I love to collect! This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever stepped into my house. When I mention this “hobby”, however, in a new circle of friends, thoughts drift to expensive oil paintings, scary dolls or beanie babies in little plastic boxes and I am sure my hero gets a few sympathetic glances over a perceived draining of the family resources…let me set the record straight! It is posssible to have unique, beautiful and thoughtful collections without spending the kid’s college fund. Let me share one of my favorites with you today…Victorian trade cards. Easily found on eBay or in antique malls, these colorful cards can add a whimsical addition to your decorations at a modest cost.
Victorian trade cards are an early form of collectible advertising. Businesses began to offer the colorful cards after the Civil War. Because the cards were collected and often saved in albums, much like sports cards today, many have survived and offer a diverse look at popular culture and society in the late 1800s. Orginally printed in black and white, the advent of lithography made mass production in color possible. Trading cards exploded in popularity!
Trade cards usually had a picture on one side and an ad on the other. There were custom cards printed for specific products, and stock cards which could be used for any product. Trade cards were popular for medicines, sewing, and farm equipment, and a range of other products. Some rare Victorian trade cards are now worth thousands of dollars, but most can be snapped up at less than twenty dollars!
With so many available, it can be confusing to pick just the right ones. I found it helpful just to explore the different cards available online and see which ones always seemed to catch my eye, like my collection of Soapine cards. I was drawn to the French inspired illustrations. The whale was their trademark and it did take a while to find a reasonably priced one.
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