Trading cards represent one of the most popular collectible items in modern history. These cards are sets of printed cards, usually connected in a series or through a common theme, that are traded, bought, and sold with other collectors. When most people think of trading cards, they immediately think of sports cards. Sports cards feature the photos and stats of professional athletes, in sports such as baseball, basketball, football, and hockey, to name a few. Previous years have seen the growth of non-sports trading cards, typically featuring pop culture themes from television, movies or music.
People often associate trading cards with children. Indeed, collecting trading cards can be a great thing for parents to do with their children. Of course, if you are a parent, make sure that along with deriving personal enjoyment from their collection, your children also learn the value of maintaining the state and condition of their cards in order to preserve any value they may have as collectibles.
It all started with baseball cards. Baseball cards date back to 1887. Indeed, the growth and spread of baseball cards can be linked with the expansion of baseball itself throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th century. The first trading cards, however, were very different from what we know today. The first cards were made from cloth or other soft materials. It was not until 1902 that baseball cards were being manufactured commercially. It was not long before baseball cards started to be packaged with other products, such as tobacco, bubble gum, and Cracker Jacks.
As baseball cards grow in popularity by the middle of the 20th century, other sports leagues and companies wanted to get involved in the game. Trading cards took off again in the 1980s, when it seemed that every kid had his or her own collection of sports cards. Trading cards as a hobby appeared to peak in the mid-1990s, with trading card series as diverse as Garbage Pail Kids and Olympic athletes.
Some popular trading cards
While sports cards have remained the mainstay of trading cards, the previous few decades have seen the rise (and sometimes fall) of pop culture card series. Anyone who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s will recognize non-sports trading card series such as Uh-Gi-Oh !, Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, Digimon, and World of Warcraft.
Even Hollywood has gotten into the act, with many popular cult television and movie franchises moving into the trading card field. Some of the shows that have made the successful leap into trading card series include Star Trek (in its many iterations), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X Files, and South Park. Popular movies have included Ace Ventura, Independence Day, and even older movies such as The Wizard of Oz and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Leading trading card companies
The trading card market is dominated by a small number of noticeable companies. These leading companies include Topps, Leaf Candy Company, Donruss, Fleer, and Upper Deck. These companies, while known primarily for their sports cards, actually produce sports and non-sports series.
How to rate your cards
Like most collectibles, how much any particular trading card is worth is greatly impacted by the condition and quality of the card. Mint or Near Mint condition cards are those cards with virtually no flaws; they have no creases, have crisp edges and corners, and do not have any obvious signs of damage or distress. Things that can move a card away from Mint condition include writing on the card, off-centered prints, "soft" corners, tears, creases, and other imperfections. On the lower end of the scale, Poor cards are those that feature serious damage, most likely tears, significant creases, and / or worn corners.
How do you keep your cards safe? There are countless storage and protective items available to help your trading cards in the best possible condition. Plastic sleeves and soft covers do an adequate job of protecting cards from minor damage, although the potential for creases and bends is still quite significant. If you have high value cards, they should be placed in hard cases.
In order to price your cards, card value guides are available for most common collectible series. Beckett price guides generally mark industry standards of popular card collections, including sports trading cards.
Starting out collecting trading cards
Collecting trading cards is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. It is no wonder there is that there is a wealth of information and resources available to card collectors, both new and old. Online communities and price guides help collectors determine the value of their cards and discuss their shared hobby. Card shows also take place in major metropolitan areas, and allow large numbers of buyers and sellers to meet together for a card exchange.