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Trading Card Art

Updated on July 9, 2014
Art cards made with postage stamps
Art cards made with postage stamps

Trading Art Cards - ATC

In 1997, a project known as Art Trading Card (ATC) began in Switzerland. A lot of people would credit Art Trading Card sessions to M. Vänçi Stirnemann, who began trading sessions in Zurich, Switzerland. Art cards were like business cards for artists. They were mini original pieces of work handed out at trading sessions for artists to mingle with one another and become familiar with their style of work. Because these mini trading art cards were originals, they become highly collectible and many people who were not artists wanted to be able to collect these cards, too! Some collectors offered to pay the artist for their art cards.

This presented a problem. Trading card art was not intended to be sold. They were merely a promotional tool intended strictly for trade. The term ACEO stands for Art Cards Editions and Originals and ACEO is the movement that started after the ATC movement. ACEOs are sold and can be found all over the web.

ATC or art trading cards exist independently from ACEO. Trading art cards evolved into a hobby for artists and craft people alike. ATC forums and groups can be found on social media sites like Facebook and exist in the local art community. Trading card sessions can be set up at museums, banquet halls, pubs and restaurants and community centers. Local museums feature artists and their art cards. It is common to see yearly art card exhibits. The Richmond Art Gallery in Richmond, Canada has featured ATC annually in exhibits and also offers trading sessions often. These sessions are open to local artists and artists who have a trade. Usually trading sessions are themed. The Richmond Art Gallery is not the only center to jump on the ATC band wagon. Trading groups are found all over Facebook. If you would like to try your hand at trading art cards visit Artists Trading Cards on Facebook. Visit the Artists Trading Cards events page for current trading sessions. Trading is easy with this group. You send your creations and a self addressed stamped envelope to receive cards from other artists in trade for yours. It usually takes about a month to receive your cards. Also try ATC & ACEO Enthusiasts on Facebook to receive information on both ATC and ACEO.

Since the ATC movement began, it has evolved. The ATC movement has gained momentum with the craft person. Many who are interested in scrapbooking take an instant liking to the ATC movement. It is common to see magazine clippings, stamps, stickers, ribbon, cut paper and other small notions in the ATC work. ACEO has turned from that style of crafting and is more focused on drawing, painting or illustration verses stamped or printed materials.

ATC Swap "Filmstrip" Theme

Original ACEO in Watercolor

Tree at Sunset
Tree at Sunset | Source


Art Card Editions and Originals were a reaction to the ATC movement. Artists and collectors wanted to be able to buy art cards but ATC purists insist that art cards should only be traded. Artists quickly figured out that they could make some money by selling smaller pieces of art work while still having time to create the more lucrative larger paintings and art work. It did not take long for this movement to catch on.

The ACEO movement began in the early 2000's. Ebay was certainly the first online market place to showcase ACEO by independent artists, however, Etsy, is another large online marketplace for ACEO collectibles.

Surprisingly, selling miniature works of art is not a new notion. Small art work has been sold and traded for centuries. Prior to the invention of the camera, it was popular to keep a small portrait of someone you loved close at hand while you were traveling, sailing or at war. Artists painted pictures of mistresses, wives and children for men who would not see their loved ones for a long period of time. These small works of art were the original art cards of their time.

The Impressionist artists of the 1800's also painted small works of art. They liked to trade their small works with other artists so that they could compare styles and techniques. Van Gogh was said to have painted mini works of art for local tavern and market owners in trade for beer or bread. These small art works kept an artist from going hungry.

Creating ACEO is fun and can be very rewarding. All ACEO and ATC follow a standard size format of 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches. This size is the same size as the modern baseball card. ATC paper is sold by fine art suppliers online and at arts and crafts stores nationwide. In a pinch, you can paint over a playing card to create an art card for trading or to sell online.

For ATC creations, save your old scrap booking pieces and put together some fun themed art and try your hand at trading online. Old fabric scraps also work well for ATC and can easily be glued to paper surfaces for a fun look.

ACEO Original Illustration With Copic Markers and Colored Pencil

Create an ACEO with Copic Markers


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