this period, and a few older ones, in our diploma gallery.

This does not imply that all diplomas today are full of colour and sheen either. For instance, we have spotted many diplomas from high schools and even diplomas from colleges in some smaller cities that still choose to print in all black to cut costs for taxpayer-funded certificates. This also doesn't mean that schools have all revamped their designs for more modern layouts. We know many schools that still use the same diploma layout design from fifty years ago, today. The truth is, many colleges and universities have diplomas whose look is as commonplace as their team's colours or mascot! Many schools refuse to change because, as the old saying goes, if it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Still, the possibilities of what can be achieved with a diploma have changed as our printing and production techniques have vastly improved. In the end, what most schools are doing is allowing modern day techniques to easily produce the classic diploma designs their schools are known for.

I hope what you've gathered from this lesson in diploma history is that not all graduate degree certificates are alike and when ordering a replacements online or investing in novelty diplomas to fool a friend with, it's important that the company creating your document has a true understanding of diplomas to ensure your document highlights the elements and characteristics that make it unique.

Want a diploma? Check our!

At Diploma Company, we are passionate about diplomas and have a deep understanding of their history and design. Whether you need a novelty diploma for a prank, a personal replacement for a lost or damaged diploma, or a prop for a film or production, we take pride in delivering high-quality prints that meet our customers' demands.

We offer a range of services to meet your needs, from custom designs to fast and affordable shipping. Our team is always available to assist you, whether you have a question about our products or need help placing an order. You can reach us by phone at +61 2 8249 9110 or via chat on our website.

Take a look at our selection of fake high school diploma and even fake college diploma prints along with fake transcripts and fake certificates today and see for yourself why we are a trusted provider of high-quality fake diplomas.