Whether you spent your childhood trading Pokémon cards or grew up hearing tales about your grandfather buying the first baseball cards, collectible trading cards have been around for hundreds of years. These rare cards date back to the Victorian Era when people began using color printing and putting image cards in cigarette boxes. Decades later, collectible trading cards have evolved to cover all sorts of hobbies and passions, with collectors all over the globe creating a community.
But what types of collectible trading cards are out there? Are autographed cards as valuable as they seem? And when you're shopping at antique malls, how do you determine the value of a rare card? Join the worldwide card-collecting community and learn all this and more!
What is a Collectible Trading Card?
A collectible trading card is typically made from paperboard or thick paper depicting an image of a person, place, or thing (fictional or real). Each card fits in the palm of your hand and provides a short description of the image, like statistics, trivia, names, and more. From showing the fantastical creatures on Pokémon cards to highlighting the skills of football players on sports cards, a collectible trading card can be made for anyone's interests.
5 Reasons to Collect Cards
It's human nature to want to collect the things we're passionate about, and whether that's modern football cards or old coins, it can be a rewarding experience. If you join the world of collectible trading cards, you'll soon see that everyone has a personal reason as to why they love the activity.
Understanding everything about collectibles starts with these five reasons:
3. Mental health
1. Enjoy the Rich History of Rare Cards
When you collect old and rare cards, you're instantly connected to the fascinating history of that subject. Whether you hunt down vintage Babe Ruth baseball cards or want to collect sports cards of a specific team, you’ll need to dive into the history to understand the significance of each card. Learning the fun facts, understanding the time period the collectible trading card was made in, and sharing your passion for that era of history is just part of the fun of collecting rare cards.
2. Find a Community of Collectible Trading Card Lovers
If you didn't know where to look, you'd be shocked at how vast the community of rare card collectors is. You can find like-minded people who share your love of cards through online forums, social media, antique mall events, or in-person trading shows. From basketball card collectors to entire groups dedicated to Pokémon cards, there's a sect of the collector community that's perfect for you. By joining this hobby, you'll soon be part of something bigger than yourself—and you’ll make friends along the way.
3. Help Your Mental Health with a Hobby
In the hustle and bustle of modern life, slowing down and enjoying a personal hobby like collectible trading cards is essential. As we get older, investing in ourselves with hobbies helps our mental health and can keep us feeling young. Let nostalgia drive you by finding basketball cards from your childhood or Pokémon cards you always dreamed of having as a kid. Not only will you get to spend time with a subject you enjoy, but the hours spent organizing and hunting down specific cards is almost therapeutic.
4. Bond with Your Family Over Sports Cards
Collectible trading cards are fun for the whole family! Whether your children love the Pokémon game or you root for a certain sports team, sports card collecting is an activity you can enjoy together. Introduce the idea of taking care of a collection to grow essential life skills like dedication and passion. Inspire your children when they're young to start their collection and spend your weekends together searching for rare cards at antique mall vendors for an unforgettable bonding experience.
5. Invest in Your Future with Collectible Trading Cards
In addition to the love of the hobby, plenty of collectors worldwide use their rare cards to make a living. From discovering vintage sports cards in your basement to coming across a rare card at the thrift store, thousands of cards have been appreciated over the years. Even if money is not your main goal, understanding that certain cards will eventually rise in value is an exciting reason to collect. As long as you know where to look and how to determine their value, you could make a pretty penny with your newfound passion for collectible trading cards.
5 Most Popular Types of Collectible Trading Cards
There are endless genres of collectible trading cards, from fantasy games to sports teams.
Some of the most popular ones (and easiest to get your collection going) are these five:
1. Baseball cards
2. Pokémon cards
3. Football cards
4. Entertainment cards
5. Basketball cards
1. Building a Baseball Card Collection
Did you know baseball cards originally came in tobacco products to encourage sales? Luckily, nowadays, you can find them online or in certain retail stores. If you root for the Red Sox or idolize Barry Bonds, baseball cards are perfect for you.
Your collection of baseball cards can be centered around anything you want, whether that's a specific design choice or a favorite era. When searching for baseball cards, people tend to gravitate towards specific players, teams, field positions, the year manufactured, or vintage of rare cards. If you're interested in selling antique or collectible cards with your collection, try to find sports cards that either went out of print or are considered vintage classics.
2. Create a Collection of Pokémon Cards
Debuting in America in 1998, Pokémon cards have been a favorite among younger collectors for years. Some people grew up with a deck of Pokémon creatures, while video games and TV shows have inspired others to start their collection. Whether you're building a deck to play at a tournament or want to collect with your kids, Pokémon cards are always fun.
Deciding what kinds of Pokémon cards to collect can depend on your reason—are you looking for financial gain or a nostalgic love of the characters? Some people work to collect every iteration of Pikachu, while others want to complete a set of hyper-rare cards. Whatever your reason, you can hunt down Pokémon cards at antique malls and online circles for the collection of your dreams.
Pro tip: It's important to note that the black symbol on every card determines if it's a rare card: circles are common, diamonds are less common, and the star is rare.
3. Find Valuable Football Cards
Like baseball cards, collecting football cards is a fun and easy way to show your love of the sport. The first football cards depicted college players, but as the sport grew in popularity, the NFL and sports card trading companies began creating sets for all leagues and players. It's impossible to collect every single rare card ever made, so it's best to narrow in on one interest, whether a team, player, or type of set.
4. Enjoy Collecting Entertainment Cards
For any pop culture fanatics, entertainment cards are an exciting way to show off your favorite TV shows, movies, and franchises. Unlike sports cards, the entertainment card category can include just about anything, like music, history, science fiction, cartoons, comic books, and more. From Star Trek sets or individual Doctor Who cards, your entertainment card options are endless.
Popular Entertainment Card Franchises:
My Little Pony
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
5. Make a Slam Dunk with Basketball Cards
Basketball cards are an easy (and profitable) collection to start. A few years ago, a Luka Doncic rookie card sold for 4.6 million dollars! Whether you're in it for the money or the exhilarating feeling of collecting, hunting down basketball cards of the best players in the business is a rush. For years, NBA fans have circulated and collected basketball cards of their favorite players and teams purely for their enjoyment—and you can, too.
7 Types of Sports Cards:
Whether you've been collecting football cards since you were a kid or are interested in selling basketball cards, learn to spot these seven types of sports cards:
How to Determine the Value of a Collectible Trading Card
If you're looking to sell vintage cards (or just wondering about the value of your childhood favorite sports card!), it's common practice for collectors to use professional grading services. Companies like PSA will first determine whether your sports card is authentic or counterfeit. If it's the former, they use a 10-point grading system, with 1 being poor quality and 10 being in mint condition. Your sports card will be priced higher if it's in amazing condition (along with other qualifications).
When rifling through yard sales or scouring eBay, you could get your hands on a rare card! During manufacturing, companies will decide to only make a handful of a certain type of card, whether a rookie card or a limited-edition Pokémon card. These cards inevitably rise in value as the demand from collectors skyrockets. If your cards are not rare, don't worry. Many collectors are sentimental or search for specific, common cards, so all cards are valuable to someone.
It feels counter-intuitive, but collectible trading cards with manufacturing errors increase in value. Mistakes can be made at every step of production, from the design to the information and printing errors. Many sports cards and rare cards have these mistakes, but if the faulty cards were pulled during production, they're worth more than the correct counterparts.
Are Autographed Cards Worth More?
Autographs are one of the most divisive arguments in the collectible trading card community. Technically, when a signature is added to an entertainment or sports card, it ruins its chances of being certified as mint-condition. Many collectors worldwide argue against signatures and will only partake in the trading and selling of unsigned sports cards.
But autographed entertainment or sports cards are extremely valuable for those who collect for nostalgia or sentimental reasons. Knowing that your favorite player came into contact with the card and took the time to sign it provides a link between the card owner and the player. So, while it's not in perfect condition, the card becomes more meaningful.
What's the Best Way to Protect Collectible Trading Cards?
Whether you collect sports cards or vintage Magic The Gathering cards, protecting them from damage and learning how to store them is important. Penny sleeves or top loaders are individual card protection sleeves to keep your rare cards in top condition. After safely sliding them into sleeves, store your baseball cards in card collector boxes, card savers, pages, or binders. Whatever method you choose, ensure your sports cards are kept in a cool, dry, and dark place, as humidity and sun exposure can damage the quality and coloring of a card.
How to Sell Collectible Trading Cards
Nowadays, the internet streamlines buying and selling common and rare cards. You can easily connect with online vendors, from Reddit forums to auction websites and more. With only a few clicks, you can set up your website, upload the cards in your collection, and spend time hunting for cards from all over the globe. Let the online hunt for vintage and rare cards begin!
If you enjoy the tangible experience of searching for rare cards, find an in-person community of collectible trading card lovers and set up a booth at your local antique mall. Show off your wares, trade for other cards, and bargain with your authenticated cards. Look into our Algonquin, Highland, and Melbourne antique mall locations to join the passionate antiquing community and sell your treasured cards.
Human beings have an intrinsic need to collect, so why not invest in something you're passionate about? Whether you've loved Star Wars since you were a kid or are looking to invest in sports memorabilia from your favorite team, there is a collectible trading card niche for everyone. From limited-edition Pokémon cards to rare cards from the 1800s, feel connected to the rich history of vintage cards and enjoy this fun-for-all-ages activity with the whole family.