Organize your ACEO Collection
25th of 100 -- 1/4 Done!
What is an ACEO?
ACEO is an acronym that started on eBay, for Art Cards, Editions and Originals. Artist, collector and eBay seller Bone*Diva created the term because a few years ago, Artist Trading Cards or ATC's became popular -- but by tradition, ATCs are only traded for other ATCs, among artists. Bone*Diva's idea was to come up with a new term to become an eBay category for original and limited edition print art cards that could be sold.
Both ACEOs and ATCs must be 2 1/2" x 3 1/2", the size of a standard baseball card or other trading card. That is the main requirement for an ACEO. It's tradition to sign them, put your contact information on the back along with the title and maybe a bit about the mediums used and the surface. ATCs usually do require you put at least some of that information, there are sites about them that explain how to fill out the back. Some artists also print out a card-sized Certificate of Authenticity with a thumbnail of the art and its relevant information and signature, especially when the ACEOs are limited edition prints.
Usually the Editions are limited, some artists do unlimited Editions. Almost always the prints are signed on the back and even if not, usually the artist or photographer will sign it for you on request. With the rise of quality digital photoprinting, most of them are created with good photo paper and good digital printers, like mine. Some artists invest in thousand dollar or more giclee printers and use archival paper that costs $90 for a pack of 24 or something, but that is less common and those artists usually command high prices for their originals too.
ACEO collecting is the perfect answer for someone who enjoys collecting art and buying it fairly frequently but lacks the wall space and storage capacity of your average art museum. There comes a point of saturation even for avid art collectors when every room in the house is decorated with treasures and the rest of it rotates in and out of what's hopefully a dry, cool, dark attic for archival storage. ACEO collecting is also affordable on a lower end wage because they can range as low as a dollar or two for new unknown artists (and lucky super sale purchases) or quick sketches on up into hundreds of dollars for popular and very skilled professional artists.
Most collectors have favorite themes, mediums or topics they enjoy. Mediums can be anything that can be rendered two dimensionally. I have one that's actually got a little easel back because someone sculpted my cat in polymer clay and mounted him on a polymer clay base about 1/8" thick, he sits about 1/2" up off the sheet and is very realistic. I love that one but it has to stay out on a shelf like any three dimensnional art.
I started painting and trading ATCs in 2007 and then found eBay and started doing ACEOs. I'm using my art to illustrate this article because I don't know if I've got permission to post the art that I've bought and want to do this article tonight, not take several days contacting artists for permission. I do respect copyright. But I will say right now that my collection has grown to over 200 individual small artworks and most of it (except the occasional 3D one) fits in two large trading card albums along with a couple of pages of unsold ACEOs I've done and held back for trading purposes, along with a box of my prints.
The best way to store any flat ACEO is to order supplies online from eBay or visit a trading card store, where many styles of albums and pocket sleeves are available. Penny sleeves are a little more than one cent each, but not much, usually between $1.50 and $3 for a pack of 100. They're clear, archival and will protect delicate art like watercolors from handling, dust and dirt. The next step up in protection is an Ultra Pro or BCW "top loader" for anything from Pokémon to baseball cards.
I bought my album from http://www.nwcardsupplies.com which is owned by a friend I met on eBay buying top loaders and penny sleeves. He had a good price and always ships fast, I've given him positive feedback time after time -- and he has a six card per pocket album design that is incredibly sturdy, easy to move cards from one pocket to another. It's the Top Loader Album, designed with oversize pockets so the top loaders slide in and out easily.
I've filled one album already and I'm halfway through my second. They come in black or blue and take up very little space compared to say, the number of artworks I've got on my walls and stored in portfolios.
ACEO in Colored Pencils
Where to Get ACEOs and ATCs
The good news is that you do not need to be a great artist to get ATCs. You just need to join a swap group in an art community or on an ATC or ACEO site. There are two big ACEO groups on eBay, and swaps can be arranged privately or as a monthly group activity in the "ACEO Art Cards Editions & Originals" group founded by Bone*Diva. The other group, nearly as large with some overlapping membership, is "ACEO and ATC Enthusiasts."
Both have frequent prompts, contests, activities and interesting chat threads. So if you don't have any money to start, do some artworks. Cut good art paper to 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" and draw or paint them in any medium that pleases you. Glitter and collage techniques and other mixed-media techniques are very popular, so are iridescent paints, acrylics, altered art, altered photos, abstracts and stamp art productions. ACEOs run the gamut from wild 'n crazy hobbyists to some of the greatest fine art professionals it's ever been my privilege to know.
Unless the swap is themed, you'll have absolutely no idea what you'll get. Even then, you can't know what medium or style your swap partner will use. So if you want to choose a card, it's time to actually sell a few or otherwise get hold of some spending money and surf eBay, http://www.etsy.com and other sites that provide venues for artists to sell directly online such as http://www.ebid.com or http://www.bonanzle.com and so on.
Most collectors seem to eventually also become artists because it's so much fun making the cards and there's plenty of room for mediums and techniques that don't take years of drawing realistically to achieve. Most of the artists I know who get into these cards wind up collecting too, because an artist can really appreciate it when someone obviously spent decades learning the skill and put 30 hours into achieving finite perfection in a colored pencil realism card or a great little oil miniature or some other stunning piece. It's hard to become an artist without learning to appreciate art and wanting to own pieces by artists you admire -- and friends you love.
As a hobby, it falls in with trading card collecting, stamp collecting, coins and other collecting hobbies that don't take up too much space or a truly enormous budget. It can get expensive if you fight for the cards you want on auction sites, but of course if you really love that original it is the one and only, even that artist may never do your favorite subject that perfectly again.
Displaying your collection isn't always a matter of keeping the album on a shelf though. Many collectors will put out baskets of cards in top loaders for visitors to go through, or clear Lucite boxes easy to surf. One woman took an old iron lace garden gate, painted it white and mounted clips on it to display favorites, rotating what's on the rack. Several eBay artists have made quilts that are wall hangings with clear pockets to display ACEOs. A popular type of display is to create large multi-opening mats in various designs and frame them, sometimes mounting top loaders behind the mat so that which card goes in the frame can be rotated. Creative displays are popular and limited only by the imagination of the crafter.
If you are placing ACEOs on public display though -- rotate them. Museums rotate their exhibits constantly for preservation, because light will damage most art even if it's done with lightfast materials. Many of the whimsical and craft-themed ACEOs are done with nonarchival materials, children's art supplies are popular in some styles while others may use designer supplies that are used more by illustrators for whom the print is the permanent form of the art, not the original -- such as gouache and artist markers. Better safe than sorry -- I rotate which ones are on display and if I use any materials that are not archival, I will tell the buyer or swap partner what I used in it and suggest keeping it light-safe except when actually taking it out to enjoy it.
One reason I don't feel bad about creating or buying nonlightfast ACEOs is that I've seen the difference between medieval artworks done in paintings on walls and inside ancient Bibles and psalters done with the same fugitive colors. The one on the wall may have gray leaves because all the green faded out, while the one in the book still looks bright and new because they only opened that book on that holy day and did not display it day after day in the sunlight. So anything that isn't lightfast lives in my album, while the more lightfast ones rotate in and out to stick to my wall with poster putty or to the side of my easel or somewhere else that pleases me. I'm not too worried about the polymer clay one though, I think that stuff is pretty lightfast.
I've enjoyed this for two years now and expect to go on collecting ACEOs for decades. Etsy has some special interest groups for ACEO artists and collectors too, and there is a website at http://www.aceoaddix.com where many artists and collectors gather that also has some good articles I've written. I hope this article has interested you in the hobby -- and that if you love collecting art, it can help you expand beyond the limits of your wall space.