April 20, 2009

"Contemporary Collectibles: Vintage credit cards accrue interest"

I laughed out loud when I saw that headline in Oregon's Bend Weekly News! Surely we've reached the bottom the barrel for things to collect now. Old credit cards are collectibles?

But it's not a new idea. Money magazine said so back in 1994, remarking that "Collectors can create value in almost anything." Yep.

This current article describes what makes older versions of modern credit cards collectible. And not just cards signed by celebrities or issued by famously defunct companies or banks:

"If, either on the recommendation of your financial advisor or your own common sense, you are thinking of cutting up your credit cards, it would probably be wise to do so — unless they expired a long time ago and were issued by a defunct company or are of collectible interest for some other reason.

"The credit card is a relatively recent term; before that they were known as charge plates or coins. These were first issued mostly by department stores and some oil companies in the Civil War period.

"The 'cards' were usually oval or rectangular in shape — although some specialty shops issued them in forms appropriate to their stock, such as hats, shoes or shirts. It was common for them to have a hole (female shoppers often wore them on chains around their necks), bear the name or logo of the store, and an ID number — never the customer's name. Most of these charge coins were about the size of a quarter and were made of metal (German silver, steel, brass or copper), fiber or celluloid, and some are quite valuable today.

[snip]

"One example of an early paper gold card is the one issued by Continental Oil Co. in the 1930s, which went only to friends of the company's president. Other rarities to seek out include the first 1958 American Express card with red letters on a purple-blue board, the 1965 Diners Club card with a red top, a 1951 Mobil Oil paper card, a 1957 Texaco tan paper card, a 1964 violet on white American Express card with a centurion in the corner, and an early Master Charge with an identification photo of the card holder on the back.

[snip]

"And because the credit cards of failed banks, savings and loans and other businesses have extra collectible cachet, maybe you should hold on to those Circuit City and Mervyns cards rather than snipping them in two."

If interested, you can join the American Credit Card Collectors Society here.

[Found that wonderful BankAmericard ad on the always fun AdClassix.com: "1970 Bank Americard Credit Card original vintage advertisement. The predecessor to the Visa Credit Card. 'You'll still find a few places that hold out for nickles and dimes. But we're working on it.'" The full-page ad sold for $17.70. BTW, if you like vintage TV ads (who doesn't?), AdClassix has a great collection. My current fave is a 1949 ad by Bank of America for "instant money." Kinda ironic, huh?]

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