October 03, 2005

ATC's (Artist Trading Cards) Basics

ATC's, otherwise known as artist trading cards, are collectables, miniature pieces of artwork, akin to sports-themed trading cards. ATC's must be 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches, or 64 x 89mm. The back of each card should include the artists name, contact information, title of the ATC, date the ATC was created, and number of the card if it's part of an Edition; sets of ATC's that are themed based, but where the cards are all different, it's called a Series. It's really up to the artist, swap hostess, and/or rules of the trading group, as to what to include on an ATC back. At a minimum, your card should include the artist's name and title of the card. I would not recommend writing out your name on the back of the card due to the rise of identity theft. I print my name on the back of the card and sign using just my initials.

An ATC should be of a reasonable thickness and strong enough to survive mailing, since most ATC's are traded in this way. You can further protect your artwork by putting your ATC in a transparent, protective sleeve. Artist's often use embellishments on their cards. If using embellishments, make sure your embellishments are small enough to allow your card to fit inside a protective sleeve. Also remember that your ATC will be traveling through the postal system and you don't want your card to be damaged because it is too thick to pass through the sorter. If you think your card may be too thick, send it in a bubble mailer. Better to be safe than sorry.

Many collector's put their ATC's in 9-pocket sheets used for commercial cards. These sheets have holes on the side which allows them to be put in an album or a three-ring binder. Some people display their ATC's on panels, while others organize their collection in boxes.

There are many trading groups listed online that you can join and begin swapping your cards. These groups are usually free to join and only require that you register with your name, mailing and email address. Check Yahoo, MSN, and eBay for groups, or do a search in Google for artist trading card groups or swaps. A good place to start trading is at Swap-Bot.


An ATC should never be sold. Artist trading cards that are sold are called ACEO's, Art Card Editions and Originals. They adhere by the same rules as an ATC.