Artist Trading Cards – to make or not to make?

I was inspired to write this post after reading Chris Chuckry’s post about creating Artist Trading Cards for professional companies (Read Chris’s post here) which I highly recommend. I’ve never attempted to sell cards that way (nor will I) my experience comes from selling them with my booth merch.

Sara Wilde artist trading card
One of the more detailed cards


I did my first comic con last year and the idea of making trading cards immediately appealed to me. They are small, fast projects that you can produce a lot of in a short amount of time – just a nice small thing to have for sale next to your bigger more expensive items. I went a little overboard I made 50 by the time the convention rolled around but I thought the more I have the better.


Some of these cards I had spent a LOT of time on, like way too much time for such a small payoff. But being the perfectionist I am, I wanted to sell only the highest quality work.


Isn't he just the worst?
Isn’t he just the worst?

Well the con came and went and I learned a lot of very valuable lessons. For one thing I was very surprised at how easily passed over the trading cards were. I sold several and used some in trades with other artists, but largely people had no interest in flipping through my binder or really even in the fact that they were “one of a kind hand made”.


I’ve thought a lot about my successes and failures at my first booth experience and I think it’s pretty clear now where I went wrong.


It is sensory overload at conventions and if you’re lucky enough to catch someone’s attention then you’d better be able to show them quick what you have to sell. It’s asking a lot of a person to stop and rifle through your binders to see if maybe there is something they would like. Not only that, many people feel very uncomfortable in front of artists, like there’s pressure to buy or they are shy and just don’t Sara Wilde artist trading cardwant to start a conversation (I mean we are at a comic book convention here).


On top of social issues – I believe there are value issues as well. I was selling my cards for $10 a card, some artists I saw were selling some of theirs for as much as $20-$30 (yikes!). When it comes to products; size and tactility matter. When people see these small (2.5×3.5) drawings it’s hard for them to see the value in that – why there are big posters there that sell for $5-$10! People who don’t appreciate the art won’t appreciate the time and effort put into such an intricate little work of art.


Sara Wilde Artist trading cardThe market for trading cards is small, I’ll keep mine at my booths, but I won’t be investing as much time or energy into creating new ones from now on.


If you’re interested in making some I would keep them in mind for warm up exercises, and have them on hand (great for artist trades!). But don’t bank on them turning a huge profit or generating interest at your table.






Sara Wilde artist trading cardSara Wilde trading cardSara Wilde trading card

Sara Wilde trading card

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  • Keith Farnum
    January 31, 2017 at 11:49 pm  - Reply

    Really like this articular you posted. Some people just don’t understand how much time can go into one of the cards. I have seen where some go for big bucks on ebay.. With your talent I am sure you would make some good money on there. Really enjoyed your art here. I do not have a website yet, but I do have a Youtube channel I just started. I show some of cards on every Thursday. Pretty big for me, since I never show my work to anybody.
    The channel is TCG,Art and other random things. Would love if you checked it out and let me know what you think!
    Thank you,
    Keith Farnum 🙂

    • Sara Wilde
      March 12, 2017 at 3:43 pm  - Reply

      Hey! Sorry for the super long response time, I so rarely get real comments on here 😛 You’re absolutely right, in the right market you can set much better prices for yourself. I’m a bit biased in that I have not branched out to online sales very much.
      I checked out your page! You’re very talented as well 🙂 Good for you for being so consistent with your work and for putting yourself out there, neither of those things are easy to do – especially in the beginning.
      Anyways good luck with your trading cards and thanks for your feedback!

  • Kris
    October 9, 2017 at 9:41 pm  - Reply

    But they aren’t meant to be sold! Artist Trading Cards are just that… meant to be traded. Clearly anyone can do anything they like with their creations but if I was at a con I would expect to trade my cards for other cards. I would never expect to purchase them. They simply aren’t meant to be commercial. That could be the problem you’re running into… artists deserve to be compensated for their time but no one should be turning something meant to be a social trading experience into profit. If you really enjoy making the cards and simply HAVE to profit in order for the work to be valid try creating them then using them as a base to print on greeting cards or creating sets and framing and selling that way… example: three cards that make up one complete picture when placed side by side. Might be able to sell that way.

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