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What Are Artists Trading Cards, An Introduction

Updated on January 15, 2015

My Personal Introduction to Artist Trading Cards

I was introduced to Artist trading cards or their equivalent ACEO's by Ebay. Not knowing about artist trading cards, I was browsing around in the art categories on Ebay and kept seeing reference to ACEO.

A detail from an original aceo painting by the author

I had to find out what it was. It is actually an art format, sized the same as the ubiquitous Trading Cards so beloved by kids of all ages. That is 2.5 X 3.5 inches exactly. The acronym stands for Art Cards Editions and Originals. It could be in any media at all and had been started on Ebay around 1996.

Anyway, I had always prepared for my painting by doing several small sketches to get right the composition / colour / etc and found that this size format was a natural for me. I tentatively put the first listing of an ACEO painting on Ebay and WOW it sold!!! Fantastic!!! I had soon sold around 50 of these little miniatures and felt great.

That first aceo painting was a scene from Portmeirion in Wales where the exterior scenes for the TV programme The Prisoner was filmed. Remember Patrick McGoohan, Prisoner Number 6. This was the rear of his circular house in the village. (see picture above).You can see more of my art on my blogs Painting With John and Artyfax, the trials and tribulations of a leisure artist.

I hope to give an account of the history and potential of these wonderful little works of art, they are a great way for anybody to start their very own art collection. They are fun, affordable and a real insight into the work of any artist that you like. Further to this I will talk about the making, collecting and selling of ACEO's.My own personal collection of works by other artists is several hundred, but I think that this will grow substantially in the future. Why not try it out?

I originally wrote this lens specifically to cover art cards which were made for selling and so the term ACEO is used throughout the lens. However, I now recognise the similarity between these and art cards traded and indeed the only difference is that one is sold ( ACEO) and one is only ever traded (ATC). Therefore it should be taken as read, that whenever the term ACEO is mentioned in this page, it refers to either form of artist trading cards. I will gradually rewrite this anomaly out of the lens as it is modified.

please note the copyright of all images is the property of the original artist, unless otherwise stated all art and photographs are by Artyfax

abstract building the city
abstract building the city

What is an ACEO?

The ACEO format

ACEO (artist trading cards) are a particular art format which is defined by its size. The acronym stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals. This reflects the idea that they are sometimes made as part of a series or may be made as numbered editions, usually limited editions. These miniature works are only 2.5 X 3.5 inches. This incidentally, and not by accident, is the size of the ubiquitous Trading Cards beloved by kids of all ages and sizes. This means that there are many products available for storing and displaying the art work, from simple plastic wallets to A4 loose leaf pages with multiple pockets, and whole display books. The miniature aceo art works can of course be framed for display either singly or as multiples.

Collectors often come up with their own devices or simply use a favourite box ( of the right size of course) and I have even heard of them being used as dolls' house art.

It is a format that started back in 1996, and soon grew into a very popular collectible area. A search on for ACEO can bring up 3-4000 items (rather less in the UK as you might imagine being a much smaller market, but we are getting there) with aceo's available in so many different media it soon becomes confusing. Watercolor, oil, acrylic, pencil, collage, photographic images, computer generated images..... the list goes on.

ACEO's are a really inexpensive and fun way of starting your own original art collection.

Alternatively, for those with an artistic bent, art cards can be traded with other artists, almost always as originals or "one-of-a-kind" (OOAK). This was thte original means of dispersal when the format was introduced, see a short history below. When traded they are called ATC's , short for artist trading card.

My ACEO's on You Tube - A Portfolio of ACEO paintings by myself on YouTube

This video to be found on YouTube was an experiment for me. A selection of some of my ACEO paintings, backed by my own soundtrack, hope you like it.

very early painted artist trading cards by the author

a later selection of artist trading cards by myself

I have sold many of these artist trading cards on ebay, again a selection of watercolour paintings

Some of my favourite artists' sites on Ebay - I have at least one work by most of these guys in my own collection of ACEO's

There are many, many really great artists selling ACEO's on Ebay. Some are selling simply to attract attention to their larger works, others sell ACEO's as their main line. If you are interested, then give them a quick once over. I did not intend this lens to be a commercial, but hey! we all need to make bread, so please forgive the intrusion.

I am not selling on Ebay at the moment, and have given up my Ebay shop, please watch this space for news of developments on Etsy.

ACEO Links On The Web - just a small selection to wet your apetite...

Here I have tried to provide links to sites with articles about the subject rather than artist sites, I will be adding more regularly.

ACEO's from the ACEO UK, Ebay group - a small selection from some fine artists

The Ebay user group ACEO UK has recently started to take notice of ths exciting development and list art videos (aka showreels) on You Tube. This is a group endeavour .

A few examples from a group I belonged to which no longer exists

jester aceo atc
jester aceo atc

History of ACEO's

What and Why

We have seen above two variations of the artist trading card, ATC and ACEO. And how they only differ in that one is sold and the other is only ever traded. How did this come about?

Artists have always painted miniatures for patrons but in September 1996, Swiss artist M Vanci Stirnemann formally identified the concept and format of artist trading cards now known as ATC's. I have also shown above that ATC's are not limited to any particular media but can be created in almost any way that can be envisaged. I have listed and given examples in my article Making Artist Trading Cards. The original idea was that ATC's should be exchanged between artists and never sold or indeed should not involve the art establishments selling art. However the internet was taking off at this time and this helped to create a popular demand for this format. It very soon became established around the world particularly in the USA thanks to the involvement via the internet.

For more information see:-

Time line for ATC's

ATC Quarterly

flower garden abstract atc aceo
flower garden abstract atc aceo

Collecting ACEO's

As Opposed To Trading ATC's

Some time after the introduction of the concept of the ATC an artist selling her work on Ebay (ID Bone-Diva, real name Lisa Luree) put some artwork in this format up for auction. This caused consternation amongst many supporters of the format and Lisa formed a breakaway group which came up with the name ACEO ( Art Cards Editions and Originals) as an acronym for art cards which were sold. This represents the fact that art cards are produced as originals, in series or as editions (open or limited edition prints). Ebay and other sites sell quite large numbers of ACEO's to artists and collectors looking to start their own art collection at reasonable prices. Many are sold very cheaply by amateurs by auction but established artists with a strong following can command premium prices as you would imagine. Prices in the latter case can be relatively inexpensive but still command prices of $4-500.

Selling Your ACEO's On Ebay

A Quick Introduction

Collecting, selling and trading ACEO art (Art Cards Editions and Originals) is as easy as buying and selling anything on eBay -- and it has the advantage of a specialized market. Here's how to turn drawing miniature artworks the size of trading cards (2 1/2" x 3 1/2") into some added income to help you add to your collection!

This image is of one of my early watercolour ACEO's sold on Ebay. A good price is difficult but they are fairly quick to complete and if it sells short it is no great loss. take it on the chin and try again with another. There are other on-line sites and I will add some of these very soon to the lens on Selling ACEO's; the next in this series. For now check out the recommended links on the side bar.

read this lens for more detailed informationHow to sell ACEOs on Ebay

An artist always craves attention, we prefer to be told how great or original we are BUT I am a realist, let me know what you think and if you don't like it ... well I will just use the input to improve on my next piece - thanks

Reader Feedback - I look forward to hearing any feedback!

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    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      @Frugal-UK LM: THank you for those kind words, I came across ACEO's completely by accident whilst browsing Ebay. Thinking, "I could do better" I started selling a few (approx 80 over 12 months but found myself actually starting a collection and buying as many as I sold. Ebay was making a profit out of me, so by then having found out about groups which swapped the same format but called them ATC's. I have been doing this for the past seven years now and really enjoyed it. But they can be a way of making a small profit if you limit how many you buy yourself, LOL

    • Frugal-UK LM profile image

      Frugal-UK LM 3 years ago

      Your lens are fantastic and obviously not done just to sell something. Fun to read and full of information. I too paint and have never heard of these trading cards. I do sell a little of my work but by no stretch of the imagination do I earn a living at it. I'd love to be able to have more time to paint, more time to develop and grow my craft instead of earning a crust. for some artists this could be a way of achieving this. Original art is not cheap,so if these cards can offer the buyer a chance to own a little piece by an artist they like then why not. Everyone is happy.

      thankyou I really enjoyed this.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      I enjoy your work.

    • profile image

      Kookaloo 6 years ago

      Great lens!

    • LewesDE profile image

      LewesDE 6 years ago

      Love this lens!

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 6 years ago from USA

      From one ACEO artist to another, well done. This is a lovely, informative lens about art card editions and originals.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • profile image

      seosmm 6 years ago

      Very nice lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You have created ACEO excellence here...what an amazing service...blessed!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 6 years ago from Kansas

      I love making ACEO's! Great lens! Blessed.

    • profile image

      ladykida 6 years ago

      Great work on the lens!

    • profile image

      Neurophilia 6 years ago

      This was truly a great introduction to ACEO. I feel informed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have never heard of this art form. Thank you for the introduction. Blessed.

    • profile image

      evitaworks 6 years ago

      Thank you for the pretty extensive and valuable introduction of what ACEO is all about. Love it! +1

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 7 years ago

      Beautiful lens with lots of info on ACEO's.. YAY!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 7 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Have you seen my pick of the week clock? That could be done with an ACEO. Pick a couple to highlight each week. For whatever reason my alarm clock lens jumped in rank after I started the pick of the week.

    • profile image

      mockingbird999 7 years ago

      Pretty cool. I've never seen this kind of thing before.

    • ClinicallySigni profile image

      ClinicallySigni 7 years ago

      I hadn't heard of ACEO's before either. Thanks for the great lens packed with info! Nice work!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I hadn't heard of ACEOs before, but what a great idea. This is a really interesting lens and your work is lovely.

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 7 years ago

      Very nice lens filled with great ideas.. congrats!

    • profile image

      ratso 7 years ago

      I never heard of these before, how interesting and creative.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • fotolady49 lm profile image

      fotolady49 lm 7 years ago

      I just started learning about ACEO's, very informative lens!

    • profile image

      Tarra99 7 years ago

      Was a member of the ebay ACEO group as well...lovely little format to create within. Still have a small collection of some...enjoyed your lens and will check out the videos. Thanks for sharing and thank you for visiting and commenting on my bottlecap lens...I appreciate it!

    • profile image

      Babitah 8 years ago

      It was wonderful reading your lens!Thank you for sharing it. 5* and Favorited! :o)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      One really important thing about ACEOs, for those of us with many collections to house, is the size. I always liked smaller art anyway, so these fit right in with my taste and crowded living conditions. Keep on keeping on.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 8 years ago from UK

      [in reply to MeMeBev] Thanks Bev, seen your site, early days (?) but you have made a good start

    • profile image

      MeMeBev 8 years ago

      Hi John...I am working on a little site of ACEO's have added your site link to my links page. :O) gave you a five.


    • imagesbykim profile image

      imagesbykim 9 years ago

      Hi John,

      Please come and join my group art and craft tutorials and add this lense to it!


    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 10 years ago from Idaho

      Hi John,

      I like your lens, your youtube instruction video's are wonderful! Great Work!

      5 stars and a lensroll to you, from a fellow ACEO artist! :-)

    • thelonebeader profile image

      Diana Grygo 10 years ago from Boston, MA

      Great lens! I have made a few beaded ACEO's.

    • nekoneko profile image

      nekoneko 10 years ago

      wow.. next time i'll promote you painting in my lens :D ..

    • profile image

      -Artistesque- 10 years ago

      Hi John, thanks for stopping by and adding me!

      I've rated you too, great informative lens 5 stars :)


    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      Hi John - I have just "stumbled"your site - is a great way to build traffic to your site - I am part of a group of about 15 people who Stumble each other's posts. It would be great if you would like to join us - how it works is that we "vote" for each other's posts on Stumble or Digg

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      Hi John I just put a link to this page from my site;

      Regards - Jim

    • profile image

      thecreatorspalette 10 years ago

      Hi John!

      Thanks for visiting my lens too! I've rated yours and added it to lensroll too.

      I have another eBay ACEO Youtube Video if you're interested, I can give you the embedding code! And I'd love to have you consider adding me to your artist sights


    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 10 years ago from UK

      Hi, Etsy is one of a number of sites I shall be mentioning in my series on ACEO's. This will be Part 4, Selling ACEO's. It is in preparation now. Part 2, Making ACEO's should be available this weekend.

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      Please check out they have a wornderfull slection.

    • mllamb46 profile image

      mllamb46 10 years ago

      Thanks for adding me to your lens roll!

      Really appreciate what you are doing.


    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      Hi Artyfax :-) Came in here by accident 'coz I was googling my name. This is wonderful what you have done here. Lots of great info about ACEOs. Thanks bunches for all your research, for spreading out the word. I see you've put me on your favorite list. WOW! I'm feeling so honored. Thank you so much!

    • profile image

      Cheerfulart4U 10 years ago

      Great lens! ACEO education helps collectors find us. Thanks from another artist on ebay.

    • profile image

      financegirls 10 years ago

      7th star for a useful lens!

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 10 years ago

      Thanks for your comment on my lens. :) As a matter of fact, I'm getting into ACEO's, so this lens of yours is just what I needed! Love your artwork, too. I see 3 or 4 at least I'd like to have. Definitely let your doodles lead you where they want to go. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 10 years ago

      This is sooo curious to me.. I have never heard of aceo and have not done Ebay. I think I need to. Wow, very interesting.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 11 years ago from UK

      My Ebay shop URL is not much inventory at present but will be listing more work soon. I will add a list of my favourite artists asap.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 11 years ago

      I had never heard of these before and will check it out on eBay.

    • profile image

      badmsm 11 years ago

      That's very cool, do you sell any of your works? I think they would make a great display in groups. 5 Stars!

    • profile image

      Birdiejaworski 11 years ago

      Wow, I had no idea these tiny artworks existed. How cool! I will check out some of your work on eBay. I think a painting like these would make a wonderful "I'm thinking of you" gift for artlovers I know.