Growing up in the 40s and 50s, many parents played cards--Canasta, Poker, Gin, to name a few--with their friends on Saturday nights; first at one family's house and the next week at another. As a result, hundreds of decks of cards were purchased just for this purpose. Children were more interested in the backside of the card as they featured horses, dogs, cats, and mountains--just about every subject imaginable. Depending on the game the parents' played, there were always extra cards from the deck, which then became available. Thus, collecting cards and trading those cards was all the rage for children in many neighborhoods.
A little digging into the history annals reveals that in the 16th Century, "art cards" or "miniatures" were actually hand painted, original portraits that were sold, not traded, and were often used as "wallet photos." In the 1700s, French artists, and then the English, began using the art cards for advertising. The Impressionist artists used art cards to share their styles and techniques with each other by trading. Sometimes the art cards were traded for supplies, food and a place to stay.
And then there were baseball cards. In 1887, baseball cards were not mass-produced. A card from this era would be very valuable and almost impossible to find, so their composition cannot be determined. Between 1902 and 1935, baseball card collection reached the height of its popularity. The cards generally came in a box of Cracker Jacks, bubble gum or chewing tobacco. The sizes of these cards varied and it was not until the 1960s that the 2.5" x 3.5" card size was standardized.
More recently (2005), a movement emerged that is reminiscent of the card collecting and trading practices of days past. These cards are called "Art Card Editions and Originals (ACEO)." The only abiding rule for art cards is that they must measure 2.5" x 3.5". Otherwise, the field is wide open to the interpretation of the artist. The subject matter is all encompassing, as are the styles--Impressionist, mixed media, watercolor, acrylics, oil, pencil, chalks, outsider art, folk art, surrealism--and the medium upon which they are created is also an artist's choice, as long as the card adheres to the standard measurements of 2.5" x 3.5".
Historically, art cards were made to be sold and traded. What then happens to the person who is not able to draw, paint or create art cards to trade? Because of the new popularity in art cards and their creation, there are many resources for collecting for artists and non-artists alike, including online auction sites, community groups at popular search engines and even collector groups sprouting up in cities all over the world. The very best part of art card collecting is being able to afford a little piece of true artistry at a very small price.
The ACEO movement is worldwide and adding new collectors, traders and artists every day. It has been said that everything "old" is "new" again. ACEO card collecting and trading is an energized and renewed version of a long-standing tradition.