Non-Sports Trading Cards
Though older audiences might think “baseball, baseball, baseball” whenever they hear the term "trading cards," the value of many non-sports trading has increased dramatically and gained significant popularity.
Here is a look at some of the other trading cards beyond the world of sports.
Trading Cards — A Brief History
The first cards, by most accounts, were baseball cards, produced as far back as the 1800s. Some are on display at the Library of Congress as relics of early Americana.
The first trading cards were found in packs of cigarettes as a way to stiffen the packaging while offering smokers a little more than just a puff of tobacco. The earliest cards featured pop culture figures, but baseball players soon became the go-to faces placed on the cards in the 1860s.
Color Me Fantastic
In the early 1900s, cards started to take on the styles seen today. Manufacturers added color, and the subjects looked happier and more engaging. Interest increased with these added aesthetics.
Popular Non-Sports Trading Cards
Sports cards reigned supreme in the trading card world for the majority of the 1900s, and cards were rarely used for anything other than bragging rights or to trade for other cards.
In the 1990s, however, trading card games burst on the scene as alternatives to board games or typical card games with a classic playing card deck. Here is a look at a few of the best non-sports trading cards that have hit the shelves since the 1990s.
The Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) has two major iterations — a Japanese one and an English one. The former was released in 1996, and the English version hit shelves in December 1998. Pokémon as a franchise has since become the highest-grossing media franchise of all time. The Pokémon TCG continues to be loved today, and new packs are still released regularly. The Pokémon trading card game has mechanics directly inspired by the anime series, with players using different Pokémon to attack and defeat each other in battle.
Case Study: This Pokémon card sold for $5.2 million.
Garbage Pail Kids (GPK)
Created by the Topps brand in 1985 as a parody to the loveable Cabbage Patch Kids, the Garbage Pail counterparts took a little more effort to love. With names like Adam Bomb, the raunchy cards ended up with their own film and TV series and are still traded today.
Case Study: This GPK Card is listed at $30,000 on eBay.
Magic: The Gathering (MTG)
Another recognizable name in the non sports world of cards, Magic was first released in 1993 and is considered the first trading card game, as each card had different instructions that dictated how players interacted. Magic players take on the roles of fantasy characters who battle each other in different planes of the Multiverse, casting different spells, using ancient artifacts, and summoning creatures.
Creators credit role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons as motivators for creating the game, and nearly 30 years later, new cards are still released frequently. They don’t have quite the collectors’ attraction as Pokémon cards, but a market exists for players and collectors, and Pokémon definitely took cues from its predecessor. Magic: The Gathering tournaments still take place all over the world today and have millions of participants.
Case Study: This Magic card sold for more than $511,000 on eBay.
If Pokémon took cues from Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh! certainly took a few from Pokémon. Pokémon has more mass appeal as a franchise, but Yu-Gi-Oh! still has a very devoted following. The lore of Yu-Gi-Oh! follows characters who duel each other in a card game that features different monsters and creatures. The franchise has since become a globally played trading game with massive tournaments in countries around the world.
With a bit more gameplay appeal versus collector appeal, the cards aren’t worth quite as much as Pokémon, but they sell well, and tournaments are everywhere with millions of participants globally.
Case Study: This Yu-Gi-Oh! Card sold for $25,000 on eBay.
Protecting Your Non-Sports Trading Cards
If you want to preserve your card's value, it's good to put it in a protective sleeve. Then, after some additional research, you might find it worthwhile to get the card professionally graded. Protective casing and the grade itself serve as proof of quality and authenticity to potential buyers.
Play More With Non-Sports
Somewhat ironically, most sports cards can’t actually be played with, only displayed and talked about. With most non-sports trading cards, you have additional utility coming from the fact that you can often play actual trading card games and participate in tournaments.
This added level of engagement has contributed to the growing interest in non-sports trading cards, and their value continues to make them viable collectibles even when compared to their sports card counterparts.
Trading Card FAQs
Q: Are non-sports trading cards worth anything?
A: Yes. A Pokémon card on this list sold for more than $5 Million.
Q: Where can I sell non-sports cards?
A: You can sell cards on online marketplaces like eBay or at local card stores.
Q: Which cards are worth the most?
A: The absolute most expensive trading cards are still sports-related, with baseball leading the way. However, the most expensive non-sports cards are also highly valuable.