What Was The First Trading Card Game?

Trading card games (TCGs) have become immensely popular over the past few decades, with millions of fans around the world collecting and playing with physical cards. But what was the very first trading card game that started it all? Here is a look at the origins and history behind modern TCGs.

Key Takeaways:

The first true trading card game is considered to be Magic: The Gathering, created by Richard Garfield and first published in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast.

Prior to Magic’s release, collectible card games existed but did not fully embrace the “trading card game” model involving deck building. 

Magic: The Gathering introduced key innovations like mana, deck construction rules, and a robust tournament system that influenced later trading card games.

Other influential early trading card games included Pokémon TCG, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Cardfight!! Vanguard.

The trading card game market has grown exponentially since the 1990s, now worth over $10 billion globally.

Understanding the Market Trends

Understanding the Market Trends

While Magic: The Gathering is considered the first true trading card game, it obviously did not appear out of nowhere. Prior to its release in 1993, there were predecessors that paved the way for trading card games as we know them today.

Pre-Magic Attempts at Trading Card Games

In the decades before Magic’s arrival, game makers attempted to create card games using play mechanics that approached the modern trading card game format. For example:

Baseball Card Game – Published in 1904, this early card game from the Guinness Book of Records was the first to use individual trading cards that could be compiled into custom decks. However, it lacked key elements like deck construction rules.

Star Wars Customizable Card Game First released in 1995 by Decipher, this was one of the first card games where players could trade and customize decks using their card collections. But it still lacked elements like mana and tournament rules that would define trading card games.

Why Magic: The Gathering Was a True Breakthrough

Magic: The Gathering, often referred to as Magic or MTG, successfully brought together all the key components of a trading card game:

– Customizable decks based on card rarity

– Deck construction rules 

– In-game resource management via “mana”

– Distinct card types like creatures and spells

– Regular addition of new card sets

– Organized tournament system

Combined with elegant card artwork and accessible fantasy theme, Magic’s innovative blend of gameplay, collectibility and community allowed it to become a global phenomenon.

Finding the Right Cards to Invest In

For those looking to get into trading card game collecting, investing in the right cards is key. Here are some tips:

Focus on rare cards – Rare, mythic rare, and promotional cards have smaller print runs, making them more valuable long-term holds. Chase rares from older sets can command high prices. 

-Consider ” Reserved List” cards – Magic: The Gathering has a Reserved List of extremely rare cards that will never be reprinted, making them coveted by collectors. Examples include the Power Nine cards like Black Lotus.

Research metagame impact – Cards that are crucial to top tournament decks can see demand spikes and price jumps. Keep an eye on competitive TCG communities.

Evaluate condition – Card condition is critical. Near-mint, lightly played cards hold value much better. Heavily played, damaged cards should be avoided as investments.

Buy and hold sealed products – Sealed booster boxes, packs, decks and starter sets from older sets can appreciate greatly over time. But storage conditions are vital.

Buying and Selling Cards 

Buying and Selling Cards 

Once ready to start investing, you need to know the ins and outs of buying and selling trading cards:

Buying Cards

When buying individual cards, you’ll want to consider:

Buy from reputable dealers Purchase from established vendors at major online marketplaces or brick-and-mortar gaming stores. They are more likely to accurately represent card conditions.

Verify authenticity Counterfeit cards abound, so learn how to spot fakes through red flags like unusual printing artifacts, poor cardstock, etc. Reputable sellers will guarantee authenticity.

Price aggregation sites like TCGPlayer can give you a sense of fair market value for any given card. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

Consider professional grading – For very valuable cards, having them professionally graded and encapsulated by services like PSA or Beckett can boost value further.

Selling Cards

When looking to sell parts of your collection, you’ll want to think about:

Online marketplaces Popular options include TCGPlayer, eBay, and Facebook groups. Compare fee structures across platforms.

Local gaming stores Brick-and-mortar shops may buy select singles and collections for cash or store credit. Know that you’ll get less than full market price.

Buylists Vendors like ChannelFireball and Star City Games buy cards based on buylist prices, which are lower than market prices. But buylists are fast and convenient.

Trading and auction sites On sites like CardSphere, you can set your ask price, trade cards with other users, or put cards up for auction. Provides more selling flexibility.

Speculative investment If holding onto chase rares as an investment, consider holding for years for potential price jumps instead of selling in the short term.

Buying and Grading Cards

Buying and Grading Cards

Getting trading cards professionally graded and sealed by reputable grading companies can significantly boost their value for collectors and investors. Here is an overview:

Main grading companies The two major TCG grading companies are PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) and Beckett Grading Services. CGC (Certified Guaranty Company) also handles some TCG grading.

Grading process You submit cards by mail for grading. Experts will assess centering, surface, corners, edges and apply a numeric grade from 1 to 10, with 10 being perfect gem mint condition.

Grading costs Fees start around $10-20 per card depending on the company, with higher premiums for faster turnaround times. Bulk discounts available for large submissions.

Grading benefits Top graded cards can sell for exponentially more. A PSA 10 Mint Black Lotus sold for over $500,000 in early 2022, whereas an ungraded copy might sell for around $15,000.

Potential risks Grading costs are non-refundable, and graded cards become difficult to sell if they receive low grades. Handling and shipping also pose risks. For expensive cards, insurance is a must.

Alternatives: Some choose to get “authenticity verification” from graders first before committing to full grading, or use local grading services to save on fees.

Getting valuable, high-end cards graded professionally is recommended for maximizing resale value. But consider costs, risks and alternatives carefully.

Selling Cards Wholesale 

Selling Cards Wholesale 

Besides listing cards individually online or taking them to local stores, some larger collectors or investors may look to sell significant collections or investments wholesale all at once. Here are tips on selling cards in bulk:

Contact major vendors Large dealers like Star City Games, Troll and Toad, and ChannelFireball frequently buy collections, inventory lots or sealed product wholesale. Expect to get 30-50% of potential market value.

Utilize buylists Vendors will pay wholesale buylist prices to quickly acquire cards they want to resell. You ship cards to them, they inspect and pay. Typically 40-60% of market value.

Sell to local stores Some local card shops may make direct buy offers for entire collections, though likely at lower rates. Can be convenient for very large collections.

Attend buy/sell events At major conferences like the Las Vegas MagicFest, dealers hold events to appraise and purchase collections on the spot. Allows you to directly negotiate.

Auction large collections High-end auction houses like PWCC, Goldin, and Heritage can auction entire collections for maximum returns, but require a lengthy consignment process and carry fees.

Break collections into smaller lots Rather than selling a collection all together, consider breaking it down into smaller sets of cards grouped by value, condition, or game for better returns.

For major investments, taking the time to carefully inventory and research key items before selling in bulk can pay off in maximizing your overall returns on the backend.

Breaking Cards 

Breaking Cards 

Breaking cards refers to the practice of opening sealed boxes, packs or other products specifically to resell the contents as singles or smaller lots to collectors and players. Here is an overview of breaking:

Target outdated sets Older sealed products often appreciate well above original retail cost, making breaking profitable. But avoid sets still readily available at MSRP.

Focus on Chase Rares The big money is in hitting coveted rare, mythic rare, and specialty chase cards that command high prices. Bulk rares and commons bring little value.

Sell quickly Best to sell pulls while hype is high and before prices settle or new sets cause declines. Pre-sales allow locking in value.

Buy wholesale Cut into profits by purchasing booster boxes in bulk at wholesale rates, not single boxes at retail markup. 

Consider all costs Factor in not just wholesale product cost, but shipping materials, listing fees, payment processing fees, shipping fees. These eat into margins.

Sell across platforms Reduce fees by selling chase cards at marketplaces like TCGPlayer, eBay, and CardSphere while moving bulk lots through buylists.

Manage inventory Keep detailed records of every card’s cost basis and market price. Organize inventory for efficient processing and shipping.

Mitigate risk: Breaking cards carries inherent risk. A box could contain no rare hits. Hype around pulls may not match actual demand. Manage risk by breaking enough product volume to smooth out variance.

While breaking cards requires upfront product costs and has risks, it allows capitalizing on new sets and leveraging TCG fans’ appetite for the next big chase card.

This covers the origins of trading card games, the components that make them compelling, strategies for investing in cards, and different approaches to buying and selling cards as a collector or enthusiast.

Let me know if you would like me to expand on any part of this overview. I can provide additional details on the history, gameplay mechanics, or investing strategies around trading card games in a follow-up section. Please feel free to provide any other feedback or guidance on improving the article.

Sports Cards as a Speculative Business

Beyond classic trading card games like Magic: The Gathering, sports cards represent another speculative market that investors and collectors participate in. Here is an introduction to the sports card landscape:

Key sports The big four sports for cards are football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Baseball cards have the longest history, while basketball and football drive more modern demand.

Major brands Topps, Panini and Upper Deck are some leading manufacturers producing sports cards today. Vintage sets were made by brands like Topps, Bowman and Fleer.

Rookie focus Rookie cards for star players often gain the most value long-term. Rookies of legends like Michael Jordan, Mike Trout and Tom Brady command high prices.

Autographs and relics Signed cards and cards with jersey or gear pieces, dubbed “hits”, are huge draws in modern sports card releases. Limited print runs make them attractive.

Grading matters Like TCG cards, professionally graded sports cards in pristine condition fetch much higher premiums compared to raw copies. 

Sealed boxes, packs and wrappers from older eras have become collectible card games in their own right based on nostalgia and scarcity.

Speculate on trends Investors try to predict the next hot players, teams, or sports before card prices rise. But sports card markets are volatile and risky.

The sports card market surged during the COVID-19 pandemic as nostalgic older collectors and speculative investors flooded back in, making it both lucrative and risky.

Where to Sell Sports Cards

Where to Sell Sports Cards

For those looking to sell valuable sports card collections, there are several options:

The big auction houses like PWCC Marketplace, Goldin and Heritage Auctions are popular for high-end cards, but charge seller fees.

eBay Leverage eBay’s massive reach, but beware of fees that can cut into selling margins. Authenticity guarantee for cards over $750 helps combat fraud.

Facebook groups Specialized groups dedicated to particular sports, teams or players offer a more targeted sales audience. Best for established users.

Forums/message boards Niche communities like Blowout Cards, Hobby Kings and Hobby Insider are options, but have smaller audiences than other platforms.

Local card shops Selling locally avoids fees and shipping hassles, but means taking lower offers compared to online sales. May be best for lower-value bulk.

Direct buyer outreach Large vintage card dealers may buy collections directly, but will still offer wholesale prices far below market rates.

For maximum returns, carefully researching viable platforms, comparing fees and shipping costs, confirming buyers’ reputation, and securing insurance to protect high-value shipments are all recommended best practices when selling sports cards.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the original trading card game?

The original trading card game was “Magic: The Gathering,” created by Richard Garfield and first published by Wizards of the Coast in 1993.

What is the oldest card game?

The oldest card game is believed to be “Ganjifa,” which originated in Persia in the 16th century. It was later adapted into “Ganjifa” in India and “Hanafuda” in Japan.

Is MTG the first trading card game?

No, Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is not the first trading card game. The first trading card game is generally considered to be Magic: The Gathering (MTG) was the first trading card game, released in 1993.

What was the first card playing game?

The first card game is believed to be “Karnöffel,” which was played in the 15th century in Germany. It was a trick-taking game with a unique deck of cards.


The first trading card game, “The Baseball Card Game,” was a significant milestone in the history of gaming and entertainment. Its creation marked the beginning of a new era in which trading card games would become a beloved pastime for millions of people worldwide. The success of “The Baseball Card Game” paved the way for the development of other trading card games, each with its own unique themes and mechanics.

Today, trading card games continue to be a popular form of entertainment, with new games being released regularly. As we look back on the history of trading card games, it is clear that the first trading card game played a crucial role in shaping the landscape of gaming and entertainment as we know it today.

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