5 Tips on How to Collect Trading Cards

Kids love collecting cards and trading them with their friends, but make sure you’re not spending a fortune with this hobby.

trading pokemon cards

We’ve all collected cards at some point in our lives. We traded with friends, spent hours upon hours organizing cards. We’ve invested our childhood savings in buying packs hoping to get the card we desperately need to complete our deck. Whether you collected Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, or Magic: The Gathering cards, you’ve been there one way or another. Now, your child wants to start their own collection. Maybe their friends got into it, and they want to join in. Maybe you’re encouraging them to start. After all, it’s a rite of passage for any nerdy youngster. Whatever the reason, the poor kid is going to need pointers before they’re thrown headfirst into the crazy world of card collecting.

There are so many different trading card games that even you probably don’t know where to start. The ones that have been around for years have expanded since they started into numbers beyond your imagination. For example, Pokémon has grown so much since the original 150 that I lost track at one point. There are over 7,000 individual Pokemon cards and that number continues to climb. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to collect every card that has come out since the beginning, but it’s good to be familiar with as many cards as possible — and to know which ones are worth getting. Here are a few pointers to pass along to your young soon-to-be card collector.

1. Do Your Research

world of warcraft character cards

The Internet, your friends, and social networks should be your first starting point. Yes, even if it’s an indie trading card game. It’s good to be familiar with the game before going out and purchasing cards. World of Warcraft TCG is often picked up by those who play the MMO online because they’re already familiar with the different classes and races. Remember that one? Well, it was discontinued in 2013, by 2014 the popular Magic competitor Hearthstone was released which is online only. See, you need to do your research.

Of course, that doesn’t have to be the case, but it’s definitely helpful. If the card game is accompanied by a TV show, video game, or a book (which is often the case), give those a peek to get a glimpse inside the world and see what’s in store for your kid.

magic: the gathering: a visual history

Magic: The Gathering: A Visual History

This book is perfect for those of you that are nostalgic about the history of Magic The Gathering. This book will feature all the powerful and legendary cards since 1994. Relive your childhood and share those memories with your kids.

Keep in mind the trading card game won’t be exactly like the show or game, but it’s the familiarity that counts. I remember when I got into Pokémon, I watched the show and played the games on my GameBoy Color. By the time I started collecting the cards, I already knew all of the Pokémon, their attacks, and evolved forms. The only thing left to learn was the actual rules of the game. It just made it that much easier to pick up. I mean, seriously, what’s the worst that can happen? Your child will either dislike it or become addicted.

2. Get a Starter Pack

It might be tempting to start off with smaller packs, but a starter pack usually comes with all the essentials your child needs to get started, especially since it might be the first time they’re introduced to the game. Starter packs usually come with all sorts of information, like guides and rulebooks, along with several packs and other goodies. I highly recommend you and your partner learn the rules first before playing with your child. Keep in mind, most games like Pokemon and Magic have digital versions as well.

Our recommended starter decks based on age.

Ages 6+

let's play pokemon starter box

Let’s Play Pokemon Starter Box

For younger kids, Pokemon is where to start. The TCG, if you’ve never played it, is fairly easy to master and teach. It can definitely be enjoyed by older kids as well, but you’ll probably want to start off with this for your littler ones. This box contains 2 decks, tokens, and the rules. Everything you need to start playing.

Ages 8-10+

magic the gathering starter box

Magic The Gathering Starter Box

Magic The Gathering is often regarded as the original successful TCG. It’s geared toward older kids and adults. Your child should be able to read quite well and be able to master basic game playing strategies. This starter pack contains 2 decks and 2 20-sided dice. You may want to pair it with a gift from our awesome list of D20 gift ideas.

The contents vary by game, but starter packs are definitely a great way to introduce the card game and you save money in the process. You can go through several packs of cards and learn about the different card types. Unfortunately, some trading card games don’t offer starter packs, but they do offer starter decks, which is pretty much a basic, beginner deck (but of course you knew that).

If this is the case, take apart the deck with your child and learn the function of each card that way. Your child can still learn about the different card types and you’ll have the chance to explain the function and importance of deck-building. Whichever you end up getting, the point is that your child picks up on the rules of the game and learns about different cards without feeling lost.

3. Get Organized

Ah, the fun part. Figuring out how to organize the cards. As long as the cards aren’t just thrown in a box and scattered, it’s really all about personal preference. If your child is around 10 or so, I would recommend getting a three ring binder and plastic card pages, especially when starting out.

ultra pro 3-ring binder

Ultra Pro 3-Ring Binder

Here’s a perfect binder for all your card storing needs. This binder is designed to store cards and should be everything you and your child need to protect those valuables. Don’t forget to order sheets to put in it.

They’re a lot easier to maintain and the pages are pretty cheap to buy. Once the collection starts growing and putting them in card slots becomes too tedious, you can purchase special boxes that are meant to hold massive amounts of cards. You can also buy your kid deck boxes to hold their decks or sleeves to preserve certain cards. This all comes with time, depending on how invested your little nerd becomes.

4. Box Sets/Singles

Once your child gets into the trading card game scene, he or she will eventually want more cards. At this point, you’ll need to set up some sort of system or budget so you don’t go flat broke buying so many cards. Box sets come out several times a year, so you can stick to just buying the box sets and you can leave it up to your kid to buy his or her own packs.

Seems like a good system, right? Nothing can possibly go wrong. Yeah, right. Then comes the dreaded moment, when you realize that your little collector spent all their weeks’ savings buying pack after pack, hoping to get that one card they need. Oh, memories. This is where singles come in handy.

You can help him or her look online or go to your local hobby shop and look for a single card. Unfortunately, prices vary depending on the card that is wanted, and it can be scarily expensive. At this point, you can either tell your kid to buck up and save up, or you can go halfsies. Your call.

5. Trading

Finally, the trading in “trading cards.” Trading comes with experience and I suggest leaving your child alone when it comes to trading cards, especially when it’s among friends. Offer some advice at the outset, and let that kid learn from experience.

Yes, it’s your money going down the drain if they royally mess up during a trade, but you knew that going in. Besides, trades are going on regardless of whether you’re around or not. So don’t get upset when they show you a bunch of common cards they received in exchange for that rare card that they got in some random pack. Instead, sit them down and ask why they did the trade in the first place. There are no taking back cards anyway, so just talk about it and give them some advice for the next trade. You live and you learn, right?