Exhibit Cards 1920-1971

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get into the vintage hobby is to collect exhibit (or arcade) cards.

Produced starting in 1921 by the Exhibit Supply Company (or ESCO) of Chicago, these thick post card sized photo or illustrated cards were dispensed via vending machines at arcades, theaters, stores or other public places for fees ranging from 1 penny to 10 cents in later years.

Babe Ruth Exhibit Card
Babe Ruth Exhibit Card

Neither a premium collectors card nor an advertisement, the Exhibit Supply Company would make money by selling refills to vendors. The Exhibit Supply Company would produce large refill sets of various subjects including sports stars, movie stars, jets, cartoons, fortunes, US patents or even risqué cards. Some of these cards were emblematic of the times and would be very offensive by today’s standards.

Fortune Telling Exhibit Card
Fortune Telling Exhibit Card

 

Jet Exhibit Card
Jet Exhibit Card

The Exhibit Supply Company produced the cards from 1921 until about 1971. While there is not a definitive cataloging of these cards, some speculate that as many as 15,000 different cards were produced by the Exhibit Supply Company. Today these cards are highly collectable and relatively cheap on auction sites such as Ebay, however, many rare exhibit cards will command much higher amounts.

 

1930's Exhibit Card Vending Machine
1930's Exhibit Card Vending Machine

 

 

If you notice anything factually incorrect or can add historical information to this topic, please email us at collectorsarchive@yahoo.com.

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