Are you looking for a relatively cheap item to collect that does not need too much space, then collecting business cards may be something for you.
Trade Cards
Trade Card Trade cards were first introduced in London during the 1600´s. The first trade cards were directional cards that gave information about how to get to a merchants store, because at that time there were no formal street names or street numbers. The early cards were printed on woodcut or letterpress devices and were very expensive and available to relatively few merchants.  Advances in the technology of printing improved during every century. The 1700´s trade cards were produced on copperplate and were cheaper, as more impressions could now be made. The 1800´s saw the introduction of tinting and hand colouring of trade cards and the use of more efficient printing methods.
Over this 200 hundred-year period the use of trade cards constantly increased as it was found to be an effective way of advertising and getting the message out about trading matters. As a business grew and became more profitable, the trade cards became more elaborate, in some cases being a sign of success. In the 1850s came the major breakthrough in printing trade cards. The metal plates eluded to earlier made mass production of credit cards a reality.
Actual colour printing of trade cards did not occur until the second half of the 1800´s in both Europe and America. The addition of colour to trade cards made them much more readable and acceptable. However, the demise of the popularity of the trade cards began with the mass production of newspapers in both Europe and America at the start of the 1900´s. Many cities and towns began producing newspapers and with advertising possibilities, merchants and storeowners reduced their reliance on trade cards for their advertising.
People collected trade cards, but the introduction of post cards also contributed to the demise of the trade cards. The collectors found the colourful postcards more attractive and interesting to collect than the trade cards. They effectively disappeared in the early 1900s.
The trade cards of today are known as business cards, and it would be interesting to determine how much business these small cards still generate. The cost of producing business cards has plummeted and they are readily available in full colour with gloss and waterproof finishes. The options are endless. Little did the first people who made trade cards know how they would be produced and used over 300 years later?
Business Cards
Business Card Almost every business and many individuals have printed their own business cards for exchange with other people they meet. They have become relatively inexpensive to produce and are considered and essential tool in doing business. They have evolved from calling cards and trade cards, and many businesses have the cards available on a tray on their counter.
Different countries have adopted different common card sizes, for example USA 89mm x 51mm, Australia, 90mm x 55mm and Italy 85mm x 55mm, although many produce business cards to the international credit card size of 85.6mm x 53.98. As there is no internationally agreed standard, they are produced in many sizes other than the common sizes listed above.
Card 3Business Cards are usually printed on 400 gram card stock, although again this is the most common, there is no international standard. Modern business cards can be made using spot colour, two colours, four colours or full colour in offset printers. The choice is often one of price – the more one pays the more colour one gets! Raised printing is another technique used to create unique looking business cards. The process known as thermography, where inert powder or plastic powder is placed on the wet ink, to achieve this effect. Once printed some cards are coated with a glossy coat to produce a shiny finish. Another technique used to produce a shiny and slightly waterproof finish is the process of lamination, where a heat set plastic coating is given to both sides of the card. This process also makes the cards more durable. Most cards are printed onto sheets, and then cut to size.
With the universal acceptance of using computers in business, a new type of business card has been developed. These are known as CD-Rom Business Cards. They are about the size of a normal business card and are printed with the normal information on one side of the card. The difference is that the CD-Rom actually holds readable data. This usually includes between 20 and 200 MB of product information. The volume of data stored will probably increase with time.
The humble business card continues to evolve with technology as it becomes available. They will essentially continue to provide information that will assist sellers and buyers of products and services to do business.
Be aware that collecting the early calling cards or visiting cards and trade cards may by costly, particularly the 1600´s and 1700´s cards, so before plunging head first into collecting business cards, there are number of questions that need to be answered;
What Type Of Cards To Collect
Some people collect everything, some collect by themes, for example professional people, shipping companies, gifts stores, restaurants, hotels, airlines, the list is almost endless. Most collectors start by collecting almost anything, and then when they choose a category they have cards to swap.

How To Collect
Some collectors will only collect business cards that have been given to them directly to them, others will collect whilst on holidays, others write away for them, whilst other collectors swap business cards. Again, it is a matter or personal choice, but above all collecting is to be enjoyable irrespective of whichever collection method you choose.

How To Store The Cards
It is not uncommon to build collections amounting to hundreds if not thousands of cards. In order to remember what the collection contains, some type of catalogue system is necessary. Most collectors now use a computer system to store the data and then store the cards in the same order that is on the computer. Irrespective of the type of catalogue system chosen, the storage needs to be free from moisture and direct heat. Some collectors use the zip-lock plastic bags, and the best ones to use are the ones that hold the business cards reasonably tightly, so that the cards are not damaged. Other collectors use sealable hard plastic containers, but most importantly choose any storage method that keeps the water and heat out.

Should I Become A Trader
Collectors of business cards may include the traditional calling cards and trade cards in their collections. These cards have not been produced for over two hundred years and they are offered for sale on Internet auction sites and specialist card collector sites. Make sure that you know the current value, hopefully they will appreciate with time but there are no guarantees.