Today people share dozens of different trading card sets, whether in online forums, on school playgrounds, or anywhere in between. It’s a popular hobby, but it wasn’t always this way. The history behind collectible trading cards is rich, and many exciting twists and turns happened through the years, leading up to where trading cards are today.

Trade Cards and Cigarette Cards

Before trading cards, there were trade cards—a type of business card that became popular in Europe near the end of the seventeenth century. The cards served as a form of advertising for the business and sometimes even included maps directing the card’s owner to the business itself. Later in the U.S., around 1890, a tobacco company began printing advertisement cards and including them in cigarette packs, similar to trade cards.

Soon, the manufacturers began printing pictures on the cards with different encyclopedic topics to make the cards more enticing. Then, more and more cigarette companies made these cards, but they stopped during World War II due to material concerns. Fans of these cards ventured out into bubble gum cards and baseball cards.

Baseball Cards

A little before cigarette cards, around 1860, different businesses would make trade cards featuring baseball players. Photography was increasing in popularity, as was baseball, and these businesses wanted to capitalize. Cigarette cards also began including images of baseball players, and the American Tobacco Company produced a card featuring Honus Wagner in 1909, the most valuable baseball card ever printed. Later, in 1933, the Goudey Gum Company made baseball cards with player biographies and stats. These cards were the first ones found in bubble gum packages and helped lead the way for Topps Cards.

Topps Cards and Beyond

Topps Chewing Gum, Inc started putting cards into their bubble gum packages in 1950. Beyond baseball and sports, they released cards with images from TV, movies, and other pop culture properties. In 1977 they released Star Wars cards, the Garbage Pail Kids in 1975, and in 1991 they began selling cards packaged separately from the gum. During this era, many other organizations started selling their own trading cards and creating card games, like Pokémon, Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and many more. Today there are more varieties of trading cards than ever before, and people are trading old and new cards, trying to build their collections.

The history of collectible trading cards is fascinating, and that history is still getting made today. People trade cards every day and will continue to swap cards as long as cards exist. Here at JRI Cards, we offer vintage card breaks so you can get your hands on some vintage cards without needing to buy a case yourself!