Advertising today can be accomplished through so many different means. You can make videos, print flyers, or use social media. Every day we come across multiple ads, so many that we might not even realize it!  But did you know that in the Victorian era, advertising was limited? They didn’t have the luxury of using social media or billboards! They used trading cards!

History of Trading Cards

Victorian trading cards normally have an ad on one side and a picture on the other. These cards were used to advertise many products and services. The making of trading cards began in the late 1700s. Tradesmen used these cards to advertise their businesses and services, such as; food, home appliances, clothing, and sewing. In the 1870s with the introduction of color lithography or color printing, trade cards became an even more popular way to advertise products and services.

Unfortunately, trading cards experienced short-lived popularity. The use of trading cards began to fade around 1890 when more ways to advertise products and services were discovered. Magazines and pamphlets became the new form of advertisement that offered a more cost-effective route for businesses.

Examples of Trading Cards

While searching for Victorian trading cards, it was interesting to find out that some companies that exist today once advertised using trading cards!

Quaker Oats

For example, we all know Quaker Oats. They make a great hardy breakfast! It was originally known as German Mills American Cereal Company in Ohio. During this time, North Star Mills Company in Canada was founded by John Stuart. Eventually, in 1877, the companies adopted the Quaker man as their trademark.

Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Here is one of their trading cards with the Quaker man blossoming out of a tulip! We might all be quick to agree that the Quaker man has seen better days since the making of this trading card!


Another company that has been around since 1806 is Colgate. Interestingly enough the Colgate wasn’t always a company that sold toothpaste! According to Business News Daily,

“Actually, Colgate was started by William Colgate in 1806 in New York City, and the business sold soaps and candles, eventually introducing perfumes in 1866, according to the company. The company then debuted its “Colgate aromatic toothpaste in jars” in 1873”

Photo Credit Dr. Michaels Dental Blog


Who knew that toothpaste was first sold in jars? Being familiar with toothpaste in a tube makes it hard to imagine how you would begin to apply your toothpaste on your toothbrush from a jar!

Baker’s Chocolate

Photo Credit Historic New England

Yum! Who doesn’t love chocolate? Baker’s Chocolate was founded in 1765 in Boston! James Baker and John Hannon came together and sold chocolate. Eventually, John Hannon took a journey to the West Indies to buy cocoa but never returned. This left James Bakers to take over the business on his own.  

Can you believe that this company is still around?! With that being said, check out their trade card!

Photo Credit Historic New England

How to Begin Your Own Trading Card Collection in 2 Steps

1. Do Your Research

Just like anything, it would be in your best interest to research as much as you can about where to buy reliable victorian trading cards. If you decide to purchase online, beware of scams. You might be interested in knowing how to avoid these scams! If so, A Guide to Buying Expensive Ephemera will be beneficial to you!

A website like eBay is a perfect place to start! Searching under the category of collectibles can be helpful.

2. Begin Collecting

Once you’ve decided how you’d like to purchase your victorian trading cards, it’s time to begin collecting! Maybe you’d like to collect all trading cards that have to do with home appliances? Or maybe you’d enjoy all things food? Whatever your interests might be, don’t be afraid to look around and explore your options!