Why Collect Credit Cards?
People collect credit cards for many of the same reasons people collect coins and stamps.
The hobby can be enjoyable for different reasons. Every credit card is a time capsule with its own individual art and history. Some people learning about this history, others enjoy learning about how technology has evolved, whereas some simply enjoy the aesthetics of the physical cards. The hobby can also be quite sociable. As there are relatively few credit card collectors, those who are passionate about the hobby tend to be quite sociable in nature, as it facilitates learning and trading with one another.
Credit card collecting can be challenging, because many cards are not issued any longer, and because most people cut their cards in half rather than save them; they are hard to find. It is also an opportunity. This is a relatively young hobby and only now is the historical significance of credit cards on modern society being recognised. And it’s different – how many credit card collectors have you met?
What types of credit card should I collect?
The sheer number of credit cards in existence means it is impossible to collect everything, so collectors normally lean towards an area (or areas) of interest. Some of the most popular include bank cards, gas cards and retail cards. You can learn more about different types of credit cards and credit pieces here.
Over time, collectors can amass a sizeable portfolio of cards. It is quite common for ACCCS members to have thousands of cards, and the largest collections contain upwards of ten thousand. Other members might have far smaller collections, but that isn’t to say one collector is more passionate than the other.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to collect credit cards. Cards which appeal to one person may not appeal to another, and vice versa. The only correct way to collect credit cards is to pursue those you most enjoy collecting.
Some people may collect older credit cards, whereas others collect newer ones. Some focus on collecting cards from specific countries, and others collect cards made of a particular materials, such as paper, card, celluloid, plastic or metal. Some may only collect unused cards, whereas others still only collect used ones (used cards are normally referred to as “live” cards). The list goes on and on, and the only constricting factor is what appeals to the individual. And even this can change over time.
How much do credit cards cost?
Credit card values vary for the same reasons any collectible does. Those factors include age, condition and how much someone wants a card in their collection i.e. demand. Mint cards (unused and unsigned) are more valuable than used cards and large population cards tend to be less desirable than low population cards. It is worth noting, however, that scarcity does not necessarily equal value (it can do, but it doesn’t always). Rare cards can be cheap, such as those issued in small numbers by small department stores, while some of the most expensive cards may have hundreds, or even thousands, of known examples, but they still command high prices. You can learn more about valuation here.
There is always something new to learn and new cards are constantly being discovered. Finding these can be the most enjoyable aspect of the hobby for some people. You can also learn a lot of history about credit cards from old brochures and marketing materials. Indeed, some collectors will also (or alternatively) collect advertising material, credit card application forms, and welcome packs.
How to organize a credit card collection
There are many different ways to organize a collection. Some collectors will use albums and sleeves intended to hold sports cards. These can work remarkably well. Be sure to avoid PVC sleeves, as vinyl is an unsafe plastic to store collectibles in long-term.
Collectors may also create unique displays for their cards, akin to what you would find in a museum. If you plan to do this, give some consideration to how light can deteriorate plastic over time. While not cheap, it is sometimes suggested to use UV resistant plexiglass in displays.
How To Get Started
The easiest way to get started in the hobby is keep your own cards, rather than throwing them in the bin. You can also apply for new cards in your own name, and ask friends, relatives and business associates to give you their expired cards.
Arguably, the best source for obtaining new cards is eBay, and it’s possible to amass a relatively large number of cards for a relatively small financial outlay. It is also possible to spend a lot of money on cards which are highly sought after, if you wish to do so.
Aside from eBay, other sources for cards include collectibles websites and social media groups. Links to some of these websites can be found on our resources page. An alternative (and often overlooked) source is to connect with collectors of related memorabilia. For example, if you are interested in gas cards cards, you can seek out clubs for enthusiasts who collect oil and gas memorabilia.
Of course, one of the best ways to learn more about collecting credit cards is to become a member of the ACCCS. We provide members with regular newsletters, a useful handbook, and an invitation to our conference where you can connect with experts in this field.