The history of sports cards and trading card games can be traced back to the 19th century, when tobacco companies began inserting small cards featuring images of popular baseball and cricket players into their cigarette packs as a marketing tool. These cards soon became a hit among collectors. Soon other companies began producing similar cards featuring other sports, such as football and basketball.
In the 1950s, the Topps Company emerged as a major player in the sports card industry, producing cards for a variety of sports including baseball, football, and basketball. In the early 1960's, the Italian company Panini began producing stickers featuring popular soccer players, which quickly became a hit among fans.
In the 1980's and 90's, Fleer, Skybox, Topps and the Upper Deck Company revolutionized the industry with the introduction of high-quality, professionally-designed cards featuring advanced printing techniques and card stock. The early 1990's experienced a "trading card boom" when basketball cards in particular became widely popular worldwide, not only in the US.
Since 2009, the Panini Group become a major player in the sports card industry, producing a wide range of cards for various sports including Football, Basketball, Soccer, UFC & WWE. The Panini Group and Panini America is the first trading card manufacturer with a truly global reach that helped see the industry reach new heights in 2022.
In recent times, The Fanatics Company seems poised to "take over" the Sports Card Industry. The company recently secured exclusive rights to produce cards for most major US sporting leagues from 2026. They have also acquired the Topps Company and PWCC Auction House. More to come. As for gaming cards, it was the 1990s when popularity of trading card games exploded with the releases of Star Wars and Magic: The Gathering, followed by the Pokémon trading card game. This game, which features collectible cards featuring various Pokémon characters, quickly became a hit among children and adults alike, leading to the creation of numerous other trading card games based on popular franchises such as Dragon Ball and Yu-Gi-Oh!
Investment opportunities in sports cards and trading card games (singles and product) have increased in recent years, with some rare and valuable items selling for thousands of dollars, sometimes millions! However, the market can be volatile and it is important for investors to thoroughly research and carefully select their cards and products. Collecting the right cards can be a great alternative investment but make sure you are genuinely interested and enjoy yourself!
Today, collecting sports cards and trading card games remains a fun and popular hobby among fans of all ages.