Trade Cards
by Ben Crane

Trade cards evolved from cards of the late 1700s used by tradesmen to advertise their services. Although examples from the early 1800s exist, it was not until the spread of color lithography in the 1870s that trade cards became plentiful. By the 1880s, trade cards had become a major way of advertising America's goods and services, and a trip to the store usually brought back some of these attractive, brightly colored cards to be pasted into a scrapbook. The popularity of trade cards peaked around 1890, and then almost completely faded by the early 1900s when other forms of advertising in color, such as magazines, became more cost effective. Although trade card collecting began over 100 years ago, today's strong interest in trade cards began relatively recently. Trade cards that were bought for ten cents thirty years ago frequently bring ten dollars or more in today's market--and some have even sold for over a thousand dollars.

Be sure to view the online exhibitions Dolls as Advertising Gimmicks and Japanesque Trade Cards.

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America