Nick Hargrave - March, 10th 2023

The History of Trading Card Games and Collectibles

Vintage trading card from the early days of trading card games

Playing cards and various tabletop games have been around since the 1300’s and collectible cards since as early as 1904 in the form of baseball cards. However, trading card games based in high fantasy settings are relatively new. In the early 1990’s a new genre of card games would explode on to the scene, based on the role-playing game “Dungeons and Dragons” first created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. This game would pave the way for an era of table top trading card games that is popular to this day.

Magic: The Gathering

Created by the company Wizard of the Coast, which was a small gaming company at the time, Magic the Gathering would see its hugely popular release at the Origins Game Fair on July 4 th , 1993. Created by Richard Garfield, Magic the Gatherings “Alpha” and subsequent “Beta” limited first edition series would sell out a combined 9.9 million cards in a short few months. By December 1 st of 1993 their second run dubbed the “Unlimited Edition,” or second edition would go on to sell all 40 million of its print run.

Magic the Gathering, referred to as MTG was unique and very popular but why? There is many reasons for its popularity but one key reason was the collectability. MTG was one of the first card games that were released without all of the cards in the game. While the original starter decks came with everything you needed to play the game, additional “Booster Packs,” could be purchased for a chance at other cards in the series. This made it so you could invest in extra cards to add and replace cards in your deck and give you more of a competitive edge during game play. This also created a limited availability and rarity for many cards in each of the series.

MTG would go on to be a major success and rule this new genre for years. In fact, it’s still wildly popular to this day with over 20,000 unique, playable MTG cards and with a total print run of over 20 billion. With this success many game companies would try to jump on the fad which brought to life dozens of popular trading games such as Doomtrooper, Star Trek TCG, Star Wars TCG, and Middle-earth. But none would come close to the next major player.

Ultimate edition of Magic: The Gathering 1993

One of the first releases of Magic: the Gathering  

Pokémon Trading Card Game

By 1998, a new strategy-based card game emerged on the scene, this time from Japan. Promotion and innovation brought a monstrous release that quickly went viral throughout the United States. While the game had the same “Booster Pack,” model that fueled much of the success from MTG, it also had TV series’, video games, comic books and even a theme park at one time. That game is none other than Pokémon, with the addicting motto of, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All,” paying homage to the collectability of the cards themselves.

From 1999 to 2000, on the heels of the wildly popular Pokémon Game Boy game the original series Pokémon TCG was released with 2 base sets and 5 expansions. While the print count or print run of each series and subsequent expansion sets are unknown it’s rumored that over 40 billion cards have been printed in total. Though this number might be quite a bit higher as 9.1 billion cards were printed in 2021 alone.

In 2016 the viral mobile game ‘Pokémon Go’ reignited the Pokémon craze appealing to the 90’s and early 2000’s kids as well as the new generation. This was further helped by multiple releases of Pokémon games on Nintendo’s Switch console, further trending on social media by various content creators such as Logan Paul.

The very first Pokemon release

Yu-Gi-Oh!

Yu-Gi-Oh, started off as a manga series comic book in Japan in 1996 and quickly grew in popularity. With this growth game spin off video games and an anime series where the characters played a fictional trading card game called “Duel Monsters,” which formed the basis of Yu-Gi-Oh the card game.

In 1999, riding off the trend of trading card games from Magic and Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! The card game transformed from a fictional card game on a popular anime series to a real physical card game. Fans of the show flocked and in 10 short years YGO quickly became the top selling trading card game in the world selling over 20 billion cards.

Since then, YGO remains one of the most popular trading card games in the world grossing a whopping 1 trillion yen which is roughly $70 billion dollars in USD. The series is going strong with over 12,000 unique cards and recently announced 7 new expansion packs for 2023 as well as 5 expansion reprints. Konami, the company behind YGO has been proactive in their expansion releases and newer versions of the game, more recently their “Rush Duel” variant of the game.

Yu-Gi-Oh! original release

Flesh and Blood: The Card Game

While heavy hitting TCGs such as the ones listed above still dominate this world a new game has made its way to thousands of shelves across America and in local card shops, that game is Flesh & Blood. This game was in development in the early 2010’s but wouldn’t see significant development until their 2018 announcement that they intend to release the game. By August 31 st , 2019 the game was released and was met with praise from the TCG community. In fact, the game itself turned out to be incredibly fun.

The game hits players with non-stop action and is uniquely one of the most challenging strategic card games we have ever played. The artwork is gorgeous, truly a 10 out of 10, and Legend Story Studios, the company behind FAB, has shown to be open and willing to be apart of the community they’ve built. You get the feeling that they are here to make the game fun not here for huge profits.

Since its launch in 2019 the game has grown in popularity, while tabletop gamers like myself are stubborn and tend to stick with what we know, FAB is winning over more and more of us every day. For 2023, a release of History Packs and the highly anticipated Outsiders Edition which will a 239 card release.

Flesh & Blood original trading card game

Upcoming Disney’s Lorcana: TCG

In January of 2023, Ravensburger a large German publishing house, announced they would begin printing and distributing a new trading card game licensed by Disney called Lorcana. While little news has been released on this new TCG, it looks like the 1 st edition released, named “Chapter 1,” will contain over 200 initial cards. The release will feature a “Gift Set,” which contains 2 starter decks. It will also have individual starter decks, booster packs as well as branded accessories such as card sleeves and play mats upon release.

Lorcana TCG will first be available August 18 th at local card shops and on September 1 st in big box retail stores. No solid information has been available in terms of play style, but we have deduced that it will be a turn based strategy game and cards have special abilities as well as an attack and defense number designation. We are excited to see what happens during the release, whether the game is fun or not and whether this passes the viability test for Disney to sink a large sum of cash into marketing.

While 100’s of playable strategic trading card games have come and gone only a few have survived and thrived. We hope you enjoyed this brief history on the most popular trading and collectible card games. If you made it this far, comment below and let us know what your favorite card game is. Don’t forget to checkout our subscription boxes, we might just have a Booster Pack subscription for your favorite game.

Thanks for reading, from your friends at Booster Crate!

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8 comments

  • HeidiJan 09, 2024

    I’ve collected pokémon cards my whole life. I love your subscription box!

  • McKnightJan 09, 2024

    I’m surprised there isn’t a D&D trading card game.

  • Jared KelseyAug 11, 2023

    There are so many CCG/TCG games that have come and gone, but FAB seems like one that will be sticking around for a long time. UFS/Universes by Jasco Games is a CCG that keeps putting out new cards as well. The IP regularly changes but the cards are all compatible.

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