By tradition, trading cards have been made out of rectangular cardstock. In fact, the dictionary definition of card usually is a rectangular piece of cardstock or heavy paper. However, card companies have at times stretched or radically broken the trading card rules and issued cards, or at least card-related collectibles, using unusual materials and/or different formats.
This column looks at a just several non-cardstock examples from the 1800s to modern times.
While some will still be defined as trading cards, others will be popularly defined as ‘odd balls’ or card-related collectibles. There will no doubt be ongoing debates as to what they should be called and which, if any, are ‘true’ trading cards. I’ll let you decide for yourself. However, whichever way you define them they are still avidly collected by trading card collectors and can make for a new and interesting collecting angle.
1909-11 S74 Silks
Issued by the same tobacco company that gave us the T206 and T205 baseball cards, these funky items have the baseball player portraits on small strips of silk-like cloth. The cloth comes in different colors and the backs had cardboard backing with the tobacco brand, though the backs are often missing.
1914 B18 Felt Blankets
Issued by the same tobacco conglomerate as the S74 silks, these felt pieces featured the star players of the day, including Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. They were sold wrapped around the cigarette packs. As with the S74 silks, they can sometimes be found sewn together into larger blankets.
Circa 1910 Murad Cigarette Silks and Felts
Murad was an early 1900s tobacco brand that issued a variety of cards, silks and felts in sport and non-sport areas. As they don’t depict famous or identified athletes they can be purchased cheaply. They often issued items for universities, so you can pick up a Murad silk, felt or card for favorite college.
Early 1900s Turkish Trophies tobacco cloth and leather issues
A popular brand of tobacco, Turkish Trophies issued a variety of trading cards, but also unusual cloth and leather premiums. They covered sport and non sport subjects and are highly sought after by card collectors.
Circa 1910 Sweet Caporal Pins
Sponsors of a wide variety of trading and baseball cards, Sweet Caporal also issued their popular baseball pins made out of metal and celluloid. Celluloid was type of plastic commonly used to make pins and buttons. Though collected by baseball card collectors and graded by card grading companies,these clearly fall out of the strict category of trading cards both in materials and form.
Topps Test Issues and Odd Balls
Topps is famous for both its traditional cardstock trading cards and its wide and often wild variety of odd balls and test issues. Along with issuing non-cards such as stamps, stickers and posters, they sometimes used non cardstock materials.
Sportflics plastic ‘Magic Motion’ Cards
Zooming to modern times, Sportflics made 1980s to 2000s trading cards that used plastic technology to give the card images dual images. When you look at the cards at different angles, you get a different image. This dual image could only be achieved by incorporating plastic.
1996 Pinnacle Zenith Z-Team transparent plastic cards
These then premium insert cards were printed on clear plastic. Numerous other cards have also been printed on clear plastic like this. The phone card inserts, once popular in the 1990s, were printed on opaque plastic.
Pinnacle was known for a variety of sometimes off-the-wall ideas.