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What Are Trade Cards?


From author/designer, Denise Croke, for a 'Social History' exhibit in the 1998 TCCA Convention.


What sets the TRADE CARD aside from the TRADING CARD?
We all know that Trading Cards are those hand-sized cards,many times found with that thin slab of bubble gum in the package.  The card usually touts an athelete's statistics and shows a photograph of the athelete in the uniform of his team. 
Or maybe a trading card has a series devoted to the characters from a movie or a cartoon, or dare I say... Pokemon?!. 
Trade Cards, or as I referred to them above as "Victorian", "Advertising" Trade Cards, came about in the mid-19th Century.  Trade Cards  are an ADVERTISEMENT!
The 'ad' may be as concise as a rubber-stamped name and address of the merchant on the verso (back-side)... may be as elaborate as a printed expose proclaiming  all the wonderful properties of a cure-all (or Patent) medicine.
Not always were both sides of the trade card utilized, with this aside; however, close to one-hundred percent of the time, you will find a LITHOGRAPHED IMAGE on the obverse (considered the front of the card).
Trade cards range in sizes from 1 1/2" X 2", up to 4" X 6" and larger.  Some of the larger  trade cards  were either provided as a 'package insert' or they lay in a stack on the merchants countertop, for anyone to take home.
Trade cards were made from paper stock; which made them either, as sturdy as postcards, or as flimsy as to tear easily (thus, not lasting as long as it was in original condition).
As stated above, tradecards arose in the mid-19th Century.  The advertising choices at this time, posed many inconveniences.  For example, COLOR was NOT an option until lithographers found ways to print in multi-colors.  Plus, the 'ads' themselves were not affordable to post in newspapers & periodicals.
But then came along Fairs & Expositions...  This is where the Trade Card shined its brightest!  Manufacturers of ALL TRADES {get it now... Trade Cards!?]  had trade cards printed in mass quantity to be handed-out, given away FREE to those who attended the event!
For lithographers and those who utilized such advertising, the Victorian Era was the period when trade cards exploded onto the scene - from approximately 1870 to 1900[This is when Queen Victoria in England reigned her throne... "Victorian" Trade Cards!?]

This stained card is from the CENTENNIAL EXPO
Women's Pavillion in Philadelphia, PA, 1876 - 160' long, 160' wide

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