Michelle Legge
By Michelle LeggeHead of Crypto Tax Education
Updated Feb 2, 2024
This article has been fact checked and reviewed as per our editorial policy.

NFT Trading Cards: Collector's Guide

Collectibles meet blockchain with NFT trading cards. Learn to create, trade, and value digital collectibles with examples of the most popular NF trading cards.

What is an NFT trading card?

NFT trading cards are digitized versions of traditional TCGs. Think Pokemon, Magic The Gathering, or Yu-Gi-Oh meets blockchain. The key difference between the two is that while most traditional trading cards exist in a physical form, NFT trading cards are created, stored, and traded on a blockchain.

Currently, NFT trading cards most commonly exist on the Ethereum blockchain. This is thanks to smart contract capability that makes it easy for creators to tokenize digital collectibles to be stored and traded on this blockchain.

An infographic of an NFT card with an illustration of a sword, explaining what is an NFT trading card, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

Evolution from physical to digital

Collectible trading cards aren’t a new concept by any means, they’ve been around since the early 19th century. Even digital trading cards aren’t a new concept, as many TCGs trialed digitized versions of cards in the early 2000s. Here’s a quick rundown of the history and evolution of trading cards from invention to NFT:

An infographic of a timeline, highlighting the evolution of trading cards from invention to NFT, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

 Traditional trading cards

  • Early 19th Century: The concept of trading cards began with sports and game cards, often packaged with products like tobacco, tea, or gum.

  • 1880s: The first baseball cards emerged, with the N172 Old Judge cards being among the earliest examples.

  • 1933: Goudey Gum Company's baseball card set became a landmark release.

  • 1952: Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. introduced the iconic 1952 Topps baseball cards featuring Mickey Mantle.

  • 1960s-1970s: Trading cards expanded beyond sports to include non-sports themes like comic books and TV shows like Batman and Star Trek.

Trading card games (TCGs)

  • 1993: Wizards of the Coast released "Magic: The Gathering," the first collectible card game, featuring fantasy-themed cards.

  • 1996: Pokémon TCG gained immense popularity with a wide range of cards featuring Pokémon characters and a simple gameplay function.

  • 2000: Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG was introduced, becoming a global phenomenon with unique card gameplay and designs.

  • 2002: Pokémon's "Shadowless" and "1st Edition" cards became highly sought-after collectibles.

Digital trading cards

  • Late 1990s-2000s: Online TCGs like "Magic: The Gathering Online" and "Yu-Gi-Oh! Online" introduced digital card gameplay.

  • 2010s: Mobile TCGs, such as "Hearthstone" and "Gwent," gained popularity with digital cards and online play.

NFT trading cards:

  • 2017: CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties paved the way for NFT (Non-Fungible Token) collectibles on blockchain technology.

  • 2021: NBA Top Shot became a notable example, offering officially licensed basketball highlights as NFT trading cards.

  • 2022: Traditional trading card companies like Topps started creating NFT versions of their cards.

  • 2023 (and beyond): Artists and creators began producing digital art NFTs that resembled traditional trading cards, expanding the NFT card market.

Understanding NFT trading cards

One of the easiest ways to understand the differences between NFT trading cards is to compare them to traditional TGCs.

Traditional Trading CardsNFT Trading Cards
Physical itemTokenized asset
Physical ownershipDigital proof of ownership
Authenticity is verified through holograms, licensing, etc.Authenticity verified through smart contract terms
Rarity is determined by the print quantity and gradingDetermined by the creator of the collection and attributes assigned
Physical transfer or tradeDigital transfer or trade
In-person or third-party online tradingOnline peer-to-peer and decentralized marketplaces for trading
Static cards with limited interactivity outside of gameplayMay have programmable interactive features and virtual utility
IP ownership held by the manufacturerDigital IP tied to NFT and may be transferable with the owner

Categories of NFT trading cards

While the market is always moving forward, broadly speaking there are five different types of NFT trading cards:

1. Collectible Art NFT trading cards: These trading cards feature artwork from digital creators. They’re collected and traded for their aesthetic value. Popular examples include CryptoPunks or BoredApeYachtClub. They may also have further utility, for example, exclusive membership rights.

An infographic explaining the meaning of collectible art NFT trading cards, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

2. Gaming NFT trading cards: These trading cards are used either as items in gameplay or represent assets in-game. Their value is based on their value in-game, which may be influenced by their rarity or unique attributes. Popular examples would include land NFTs for metaverse games like Decentraland, Splinterland character cards, or Axie NFTs for Axie Infinity.

An infographic explaining the meaning of gaming NFT trading cards, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

3. Sports NFT trading cards: Just like you can collect baseball cards or football cards in physical form, you can do the same with NFT sports trading cards. With some NFT collectibles, you can even use these to play in global fantasy sports leagues. A popular example would be Sorare NFT trading cards.

An infographic explaining the meaning of sports NFT trading cards, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

4. Entertainment NFT trading cards: Some music artists include collectible and tradable NFTs in their music releases, offering artwork or exclusive early access to other merchandise or early ticket access. It’s not only music artists either, huge entertainment corporations like Disney are also hopping on the NFT bandwagon and releasing both entertainment and collectible NFTs. Popular examples include Grimes, Snoop Dogg, and Kings of Leon.

An infographic explaining the meaning of entertainment NFT trading cards, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

5. Membership NFT trading cards: Membership NFTs are often also collectible art NFTs. These NFT cards are tradeable and collectible - but come with the additional utility of exclusive membership to a given club. The most notable example would be BoredApeYachtClub. Owners of these NFTs have exclusive membership to both physical and online BAYC events and merchandise.

An infographic explaining the meaning of Membership NFT trading cards, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

How to make NFT trading cards

Want to create your own NFT trading cards? Here’s your step-by-step guide.

  1. Plan Your NFT Trading Cards: Decide on the theme, style, and purpose of your NFT trading cards. Consider whether they will be for a specific collectible card game, art collection, or other use.

  2. Create the Card Designs: Use graphic design software or collaborate with artists to create the digital artwork for your trading cards. Ensure that each card has a unique design and any relevant attributes, such as card name, stats, or special features.

  3. Choose a Blockchain: Decide which blockchain you want to use for minting your NFT trading cards. Ethereum and Binance Chain are the most popular options.

  4. Set Up a Cryptocurrency Wallet: You'll need a cryptocurrency wallet to interact with the chosen blockchain. Popular options include MetaMask or Trust Wallet. You’ll also need to ensure your wallet has sufficient funds for gas fees.

  5. Mint the NFTs: Use an NFT minting platform or service (e.g., OpenSea, Rarible, Mintable) compatible with your chosen blockchain. To mint, connect your wallet, and follow the instructions for your specific platform to create a new NFT project. Upload the digital artwork for each trading card, provide details (metadata), and customize attributes if necessary.

  6. Pay Minting Fees: Pay the required minting fees, which can vary depending on the blockchain and platform. These fees cover the cost of creating your NFTs on the blockchain.

  7. Review and Confirm: Carefully review all the details, metadata, and attributes of your NFT trading cards before confirming the minting process. Ensure everything is accurate. Once you confirm, the NFTs will be minted on the blockchain as unique tokens, and you will receive ownership of them in your wallet.

  8. (Optional) Add NFTs to a Marketplace: If you want to sell your NFT trading cards, you can list them on NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible, or specialized platforms for your chosen blockchain. Set prices, auction details, or reserve prices as per your preferences.

How to trade NFT trading cards

If you own NFT trading cards, it’s easy to trade or sell your cards. While the steps for this will vary a little depending on the marketplace you’re using, broadly speaking, you can follow these steps:

  1. Select an NFT Marketplace: Choose a reputable NFT marketplace like OpenSea or Rarible. If you have specific gaming NFT trading cards, most of these have dedicated online marketplaces for P2P trading instead. 

  2. Connect Your Wallet: Connect your cryptocurrency wallet to the selected NFT marketplace to access your NFTs and conduct transactions.

  3. Browse and Find NFTs: Explore the marketplace to discover NFT trading cards or other collectibles. Use filters, categories, and search features to find specific items.

  4. Make an Offer or Purchase: When you find an NFT trading card you want to buy or trade for, follow the marketplace's instructions to make an offer, place a bid, or purchase it directly using cryptocurrency.

  5. Complete transaction and transfer ownership: After successfully buying or trading for an NFT card, the ownership will be transferred to your wallet. You can now view, hold, or sell the NFT as desired.

Displaying NFT trading cards effectively

Want to show off your digital collectibles? While you can’t chuck it in a frame like more traditional collectible cards, you’ve got plenty of options:

  • Get a digital photo frame

  • Add it to an online gallery

  • Create your gallery in a metaverse

  • Upload it to social media

  • List as open for offers on a marketplace 

Trading card culture and community

The shift from physical to digital makes sense for the TGC market, as it has always had a strong culture and community, that traditionally manifested as trading card conventions and gathering. Traditionally, these events served as opportunities to buy, sell, trade, and showcase cards. However, from the late 1990s, the TGC community began fostering online environments to allow players and collectors globally to interact with each other, including buying, selling, and trading. The introduction of NFT trading cards fits well into an already thriving online community for TGC collectors.

Challenges in the NFT trading card market

The NFT trading card market has not been without its share of challenges, particularly when it comes to copyright and intellectual property concerns.

Many NFT trading cards feature digital art, characters, or assets inspired by existing intellectual properties, such as popular movies, video games, or iconic characters. This raises a fundamental question of ownership and licensing rights. Artists and creators must navigate copyright laws and intellectual property regulations to ensure they have the legal rights to mint and sell NFT trading cards based on copyrighted material, or potentially risk legal disputes and takedown requests.

Another challenge lies with ownership. While NFTs represent ownership of a digital asset on the blockchain, they may not necessarily convey ownership of the underlying intellectual property for NFT trading cards depending on the characters featured. 

Buyers of NFT trading cards should be aware that their ownership may be limited to the digital token itself, and they may not have the right to reproduce, distribute, or commercialize the content associated with the NFT without additional permission from the creator or rights holder.

This discrepancy between ownership of the NFT and the associated intellectual property can lead to misunderstandings and legal complications. Collaboration between creators, rights holders, and legal experts to establish clear licensing agreements and copyright guidelines is vital to address these challenges in the longer term.

Notable NFT trading card projects

Looking for the most popular NFT trading card projects to get involved in? Here are 5 notable NFT trading card projects:

NBA Top Shot

NBA Top Shot is one of the largest NFT trading card marketplaces, offering fans the opportunity to buy, trade, and sell NBA moments rendered as NFTs. These dynamic NFT cards work much like traditional trading cards, but instead of being static, they feature highlight clips from NBA games. Fans can even acquire packs of these digital moments, akin to the experience of buying physical trading card packs. Total sales for the project have surpassed $500 million, showing the potential success for other sports NFT trading card markets.


SoRare is a digital soccer game that enables users to delve into a comprehensive soccer experience using NFT player cards. Using Ethereum-based blockchain technology, the platform lets users buy, sell, trade, and manage virtual teams composed of soccer players. With rights secured from the Premier League, several European soccer giants, and associations like the MLS, Korean, and Japanese soccer leagues, the project looks like it will continue to grow.

Axie Infinity

Axie Infinity was one of the first blockchain games available and featured an NFT trading card aspect in the form of Axies. These characters have unique attributes and aesthetics. In the game, players can battle, breed, and trade these virtual pets. Each Axie itself functions as a unique NFT, with players enhancing their value through cards that augment their skills. Notably, a single Axie once sold for more than $800,000, and a plot of digital land within the Axie Infinity metaverse sold for a staggering $2.3 million.

Gods Unchained

Gods Unchained was the world's first free-to-play multiplayer blockchain-based game built on the Ethereum blockchain. Similar to MTG, the game's premise revolves around strategic card-based combat, where players employ decks of NFT trading cards to battle opponents. Players have full ownership of their digital NFT cards and the game also utilizes the play-to-earn concept, letting players earn in-game items that hold real-world value (and can be sold for cash).

Street Fighter NFTs

Street Fighter NFT trading cards are where iconic video game history meet NFTs. Each card is a digital representation of a character, showcasing their distinctive moves, special attacks, and unique personalities. These cards serve as both collectibles and tokens of nostalgia for fans who have followed the franchise since its inception in the late 1980s. Rarity tiers, edition sizes, and special attributes further enhance the collectible aspect of these NFT trading cards.

Trump NFTs: Everything you need to know

It should come as no surprise that the former President (and insurrectionist with 90+ felony counts depending on who you ask) cashed in on the NFT card bandwagon. 

An infographic explaining the meaning of Trump NFT cards, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

Each card features a unique portrait of Donald Trump, some with autographs and animations. Trump released several rounds of NFTs; 45,000 NFTs in December 2022, 47,000 NFTs in April 2023, and finally 100,000 NFTs in December 2023.

Early buyers may also receive tickets for exclusive campaign events where Trump will be present. In the most recent release, one of the so-called perks for some NFT buyers includes a physical trading card that supposedly includes a piece of the suit worn in his infamous mugshot in Atlanta, following his indictment. 

Capitalizing on his cult-like followers, the initial release raised more than $4.4 million in sales on its first day. The most recent Mugshot collection registered less than $100,000 in total volume. With each release, the floor price of existing Trump Cards has fallen. 

Where to buy Trump NFTs

If you just can’t live without your very own Trump NFT Card, you can buy the cards from the previous collections on OpenSea. The most recent collection did not sell out and is available on CollectTrumpCards for $99+.

It’s important to note Trump NFT Cards from the latest collection cannot be traded, sold, or transferred until December 2024. For all collections, there is a 10% royalty charge for sales or trades that goes straight into Trump’s pocket.

The NFT trading card market is still in its infancy. Huge players in the traditional market like MTG have hinted at their intentions to enter the NFT TGC market, while other companies like Disney continue to test the waters with small collections of collectible NFTs. 

Given the estimated size of the collectible card games market of more than $6 billion in 2022, the NFT trading card market may well grow with it in the future. 

A word of warning though, your NFT collectibles may come with a surprise tax bill. Check out our NFT taxes guide to get to grips with everything you need to know.

A banner with an illustration of a man inviting crypto investors to read an Essential NFT Tax Guide, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax calculator

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