Friday, July 26, 2013

Pricing of Swap Cards - what Swap Cards are worth Part II

This is a follow up to a post I made in May about valuing and pricing of swap cards.  If you haven't already read it here is the link:  or look to the right and find it via archive.

When we sell swap cards online the biggest venue is obviously ebay.  Just wanted to point out just exactly how much this costs and how this reflects in the price of the cards.  As I mentioned in my last post on the topic most swap cards start their life as packs of playing cards and these are split up and sold as singles.

Sounds profitable right?  Wrong.  Most average decks of cards go for at least $20.  They then have to be posted to Australia at a cost of $20.00.  So that is approximately $40.00 just to get the deck landed.  In those decks there are some that can't be sold because they are damaged.  Maybe you can sell 50 pairs.   You decide to sell for $2.00 a pair because you have to be competitive and there are many other sellers with same or similar cards to yours..... 

So you scan it and list on ebay.  If you have a store on ebay you pay $20 per month for a basic store and $50 per month for a bigger one.  Each listing in the basic store is $0.50c and each listing in the bigger store is $.20c.  Then you sell an item, ebay takes 10-12% of what you sold it for.  

If you auctioned it, it costs $1.50 just to list it, then you still pay another 10-12% to ebay in final value fees.  The buyer will pay via PayPal because that is how it is done on ebay - there are more fees with each payment.  Getting the picture now?

$2.00 your start price
- .50c to list it
- .20c minimum final value fee
- .20c to get the paypal payment

Leaves you the grand total of $1.10 "profit"  So even if you sold all 50 pairs in that pack (unlikely as 50 buyers all must want the same design and then you have other sellers selling same design) - but in the rare occasion that this happens you make $15.00 total profit IF you managed to sell the whole lot and within the 30 days that your listing costs - otherwise it recycles and you pay fees again.  And don't forget it COST you $20 or $50 per month to have the store.  If you auctioned it, well, forget it you made a loss!

Why am I telling you this?  Because as a seller on ebay I would like to point out to buyers that swap cards are such low profit items and for sellers to remain viable they need buyers to understand how difficult it is to remain viable.  If you want to have cards to choose from to add to your collection then think about the effort tsellers are going to - most sellers sell because they love collecting and want to share their passion.

The rating and ***** system on ebay.  This is my pet peeve.  Buyers can "anonymously" rate sellers on their postage time, postage cost, communication and item as described.  If you rate sellers less than 5***** in each category their listings get dropped down lower and lower.  It is almost impossible for new sellers to get their listings seen and infrequent sellers the same.  It is almost anti-competitive.  This isn't sour grapes, I have high feedback so this system doesn't affect me.  But it peeves me because I like to see new and different cards for MY collection and I feel sellers are slowly being squeezed out of ebay.

I will include some screenshots of recent card decks and what they sold for.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My new ebay swap card store

Now for some shameless self-promotion! I opened an ebay swap card store again today. It's been several years since I closed my last one and yes the fees are a killer but unfortunately Quicksales does not have the exposure of Ebay and international buyers were excluded. 

 I am hoping more sellers (and buyers) get back to Quicksales as they did a few years ago when it was a really active hub of buying and selling. It changed name from OZtion to Quicksales when it was bought out (by the Carsales group). 

 OZtion made a few bad decisions at the time and decided to introduce listing fees (in the past it was free) and the sellers abandoned it because if they were going to charge fees then the sellers may as well stay with ebay as the traffic was higher. But now things have come full-circle and Quicksales is now not only free to list but free to sell, so no final value fees - can't beat that!

Monday, May 20, 2013

What are swap cards worth?

The facetious answer?  How long is a piece of string!?  Placing a $ value on swap cards can be difficult.  Have a browse on Quicksales and Ebay and you will get some idea - but then you will see the same cards one week later getting much more or much less than previous times.  It depends on who is bidding and how badly they need that card, maybe for years they needed that elusive card to complete a set or a pair (been there, done that!) so go crazy and bid it up.  

Most sellers have settled on reasonable "buy now" prices for their cards, it is based on years of selling and also reflects the cost to purchase those cards in order to be able to sell them.  Swap cards (not the blank backs) start their life as decks or packs of playing cards.  They are bought (usually overseas in UK or USA) by the seller - usually at great cost when you factor in postage and healthy "competition" from other sellers wanting the same decks.   Take for example this lovely Triton deck (click picture to enlarge), this is a common example of the prices older wide decks are making, so obviously this is reflected in the selling price of singles.  So what would you have paid for a single not knowing that the cost price to the buyer was $US230 plus postage?

Also factoring in the cost is the rarity of the deck.  Some decks were in mass production and had many thousands printed, others only a few printings so are obviously rarer and therefore more costly.  And, obviously, the older the deck the more valuable it is.  Check this one out, enough to make us swappers go into a bidding frenzy! (sadly none of us can afford it, lol)

Ahhh gone are the days when we used to sit behind the portables with great stacks of cards (always tightly bound with rubber bands... oh the shame of it!) and swap them with friends.  Now the evil $ dictates what they are worth.

One thing is for sure, take care of your cards (store them correctly) and they will appreciate in value - unlike some of the cards kids collect now.  For example Coles and Woolworths cards were cheap back in the day (1950's) now they sell from $20-$100+ PER CARD!!!  Hang onto it long enough and you will be rewarded.

Fake or counterfeit swap cards

Just a short word about fakes.  There are 2 types.  "Old" fakes, which are highly sought after and very collectible and modern fakes which are not so good!  The old fakes happened from the early deco era and some lovely English named designs were usually the target.  A friend has a set of badly tinted and obviously blatant illegal reproductions but they are as old as the cards they were imitating so are, in a way "good" (if I can get hold of him and get a scan I will add them here).

Modern fakes are from unscrupulous sellers who try to "cash in" on popular cards.  This includes getting custom decks made overseas with digital art copied from the originals.  Be wary of a seller that has lots of "mint condition" cards of popular artists (like the Giordano cats pic just below) and selling them cheaply.  The only way to tell is by the Ace of Spades as it will give you the manufacturer and prove genuine vintage cards.  If you are suspicious ask the seller, they should be happy to provide you with proof.

Other ways sellers like to "fake" cards are creating colour variations.  This is done in a variety of ways eg. leaving cards on the window ledge to fade or washing them over with inks.  These are harder to prove as they are usually genuine card stock, just altered to create "rarity".  I've included below a scan of genuine colour variations on some old wides, it's easy to see how they could be faked.

1890 Grimaud no.1502 Floral Whist cards with joker

C1890 grimaud deck

Exciting day for me today :)  Just took possession of a beautiful genuine c1890 deck of French Grimaud no. 1502 Whist playing cards.  In excellent, near mint condition and complete with joker and stamp to the ace of clubs to prove it is genuine.  Thought I'd share the aces, joker and 2 of the court cards so you could get a peek at a truly beautiful deck.  Even the telescopic box is in excellent nick!

Sunday, May 19, 2013


cleaning and storage

Personally I do not clean cards as it could destroy their resale value. However I know many people who do and I am often asked the best way to clean them. According to popular opinion the following methods have worked for other collectors.

For modern cards with plastic coatings the best thing appears to be alcohol free (sensitive skin formula) baby wipes to remove general dirt. Avoid alcohol or lotion-based wipes as they can remove the ink. To tell if your card is plastic coated hold it sideways to a light source and it will have a sheen to it. Uncoated cards are dull.

For earlier cards (linens and uncoated) the best way to remove dirt is with a very soft gum eraser. If the dirt is heavier then use the side of a credit or ATM card to gently rub the dirt off. You can use a fingernail, but there is more chance of damaging the card. Don't use any moisture on these cards or they will warp.

Gold cards - to restore the shiny gleam and remove dullness with your gold cards (either gold bordered cards or fully gold ones) use a weak solution of cloudy ammonia. DO NOT use this on your silver cards, it will tarnish them!

Plastic cards - some fully plastic cards like Kems, Cruver All Plastics, Northbrook and Lady Nor Plastics where the card is fully made of thin plastic then a weak detergent solution and a damp cloth is the best way to clean them.

For all types of cleaning, do not rub the cards, just gently wipe - they are made of paper and they will wear (except the plastics of course!).

Old adhesive albums and card removal:


Sometimes you will find an album of cards (like the ones above) that have been put into old adhesive photo albums (common in 1960's-1980's). The best way to remove these is to let the glue deteriorate by drying out. Remove all of the plastic pages then hang the album over dry warm air (ducted heating is great). Put squashed paper balls inbetween pages to keep them all open like a fan. Over time the dry air (not wet heat) will dry the glue to the point that the cards can be easily removed. Test by lightly bending the pages and the cards should lift. Do not attempt to use your fingernails to lift them, you'll just damage the cards.

Glued-in cards: 
Sometimes cards have been glued into paper albums. Hopefully these will be a paste-type glue and not resin or epoxy based glue. Cut out the cards from the album and gently peel as much paper off as you can. For plastic-coated cards you can get a damp cloth and place it to the back of the card. When the paper absorbs the water it will loosen the glue and you can peel the paper away. If this doesn't work then the glue is probably resin or expoxy based and you can't remove those safely.


It is important that you store your swap cards correctly otherwise you will destroy their re-sale value (and a little piece of history!). There are 2 main ways to store and display your cards, either in paper albums or in plastic pages.

PAPER ALBUMS have either adhesive photo corners or pre-cut slots. Although paper albums create a nice backdrop for the cards (especially the ones with black pages and multiple Victorian style cut paper borders), over time permanent indentations appear on the card corners and this will affect re-sale value. Paper albums also do not protect the cards from wear and dirt, you'd be surprised how much wear can occur just by turning the pages!

PLASTIC POCKETS OR PAGES. These are the best choice as they not only protect the cards but won't cause indentations. Make sure the pages are archival safe (acid free) because vinyl pages can stick to the card surface and cause inks to "bleed", especially if exposed to heat, cold or humidity.

The main supplier of these type of pages is UltraPro, but they only come in 9 pockets per page which annoys many collectors as pairs or sets of 4 can't be displayed neatly. They are also a little too wide for regular sized cards (fit wides nicely though) and if you tip your folder the top row tends to fall out.

You can now follow me on Pinterest, I'll be uploading hundreds of my favourite Art Deco images and all my swap card graphics.  Great items to browse and download, especially for you artists.

click here to view my Pinterest boards

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Other branches of swap card collecting - ACES, JOKERS, OTHER CARDS

Most collectors have a "side" collection of cards that are collected for the non-picture side (or suit side). These can be just as interesting as the fronts, sometimes more so as they are harder to find.

This page won't have a great deal of text to read, mostly pictures of the weird and wonderful world of "other cards". For simplicity sake, I have split the branches into three categories:

1. Ace of Spades or Spade Aces. 
Collectors prize the ace of spades as it contains all the details of the manufacturer and is one of the most accurate ways to identify when and where the cards were made.

Spade aces from old Wide cards

Spade Aces Art Deco era

Spade Aces 2 - with adverts

Sets of Aces

Sets of Aces and matching Joker
from many medical decks of cards from 1960's

2. Jokers.
Jokers come in all sorts of weird and wonderful designs and attract a huge community of collectors worldwide. Most notable countries for collectors are Netherlands, Belgium, England, USA and Australia. Personally I don't collect jokers so all the ones I get go in either my Quicksales listings or auctioned on ebay.  If you are a joker collector it pays to get to know a swap card collector!
Spade and Joker pairs

examples of jokers

Some really nice Art Deco jokers

Jokers with adverts

3. "Extra" cards. 
Most decks contain "extra" cards for use as spares, extra jokers, score cards or advertising.

what can I collect?


Not all card collectors are collectors of cards! Some people begin just by collecting cards they like the look of, or cards that remind them of their childhood, or topics of special interest eg. if they own a certain dog breed or cats breed etc. 

Many of my buyers are artists who use the cards as inspiration, craft enthusiasts (decoupage, scrapbooking and the likes) or students doing projects (one did a great one on portrayal of women through the ages - all in cards!). Another artist bought ALL my jokers and did a huge artwork of them! People's creativity amazes me, I just stick them in albums! 

These special interest cards often start the collecting bug and then people go onto collecting the whole set of known cards. The following pictures are designed to show you the variety of themes people can collect. The following pictures (thumbnails) are clickable so it you want to view one larger.  Go to my picassa album if you want to see more.

Examples of themes:

Artists - 
these ones are Barribal

Maxfield Parrish

Thomas Kinkade

these ones are Giordano

themes - horses

themes - horses 2

themes - pegasus horses

Art Deco - white silhouettes

Art Deco - black silhouettes

themes - birds

themes - butterflies

themes - flowers

themes - Holly Hobbie

themes - blank backs Joy girls

themes - blank backs cats

Check out my Picassa album for more:


I initially started this blog back in 2006, UNFORTUNATELY CAN'T SIGN INTO THAT ACCOUNT AS THE EMAIL IS NO LONGER ACTIVE SO I CANT RESET MY PASSWORD!  now it's time for an update and revamp.

What Are Swap Cards?
People collect single playing cards (also known as swap cards) like others collect postcards, stamps or baseball cards and put them into similar albums for display.

What Can I Collect?
There are many types of playing cards to collect ranging from the antique wide playing cards (produced up to early c1900's) right through to the more modern. Common categories collected are wides, art deco/nouveau, cats, dogs, horses, glamour girls/pin-ups, birds, flowers, butterflies, fairies, people, adverts, artworks/artists etc etc.

Where Do I Find Swap Cards?
Most swap cards are now at least vintage, even antique so you need to hunt through antique and collectables shops or go online to ebay (either AU or USA) and the Aussie auction site QUICKSALES has a huge inventory from various sellers as their fees are cheaper. Click here to go to to the Swap Card section on Quicksales: (will open in a new tab so you won't lose me!).  This is a link to ALL swap cards listed and not just mine.

Please support the sellers on Quicksales, they are offering much cheaper cards there as the fees aren't so huge to sell like they are on Ebay, so it's really a win-win for both sellers and buyers.  Ebay obviously has the most listings, but do a bit of a comparison shop and you will get the best of both worlds I guess.



Refers to cards that are not the standard 6cm x 9cm playing card size. This is because they are either modern poker cards or pre-1920’s antique cards. All playing cards manufactured before approximately 1918 were done in a wider format (6.5 x 9 cm). These were designed to fit a gentleman’s hand as most card players were men. Square corner wides are cards cut without the corners rounded off. They are usually the older of the wides as the rounded corners came in the later 1800’s.


These cards were produced around the 1920’s due to the popularity of new card games for women (especially bridge). The 6x9 size cards (sometimes referred to as narrows) were better suited for holding in a lady’s hand.


Refers to cards with a printed title. These are wide or narrow and come in pairs and/or sets. There are catalogues put out by the various worldwide swap card clubs (USA and Australia the main two) and these list all KNOWN cards with printed titles by each manufacturer. There are American named (also called USNN for US Narrow Named), ENN (English narrow named) and Australian named cards. Cards that have the same design or picture as a named card but without the title are referred to as un-named cards.

"Linen finish"

Refers to the type of textured paper used to make the playing cards. Linens were a sign of superior quality cards which is why they are sought after by card collectors. "Herringbone Linen finish" are quality playing cards manufactured in England with a hatched herringbone appearance. These are also referred to as pneumatic finish.

"Artist signed"

Refers to artist who originally designed the image on the card. Popular and sought-after artists are William Barribal (produced a wide variety of themes like birds, flowers etc but most known for his deco ladies). Maxfield Parrish who did a series of stunning art deco and art nouveau images many featuring ladies. Alberto Varga, Rolf Armstrong, McPherson and others were famous for their sexy pin-up girls. Popular modern artists are Thomas Kinkade aka "The Painter of Light" famous for his beautiful scenery, Gladys Emerson Cook and Giordano have many animal designs, mostly dogs, cats and horses.

"Blank backed"
Can be either playing card extras (designed to be used as a spare if a card was lost or damaged) or trading cards. These are usually the same size as a regular playing card (or slightly smaller) and do not have card suits printed on the back. Many of these originated in the 1950’s in the USA and Australia and were sold as singles or in small packs. c1950’s Australian cards were made by Coles or Woolworths and are highly collectable. Later productions were by Greythorne and Tassell in the 1970’s.

"Catalogue listed" 
There are catalogues put out by the various card clubs and these detail all the KNOWN cards in a particular set or theme. These catalogues can be purchased from the Australian, English or American card clubs and generally show pictures of most of the cards and their relevant pairs or sets. Examples of catalogues are USNN (US narrow named), Wides (named and un-named), English named, Australian (named, un-named), Barribal etc.


Up to the 18th Century:
There were many artistic eras namely pre-Renaissance Gothic and Byzantine; Renaissance; Baroque; Rococo and Neoclassic; Romantic, Pre-Raphaelite, Realist and Impressionist. Playing card images have little direct relation with most of these movements as designs weren’t used widely on cards until the late 1800’s; up until this point most had crude designs or no design at all. Images on cards began to flourish in the following eras.

“Art Nouveau” (1890-1914)
Beautiful, romantic, rich, complex design prominent artists of this time Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt and Maxfield Parrish (also a deco artist). Between nouveau and deco was an ‘in between’ time where many artists crossed over styles.

“Art Deco” (1920-1939)
Simple, clean, elegant and modern (for its time) design with accents of silver and gold. Cards were almost always linen finish however during the Depression paper quality was often poor. Images were simple, geometric, linear, and symmetrical with long thin forms. Prominent artists of this time Erte (aka “The Father of Art Deco”) and William Barribal.

“Post War” (1940’s to 1950’s)
Playing cards favoured "cutesy" kittens. puppies and other animals.  Cartoon images like McPherson’s and Alberto Varga’s pin-up glamour or "cheesecake" girls, Schultz and Snoopy, America and Australia release blank backed trading cards (Coles Cards and Woolworths Cards).

"Modern or Retro" (1960’s – 1970’s)
Modernism saw the influence of psychedelic designs, bright fluoro colours and cards representing popular culture eg characters like Holly Hobbie, Betsey Clark, Raggedy Ann and Andy and the likes. In Australia Greythorne and Tassell released blank back trading cards most notably sets of the Joy girls, Sarah Kay and others.

1980’s to today lots of photographic images, cartoon and popular characters like Hello Kitty, Harry Potter, advertising (especially soft drink manufacturers) and modern artists like Thomas Kinkade (aka “The Painter of Light”).

Vintage is a term you will see a lot when searching for cards and it is used very loosely. Technically vintage means anything over 20 years old. It is used so widely when sellers advertise cards because it is a "keyword" or a common word people type in to ebay and other sites when looking for cards.