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Take a little walk down memory lane and head back to a simpler time! Before the internet and even before television, one amazing way that people connected over certain topics was through trading cards. Printed on cardstock and originally tucked into cigarette or gum packages, these trading cards went from a barely noticeable add-on to a fascinating hobby and popular part of American culture.

Now it’s time to show appreciation for and celebrate this hobby with National Trading Card Day!

History of National Trading Card Day

The background of National Trading Card Day can be traced back to the late 19th century when trade cards were originally published by companies that placed cards in products like tobacco products or candy packages. These trade cards were the ancestors of modern trading cards, as they were used as a form of advertising, providing interesting information, and meant as a way to entice people to buy the product. These cards would often be collected and stored in albums or scrapbooks, securing bragging rights with friends and family.

The original baseball cards were trade cards that were made by sporting goods companies and became popular for trading with the motivation of creating a complete set. Cards were created by sports teams to give vital information and statistics about their players, eventually placed into packages of bubble gum in the US, or tea in the UK. By the 1950s, the topics for trading cards grew from just sports into other cultural icons, such as characters from television shows or film cowboys, like Hopalong Cassidy.

By the 1970s and 1980s, trading cards had been around long enough that the classic or older versions started to become valuable – especially for fanatics of baseball and other sports. Other trading cards included characters from shows and movies like Star Wars or the Garbage Pail Kids.

Of course, in the late 1990s, instead of focusing on sports, the Pokemon video game became all the rage and the concept of trading cards soon followed. With a new generation of traders and collectors, this game capitalized on the popularity of the characters and became its own board game and cultural icon in the world of trading cards.

How to Celebrate National Trading Card Day

Grab some cards, collect them and trade them just for fun because it’s time to celebrate National Trading Card Day! Consider some of these ideas for getting involved with the day:

Check Out Some Old Trading Cards

In observance of National Trading Card Day, perhaps it would be fun to head over to a hobby shop, a collector’s store, an antique shop or some other location that deals in trading cards or collections and take a look at what they have available. It might be fun to see what kind of classic baseball cards or other trading cards are around to fill in a collection.

While at the store, it might be worth asking the owner to see if they know some other local card collectors to get connected with. Ebay and other online auction websites are another good place to scour to find unique individual or collections of trading cards. Also, it could be that some interesting trading cards might be closer than they seem – get permission to check out Grandpa’s attic or basement to see what might be lurking in a random box somewhere!

Read Up on Trading Cards

Those who don’t know much about the world of trading cards might want to pop by the library or a bookstore and take home a book about trading cards. These types of books can be found in the hobby section of the bookstore or library and they will likely feature various niche collections. For instance, one of these books might be a good place to start:

  • The Collector’s Guide to Trading Cards: Identification and Values by Robert Reed (1993)
  • The History of Football Cards by Rob Jovanovic (2005)
  • The Official Pokemon Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded (2020)
  • Got ‘Em, Got ‘Em, Need ‘Em: A Fan’s Guide to Collecting the Top 100 Sports Cards of All Time by Stephen Laroche (2011)

Learn More About Trading Cards

In honor and celebration of National Trading Card Day, take a look and then share some interesting facts about the concept of trading cards. It’s fun to get other people interested in the topic, and raise awareness for the day! Check out some of these fun facts:

  • In 2022, the most expensive trading card ever purchased at the time was a 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps baseball card that sold to an anonymous buyer for $12.6 million. That’s a hefty reward for a card that originally came inside a pack of chewing gum!

  • One of the most famous historical trading cards was the T206 Honus Wagner tobacco card from 1909-1911. The card featuring the Pittsburgh Pirate baseball player was a limited run of less than 200 before Wagner refused to have his likeness on the cards, making them extremely rare.

  • In his Topps 1957 baseball card, Hank Aaron is shown batting left handed, even though he was exclusively a right handed batter in real life. As it turns out, this was the mistake of a flipped negative.

  • Although it is technically only possible for a player to be a rookie card for one year, Bill Davis was a first baseman for the Padres and the Indians, and he appeared on rookie cards from 1965 to 1969.

Buy Some New Trading Cards

Those who are interested in getting involved with the trading cards might take National Trading Card Day as a time to get started. There are a number of different manufacturers in the world of trading cards, some still make them today, including. Some of the most popular names include Topps, Bowman, Fanatics, Upper Deck, Fleer and O-Pee-Chee. Panini is another company that is fairly new on the scene but now makes trading cards for the NFL and the NBA. Most of these types of cards can be sourced locally or, for a larger selection, they may be purchased online.

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