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History Of Trading Card Games
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Trading Card Games: From Tantalising Origins to Modern Appeal

Trading card games (TCGs) have a rich history that spans multiple decades and have captivated audiences of diverse ages, backgrounds, and interests. The engaging mix of strategy, collection, artistry, and social interaction that TCGs offer has established their appeal across a variety of demographics.


Before there were trading cards, there were “trade cards”. These cards were often packaged with cigarettes for the purpose of stiffening the cigarette packaging and were often used as a form of advertising. This is where the term “cigarette cards” comes from. In the 1860s, not long after major league baseball was deemed a professional sport, baseball cards were printed and included in packets of candy or tobacco products.[1]

Back in the 1870s and early 1900s, “colour lithography” or multi-colour printing, became popularised and led to the increased popularity of the trade card. Businesses and brands of all types would insert trade cards in the product’s packaging as a prize. The designs on the cards often weren’t product related but instead were of beautiful or funny images, depending on the perceived tastes of the consumer.

The more popular they became, the more valued they were. From their vibrant full coloured imagery, consumers began to collect trade cards, sorting them into scrapbooks and albums. These cards would often be traded with other collectors in order to complete the set, hence the source of their name. These cards faded in popularity as colour printing became more common, but the concept of trading cards was born.[1]

The Birth Of Modern TCGs

TCGs, or Collectible Card Games (CCGs), first came to rise with the introduction of Magic: The Gathering (MTG) in 1993.[2] The brainchild of mathematician Richard Garfield and the company Wizards of the Coast, MTG captivated audiences with its depth of strategy, fantasy themes, and the thrill of collecting rare cards.[3] The game’s immense success led to the spawning of a new genre of gaming that quickly gained traction.

Following the success of MTG, numerous other TCGs emerged. Pokémon, a franchise known for its video games and animated series, expanded into the card game space in 1996. The Pokémon Trading Card Game successfully combined the brand’s lovable characters with strategic gameplay.[4] Yu-Gi-Oh!, another franchise that launched its own TCG in 1999, enhanced the genre with intricate rules and tie-ins to its popular anime series.[5]

In the new millennium, TCGs continued to evolve, embracing the digital medium. In 2011 Pokémon created an online version of the TCG and provided a digital platform that allowed for seamless play and collection.[6] Many other TCGs have also gone digital or were even launched as a digital-only game, but the physical cards still uphold a strong consumer desire and are still very widely used.

In recent years many new physical TCGs have been released with a great response from players, with games such as Flesh and Blood (2019), Digimon (2021) and the highly anticipated Lorcana (2023), the official Disney TCG produced by Ravensburger.

Why Are TCGs Popular?

A variety of factors contribute to the broad demographic appeal of TCGs. The combination of strategy and chance in these games makes them intriguing for players who enjoy problem-solving and unpredictability. The beautiful artwork and thematic elements attract those with a love for aesthetics and storytelling. Moreover, the collectable aspect of these games appeals to the innate human drive to collect, own, and showcase rare items.[7]

Additionally, the social component of TCGs cannot be overstated. Many players are drawn to the community that these games foster, be it through local game stores, tournaments, or online platforms. TCGs provide a shared language and shared experiences that help to form and strengthen social bonds.

Another factor in their popularity is the accessibility and variety that TCGs offer. There are games to cater to almost every taste and age group, from the fantasy realms of MTG to the child-friendly Pokémon universe, the complex duels of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the strategic player vs player battles of Digimon.


While the world of TCGs has changed dramatically since the introduction of MTG, their appeal remains strong among a variety of demographics. TCGs have not just endured, they have thrived, continuing to provide a compelling blend of strategy, collection, and community that is likely to captivate audiences for years to come.

What’s more, non-foil trading cards are fully recyclable! This means that your countless spares or commons and uncommon, if not worth any value, can be recycled easily at home to make space for more used or valuable cards. In Europe the paper recycling rate is 71%, making it one of the most recycled materials in the world![8]


  1. The History Of Collectable Trading Cards
  2. The Definitive History of Magic: The Gathering
  3. The Making of Magic: The Gathering. Wizards of the Coast
  4. The History of Pokémon Cards
  5. The History of Yu-Gi-Oh!
  6. Wikipedia, Pokémon TCG Online
  7. Pearce, K. C. (2009). Collecting behaviours blend: The psychology of collecting. In A. J. Browne (Ed.), Profiles of play: Assessing and observing structure and process in play therapy (pp. 187–205). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  8. CEPI, 2021

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