A trading card (or collectible card) is a small card, usually made out of paperboard or thick paper, which usually contains an image of a certain person, place or thing (fictional or real) and a short description of the picture, along with other text (attacks, statistics, or trivia). There is a wide variation of different types of cards. Modern cards even go as far as to include swatches of game worn memorabilia, autographs, and even DNA hair samples of their subjects.
Trading cards are traditionally associated with ; are especially well-known. Cards dealing with other subjects like Pokémon are often considered a separate category from sports cards, known as non-sports trading cards. These often feature , comic book characters, television series and film stills. In the 1990s, cards designed specifically for playing games became popular enough to develop into a distinct category, collectible card games. These games are mostly fantasy-based gameplay. Fantasy art cards are a subgenre of trading cards that focus on the artwork. The game with the highest number of cards and most popularity is .
Topps purchased their chief competitor, Bowman Gum, in 1956. Topps was the leader in the trading card industry from 1956 to 1980, not only in sports cards but in entertainment cards as well. Many of the top selling non-sports cards were produced by Topps, including Wacky Packages (1967, 1973–1977), Star Wars (beginning in 1977) Star Wars Super Collector's Wish Book Identification and Values, Geoffrey T. Carlton, Collector Books, Paducah, KY, and Garbage Pail Kids (beginning in 1985). Topps inserted baseball cards as prizes into packs of gum until 1981, when cards were sold without the gum. Collectors were delighted, since the oil from the gum was ruining an otherwise pristine or valuable card.
Digital collectable card games were estimated to be a $1.3B market in 2013. A number of tech start-ups have attempted to establish themselves in this space, notably Stampii (Spain, 2009), La española Stampii lanza colecciones de cromos digitales by Javier Martín on El País, 8 Apr 2010 Stampii, coleccionismo multimedia que aprovecha al máximo las TIC by Nacho Azcona on Sportics, 4 Apr 2012 Fantom (Ireland, 2011), Deckdaq (Israel, 2011), and 2Stic (Austria, 2013). These companies competed with the high cost of digital licensing of quality brand content, and they also had to struggle with the difficulty of monetizing Internet content particularly in an 8- to 12-year-old demographic. The only successful business model unlocked has been B2B, licensing the tech to sales promotion companies and sports franchises as digital inventory generators. The bulk of the revenue generated digitally is by US and Japanese games companies such as Wizards of the Coast, with deeper game play and their own intellectual property.
The dominant paper-based card companies continue to experiment slowly with digital, being careful not to cannibalize their print markets.
Panini Group launched their Adrenalyn XL platform with an NBA and NFL trading card collection. Connect2Media together with Winning Moves, created an iPhone Application to host a series of trading card collections, including Dinosaurs, James Bond - 007, Celebs, Gum Ball 3000, European Football Stars and NBA. In 2011, mytcg Technologies launched a platform that enabled content holders to host their content on.
On July 1, 2011, Wildcat Intellectual Property Holdings filed a lawsuit against 12 defendants, including Topps, Panini, Sony, Electronic Arts, Konami, Pokémon, Zynga and Nintendo, for allegedly infringing Wildcat's "Electronic Trading Card" patent.
In 2012, Topps also launched their first phone application. Topps Bunt is an app that allows users to connect with other fans in a fantasy league type game environment wherein they can collect their favorite players, earn points based on how well they play and trade & compete with other fans. Three years later, the same company launched a digital experiment in Europe (geotargeted to exclude the USA) with its Marvel Comics Hero Attax, using digital as an overlay to its physical product.
Common functionalities that are shared between new and emerging digital trading card platforms include collection, live auctions, virtual shops, multiplayer gaming, a mobile- web- or Facebook application, Digital Rights Management, card tracking, and embedded content.
The value of a trading card depends on a combination of the card's condition, the subject's popularity and the scarcity of the card. In some cases, especially with older cards that preceded the advent of card collecting as a widespread hobby, they have become Collectible of considerable value. In recent years, many sports cards have not necessarily appreciated as much in value due to overproduction, although some manufacturers have used limited editions and smaller print runs to boost value. Trading cards, however, do not have an absolute monetary value. Cards are only worth as much as a collector is willing to pay.
|Pristine||Perfect card. No imperfections or damage to the naked eye and upon close inspection.|
|Mint condition||No printing imperfections or damage to the naked eye. Very minor printing imperfections or damage upon close inspection. Clean gloss with one or two scratches.|
|Near Mint/Mint||No printing imperfections or damage to the naked eye, but slight printing imperfections or damage upon close inspection. Solid gloss with very minor scratches.|
|Near Mint||Noticeable, but minor, imperfections or wear on the card. Solid gloss with very minor scratches.|
|Excellent/Near Mint||Noticeable, but minor, imperfections or wear on the card. Mostly solid gloss with minor scratches.|
|Excellent||Noticeable imperfections or moderate wear on the card. Some gloss lost with minor scratches.|
|Very Good/Excellent||Noticeable imperfections or moderate wear on the card. Heavy gloss lost with very minor scuffing, and an extremely subtle tear.|
|Very Good||Heavy imperfections or heavy wear on the card. Almost no gloss. Minor scuffing or very minor tear.|
|Good||Severe imperfections or wear on the card. No gloss. Noticeable scuffing or tear.|
|Poor||Destructive imperfections or wear on the card. No gloss. Heavy scuffing, severe tear or heavy creases.|
|Card binder||A plastic sheet used to store and protect up card in nine card slots, and then stored in a card binder|
|9-Up Sheet||Uncut sheets of nine cards, usually promos.|
|Autograph Card||Printed insert cards that also bear an original cast or artist signature.|
|Base Set||Complete sets of base cards for a particular card series.|
|Card binder||A Ring binder used to store cards using 9-card page holders.|
|Break||An online service where someone (usually for the exchange of currency) opens packages of trading cards and sends them to the buyer. Breaks have "spots" for sale, typically sorted by team.|
|Blaster Box||A factory sealed box with typically 6 to 12 packs of cards. Typically made for sale at large retail stores such as Walmart and Target.|
|Box||Original manufacturer's containers of multiple packs, often 24 to 36 packs per box.|
|Box Topper Card||Cards included in a factory sealed box.|
|Blister Pack||Factory plastic bubble packs of cards or packs, for retail peg-hanger sales.|
|Card sleeve||Sleeves that cards are to be put in to protect the cards.|
|Cartophily||Hobby of collecting trading cards, mostly cigarette cards.|
|Case||Factory-sealed crates filled with card boxes, often six to twelve card boxes per case.|
|Chase Card||Card, or cards, included as a bonus in a factory sealed case.|
|Common Card||Non-rare cards that form the main set. Also known as base cards.|
|Factory Set||Card sets, typically complete base sets, sorted and sold from the manufacturer.|
|Hobby Card||Items sold mainly to collectors, through stores that deal exclusively in collectible cards. Usually contains some items not included in the retail offerings.|
|Insert Card||Non-rare to rare cards that are randomly inserted into packs, at various ratios (e.g. 1 card per 24 packs). An insert card is often different from the base set in appearance and numbering. Also known as chase cards.|
|Master Set||Not well defined; often a base set and all readily available insert sets; typically does not include promos, mail-in cards, sketch cards, or autograph cards.|
|Oversized Card||Any base, common, insert, or other cards not of standard or widevision size.|
|Parallel Card||A modified base card, which may contain extra foil stamping, hologram stamping that distinguishes the card from the base card.|
|Pack||Original wrappers with base, and potentially insert, cards within, often called 'wax packs', typically with two to eight cards per pack. Today the packs are usually plastic or foil wrap.|
|Retail Card||Cards, packs, boxes and cases sold to the public, typically via large retail stores, such as K-mart or Wal-Mart.|
|Rack Pack||Factory pack of unwrapped cards, for retail peg-hanger sales.|
|Promo Card||Cards that are distributed, typically in advance, by the manufacturer to promote upcoming products.|
|Redemption Card||Insert cards found in packs that are mailed (posted) to the manufacturer for a special card or some other gift.|
|Sell Sheet||Also 'ad slicks'. Usually one page, but increasingly fold-outs, distributed by the manufacturers to card distributors, in advance, to promote upcoming products. With the proliferation of the Internet, sell sheets are now typically distributed in digital form to trading card media outlets such as Beckett and The Cardboard Connection so that collectors can preview sets months before they are released.|
|Singles||Individual cards sold at hobby or online stores.|
|Sketch Card||Insert cards that feature near-one-of-a-kind artists sketches.|
|Swatch||Insert cards that feature a mounted swatch of cloth, such as from a sports player's jersey or an actor's costume.|
|Tin||Factory metal cans, typically filled with cards or packs, often with inserts.|
|Card sleeve||A hard plastic sleeve used to store a single card to prevent scratches, corner damage and other blemishes.|
|Unreleased Card||Cards printed by the manufacturer, but not officially distributed for a variety of reasons. Often leaked to the public, sometimes improperly. Not to be confused with promo cards.|
|Uncut Sheet||Sheets of uncut base, insert, promo, or other cards.|
|Wrapper||Original pack covers, often with collectible variations.|
The first set with a sporting theme appeared in 1896, a cricket series by W.D. & H.O. Wills of 50 cricketers. The tobacco companies soon realised that sports cards were a great way to obtain brand loyalty. In 1896 the first association football set, "Footballers & Club Colours", was published by Marcus & Company, a small firm in Manchester. Other football sets issued at that time were "Footballers & Club Colours" (Kinner, 1898); "Footballers" (J. F. Bell, 1902); "Footballers" (F. J. Smith, 1902) and "Footballers" (Percy E. Cadle, 1904). The History of Football Cigarette Cards on Spartacus Educational
The first stage in the development of sports cards, during the second half of the 19th century, is essentially the story of , since baseball was the first sport to become widely professionalized. Hockey cards also began to appear early in the 20th century. Cards from this period are commonly known as or tobacco cards, because many were produced by tobacco companies and inserted into cigarette packages, to stiffen cigarette packaging and advertise cigarette brands. The most expensive card in the hobby is a cigarette card of Honus Wagner in a set called 1909 T-206. The story told is that Wagner was against his cards being inserted into something that children would collect. So the production of his cards stopped abruptly. It is assumed that less than 100 of his cards exist in this set. The 1909 T-206 Honus Wagner card has sold for as much as $2.8 million.
Sets of cards are issued with each season for major professional sports. Since companies typically must pay players for the right to use their images, the vast majority of sports cards feature professional athletes. Amateurs appear only rarely, usually on cards produced or authorized by the institution they compete for, such as a college.
Many older sports cards (pre-1980) command a high price today; this is because they are hard to find, especially in good quality condition. This happened because many children used to place their cards in bicycle spokes, where the cards were easily damaged. Rookie cards of Hall of Fame sports stars can command thousands of dollars if they have been relatively well-preserved.
In the 1980s, sports cards started to get produced in higher numbers, and collectors started to keep their cards in better condition as they became increasingly aware of their potential investment value. This trend continued well into the 1990s. This practice caused many of the cards manufactured during this era to stay low in value, due to their high numbers.
The proliferation of cards saturated the market, and by the late 1990s, card companies began to produce scarcer versions of cards to keep many collectors interested. The latest trends in the hobby have been "game used memorabilia" cards, which usually feature a piece of a player's jersey worn in a real professional game; other memorabilia cards include pieces of bats, balls, hats, helmets, and floors. Authenticated autographs are also popular, as are "serially numbered" cards, which are produced in much smaller amounts than regular "base set cards".
Autographs obtained by card manufacturers have become the most collected baseball cards in the hobby's history. This started in 1990 in baseball when Upper Deck randomly inserted autographs of Reggie Jackson into boxes. They are commonly referred to as "Certified Autographed Inserts" or "CAI's". Both the athlete's and card company's reputations are on the line if they do not personally sign these cards. This has created the most authentic autographs in existence. These cards all have some form of printed statements that the autographs are authentic, this way, no matter who owns the autograph there is no question of its authenticity. CAI's have branched out into autographs of famous actors, musicians, Presidents, and even Albert Einstein. Mostly these autographs are cut from flat items such as postcards, index cards, and plain paper. Then they are pasted onto cards. In 2001, a company called Playoff started obtaining autographs on stickers that are stuck on the cards instead of them actually signing the cards. There is strong opposition against these types of autographs because the players never even saw the cards that the stickers were affixed to.
The competition among card companies to produce quality sports cards has been fierce. In 2005, the long-standing sports card producer Fleer went bankrupt and was bought out by Upper Deck. Not long after that, Donruss lost its MLB baseball license.
Modern Association football trading cards were sold with bubble gum in the United Kingdom from 1958 to 1975 by A&BC, and later by Topps, UK from 1975 to 1981. Similar smaller sized cards were issued in Spain and Italy beginning in the late 1940s. Cards have been produced from 1981 to present, save 1985 and 1986. Under its Merlin brand, since 1994 Topps has held the licence to produce stickers for the Premier League sticker album. Launched by Topps in the 2007–08 season, Match Attax, the official Premier League trading card game, is the best selling boys collectable in the UK – with around 1.5m collectors in the UK – and with global sales it is also the biggest selling sports trading card game in the world.
Other variations of football products exist, such as marbles, cut-outs, coins, stamps and , some made of light cardboard and attached with glue or stickers, into specifically issued for the products. Forming a partnership with FIFA in 1970, Panini Group first produced a World Cup sticker album for the 1970 World Cup. Initiating a craze for collecting and trading stickers, since then, it has become part of the World Cup experience, especially for the younger generation. “The Magic, Global Craze and Tradition of Panini's World Cup Sticker Albums”. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2 September 2018 The Guardian states, “the tradition of swapping duplicate World stickers was a playground fixture during the 1970s and 1980s.” Panini begins assembling World Cup squads for their sticker album a few months before they are officially announced by each nation, which means surprise call ups often don’t feature in their album. A notable example of this was 17-year-old Brazilian striker Ronaldo who was called up for the Brazil squad for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Panini’s football trading card game Adrenalyn XL was introduced in 2009. In 2010 Panini released a UEFA Champions League edition of Adrenalyn XL, containing 350 cards from 22 of the competing clubs, including defending champions FC Barcelona. The fourth edition of Panini FIFA 365 Adrenalyn XL was released for 2019, featuring top clubs, teams and players.
The earliest baseball cards were in the form of trade cards produced in 1868. They evolved into by 1886. In the early 20th century other industries began printing their own version of baseball cards to promote their products, such as bakery/bread cards, caramel cards, dairy cards, game cards and publication cards. Between the 1930s and 1960s the cards developed into trading cards, becoming their own product. In 1957, Topps changed the dimensions of its cards slightly, to 2-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches, setting a standard that remains the basic format for most sports cards produced in the United States.
The next series of basketball cards were issued in 1911, in two separate series; T6 College Series, measuring approximately 6" by 8", and T51 College Series, measuring approximately 2" by 3". These series included a variety of sports, with only 4 cards being associated with basketball, one card from the T6 series and three cards from the T51 series. Both series were produced in two variations, one variation reading "College Series", the other, "2nd Series". The cards were acquired in trade for fifteen Murad cigarette coupons. The offer expired June 30, 1911.
Basketball cards were not seen again until 1932, when C.A. Briggs Chocolate issued a 31-card set containing multiple sports. In exchange for a completed set of cards, Briggs offered baseball equipment. The number of basketball cards in the set is not known.
Most football cards features National Football League players. There are also Canadian Football League and college football cards. Player cards normally list the player's statistics.
During the 1920s, some hockey cards were printed by food and candy companies, such as Paulin's Candy, Maple Crispette, Crescent, Holland Creameries and La Patrie.
Through 1941, O-Pee-Chee printed hockey cards, stopping production for World War II. Presumably, the 1941 involvement of the US in the war affected the hockey card market, since Canada had been in the war since 1939.
Hockey cards next appeared during 1951-52, issued by Shirriff, York Peanut Butter and Post Cereal. Toronto's Parkhurst Products Company began printing cards in 1951, followed by Brooklyn's Topps Chewing Gum in 1954-1955. O-Pee-Chee and Topps did not produce cards in 1955 or 1956, but returned for 1957-58. Shirriff also issued "hockey coins."