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I began collecting trading cards in 1988, at 4 years old. I've never stopped, and am even working towards opening a museum/Hall of Fame for the hobby, although that's some way off. Naturally, automotive trading cards is a big part of my hobby, although there aren't many options to choose from.  I have about 2000 automotive themed trading cards, but there are many more out there...after more than 30 years in the hobby, there's still more I don't have than I do. 


Trading cards date to the 1860s, with the earliest issue I'm aware of being a baseball team issue from 1868. Automobiles became a topic for cards near the beginning of their history, with the earliest set I know of being from 1911, the Turkey Red Automobile series. I don't have any of them, unfortunately. (You can see the whole set scanned in full on the Trading Card Database here: https://www.tcdb.com/Checklist.cfm/sid/74712/1911 -Turkey-Red-Automobile-Series-(T37)?PageIndex=1#5555510) However, my knowledge of pre-war cards is limited, so it's possible that there are earliest issues I just haven't discovered yet. 


This post isn't meant to be a definitive history, just touching on some of the history and showing an example of some of my sets. I will conclude with links to my website, where my entire collection is scanned and viewable both by card set and by automotive brand. 


My earliest example is from 1920, the Neilson's Automobiles set. The card is in poor condition but this is not a common set to find, in fact, it's the only one I've ever seen for sale. 

1920 Neilson's Automobiles #24 (1)


In 1922, Lambert & Butler of England issued a 50 card set in two series. I thought I had the complete set, but it turned out I only had the first series (Cards #1-25). It features a mix of British, American and German cars. 

1922 Lambert & Butler's Motor Cars #05 (1)


My collection then jumps to the 1950s, although there are other sets I do not have any examples of between 1922-50. 

License plates were a popular card topic from the 1930s to the 1950s, and then they disappeared. I only have two of the sets represented in my collection currently: 

1950 Topps License Plates #07 (1)

1953 Topps License Plates #18 (1)

1950 and 1953 Topps License plates, respectively. 


In 1953 Bowman Antique Automobiles reprinted some of the artwork from the 1911 Turkey Red set, and gave each card it's own 3-d back.

1953 Bowman Antique Autos #01 (1)


The Topps World on Wheels set of 1953-54 is, in my opinion, the greatest automotive set of all time. Originally issued in 1953, a second series from 1954 is very hard to find...there is also a blue backed version that was a promotional issue that's even harder to find. The set was heavily tied to the Long Island Auto Museum (the Museum itself even has a card) and features a wide range of automotive subjects, from antiques, to race cars, dream cars, working trucks, up to then modern cars. I can't show just one of this set! 

1953-54 Topps World on Wheels #135 (1)

1953-54 Topps World on Wheels #107 (1)

1953-54 Topps World on Wheels #012 (1)

1953-54 Topps World On Wheels #170 (1)

I love, love, love this set. I don't think I will ever be able to complete it...the second series is just too rare. But I've been working on it since 1995 and it is without question my favorite car set. It is part of a trifecta of sets Topps issued from 1952-55, along with Wings in 1952 and Rails & Sails of 1955, that make up the backbone of the vehicle card hobby. 


Parkhurst, known mostly for Hockey cards, made a few car sets, most well known being the 1960 Indy 500 set, which is present in my collection but won't be covered in this post. They did some non-racing sets as well. This card is from the 1956 Sports Cars set.

1956 Parkhurst Sports Cars #09 (1)


Another favorite set of mine is the 1961 American Heritage Picture and History Cards set. It was 4 boxed sets, post card sized (but not post cards, they will be in another post) and each set featured some for of vehicles. I have the car and steamship sets. Made by Milton Bradley, the board game company, it was their only foray into trading cards.

American Heritage #17 1910 Buick


In the 1960s, automotive themed cards shifted away from antique cars and to custom cars. Due to the focus of this forum, I won't show most of them. However, also in the 60s, you start to see promo cards on a regular basis. like this one, which was issued by British American Petroliam, a Canadian company.

1967 BA Gallery of Great Cars 1930 Duesenberg Phaeton (1)


One set I must touch on is 1977's Topps Automobiles of 1977. This was a great set concept- most cars issued that year got a card. I have only a scant few, and they are all in terrible shape, but I treasure them. They are cards I inherited from my father, who was not a card collector. There's three cards from this set and several from a drag racing set of 1971, that's all I got from him card wise. Unfortunately, it was a one-year experiment. That's such a shame, I would LOVE to be able to collect a card of each year's car just like I collect yearly issues for athletes. 

Automobiles of 1977 #31 (1)


1991-94 was a true golden age in the trading card hobby, more car sets appeared in each year of this span than any other year in history before or since. Most of them now focused on muscle cars and Corvettes. Musclecards Prototype #079 (1)

1991 Musclecards

 Musclecars #003 (1)

and 1992 Collect-A-Card Musclecars being the most common of the sets. 


In 1992, Collect-A-Card issued a historical retrospective on the history of Chevrolet, but made some odd choices in the cars they showed. 

Chevy Set #023 (1)


There was a set dedicated solely to Mustangs...1992 Mustang Cards #051 (1)

one to Cadillac...

1993 Car & Driver Cadillac #038 (1)


and even one to Winnebagos!

1994 Winnebago Hologram #2 (1)

This happens to be a hologram insert, the only cards I have from the set. 


The last standard trading card set for automotive topics came in 1996. There have been issues since then, but not standard sets. Nothing you could walk into a card shop and expect to find. It's quite a shame, and I suspect licensing fees may have played a role. The trading card hobby is vibrant and thriving, so a hugely popular topic's absence doesn't make much sense. 

The Collect-A-Card Corvette Heritage set from '96 was the last one. I have 87 of the 90 cards, but have not finished scanning them all yet. 

Corvette Heritage #04 (1)


But there ARE still issued to collect. They may not come in standard packs, but they might come with something better- 1/64 die cast replicas of the cars! Packing cards in with cars began in the late 1980s, pioneered by Racing Champions with their racing replicas. It spread to street cars by 1989 and today Johnny Lightning and GreenLight are the only companies producing automotive themed cards. 

Johnny Lightning 1959 Chevrolet El Camino

Greenlight 1970 Plymouth Road Runner


You can, RARELY, find a car card slipped into a sports product. This card is from the multi-sport Panini Golden Age set from 2013.

2014 Panini Golden Age #021 (1)


I maintain a website for my card collection. While car cards are a big part of my passion, they are only a small part of my collection. I have it set up to view my collection by

topic (all brands and sets in one large album, card front only): https://public.fotki.com/CardboardHistory/non-sports/non-sport/automotive/

by set, which includes fronts and backs of the cards: https://public.fotki.com/CardboardHistory/non-sports/non-sports-by-set/automotive/

and by Automotive brand:  https://public.fotki.com/CardboardHistory/non-sports/automotive-by-brand/


I update the Topic and Brand sections on or shortly after the 1st of each month, but I update the Set section in real time; I upload to that section as soon as I label a batch of scans. 


Sorted by brand is one of my favorite sections- also the most work to create. Here's a screenshot of the Ford album, which I needed to pull up to get the Model T scan, so you can see an example of how it's displayed.



One last set I want to touch on is the Fire Engines set. Released over 5 series, by two different card brands, it's 500 cards and the largest automotive set ever. It was issued over a period of years ranging from 1993-98, and features one front design across them all, but 3 or 4 different back designs. 

Fire Engines #335 (1)


And that's a pretty decent break down of what makes up my collection. I only scratched the surface and I still have more to scan and more to collect. Thanks for reading.

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I've had an interest in these since we lived in Scotland and had relatively easy access to all of the British produced cigarette cards with automobiles.  They were easy to find in flea markets and antique shops, many already put into special albums.  Wills, Players, Ogdens, etc.etc. all offered endless varieties of them.  I picked up a few of the sets showing early cars, and have continued to add to them over the years.  I have a good friend in Va Beach who has a far more extensive collection than I do so I'll see if we can get some photos of his cards later.  Meantime, this nice set is professionally framed with a mat cut just for the cards.  It is double-matted so the backs of the cards are also easy to see on the backside of the frame.  These cards are from the 20s and are photo-style.   I'll try to get some photos of a few others from my collection up later.  I've been watching the Drivers series by Mecca cigarettes and have been trying to complete that set but they are hard to find in good condition and they are getting rather expensive now.


Cards John Player series.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

I have a few of the Mecca cigarette 1911 Drivers Series cards but one showed up on evilbay recently with a price of $999.00 (or best offer).

The description indicates it's the "highest graded 5.5."  Apparently there is some kind of grading system (PSA) that assigns that grading to cards of all kinds, but I've seen others listed for sale without any grading that look just as nice with prices in the $20-30 range.  Still pricey for a little paper card with some guys picture holding a steering wheel, but can someone help me understand that "grading" system?  Does anyone really pay that kind of money for these cards (or others)?


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Terry, if you look at eBay sold items, lower graded versions of that card normally sell in the $100’s.  Grading is everything.  If you have one that you think can grade high, it pays in spades to have it done.  The professional grading and authentication companies (PSA, JSA, and Beckett are the top 3) keep databases and know exactly how many are out there that have been graded.  If this is the only 5.5 and none are higher, it could easily be worth $1000.  If a 6.0 turns up, it goes back to $200 though.

Edited by 39BuickEight (see edit history)
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I'm also a collector of Automobile trading cards 


I've bought 110 cards the other day and I can't find any information about them.
Would you be able to provide me any kind of information about these cards ?

the card format is : 88mm X 88mm ( 3 1/2 X 3 1/2 )

So far I was able to make a list of the different cards I was able to find online. total 151

But I'm not sure if it's complete and couldn't find any detail of years or origin and how many cards in that series

Let me know if anyone can help me ?


Thank you and stay safe

1950s european automobile cards.jpg

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Hey Billy,


   I also collect cards. I started with sports cards many years ago & now once or twice a year I get an urge to buy Non-Sport cards & Cigarette Cards. I recently bought one of the two 1922 Lambert Butler series you pictured, as well as about a dozen of the Topps 1953-54 World of Wheels cards,  a couple of sets of Players Automobile cards & a  6 card set  that are slightly larger from Leibig (I believe that is a French company).1907 Automobiles


It is & has always been a lot of fun!


God Bless



Edited by Bills Auto Works (see edit history)
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Arguably, the most famous of all are the Jello car wheels.  I have a few of those, still.  In the later 1960's, Jello printed cars on their jelly and instant pudding boxes that could be cut out and saved, which I also kept.


Vintage car pictures have turned up in other unusual places as well.  I have seen them on small packets of sugar, and also boxes of cheese from Holland. 


And some vintage British vintage car magazines have reprinted those cigarette cards.



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