Troy Kirk has been collecting trading cards for 40 years, and he runs The Moviecard Website. He is also the author of the 1990 book, A Collector's Guide to Baseball Cards. I spoke to Troy recently about the wonderful world of movie star trading cards.
ephemera: When did you become interested in movie star cards?
Kirk: I really got started in the late 1980s when a card collector friend in New Zealand sent me a Laurel and Hardy card from the 1930s. I had a few movie star cards before that and had collected trading cards since I was a kid in the 1960s, but that one card sparked my interest in movie star cards and got me started on those.
I got started by concentrating on collecting Laurel and Hardy cards from around the world. I've always liked Laurel and Hardy movies, so I thought it would be fun to collect their trading cards. The collection has grown from there.
ephemera: The Laurel and Hardy cards are wonderful. What challenges or obstacles do you encounter in collecting movie star trading cards?
Kirk: The first challenge was putting together a list of Laurel and Hardy cards. When I got started, there was almost no information about that. I started out by buying complete sets of old movie star cards through the mail just to see if there was a Laurel and Hardy card in the set. After I started accumulating a lot of movie star card sets, I started putting together checklists of the sets. I created my Moviecard Website, and posted these checklists in 1997. I have been adding information to those checklists ever since. Hopefully, new collectors can look at the checklists on my site and make up their own lists of cards for whatever movie stars they are interested in collecting. They'll have it easier than I had it.
A lot of old movie star card sets were issued in England in the 1920s and 1930s. An obstacle I had when I first started collecting was that most British card dealers only wanted to sell the cards in complete sets. Since I only wanted the Laurel and Hardy card in those sets, I was buying a lot of cards I didn't need. I solved that problem by selling off the rest of the cards and using the proceeds to buy more cards.
Movie star cards were issued all over the world, and Hollywood stars are in card sets from countries everywhere. It is much easier to get cards from English-speaking countries just because I speak the same language. But there are lots of movie star cards in non-English speaking countries, so getting those is a challenge.
Kirk: There are lots of great movie star cards. The cards I like best are my Laurel and Hardy cards, cards of famous actors who are not on very many cards, and card sets that are tougher to find, such as sets issued in smaller countries. I like seeing Ronald Reagan on old movie star cards, he is not on too many cards. I like some cards from the early 1960s showing Clint Eastwood and Peter Sellers. Those came out at about the time movie star cards were dying out, so they are hard to find on cards.
ephemera: What’s your advice for achieving success as a collector?
Kirk: Collecting old movie star cards is a great hobby for a lot of reasons. Most of the cards are still available for relatively cheap prices, especially compared to old baseball cards from the same era. A 1930s Babe Ruth card might cost $1000, while a similar 1930s Clark Gable card can be purchased for $10. Old movie stars are still world-famous and most of their movies can still be watched today. The Internet Movie Database lists all their movies, so collectors can quickly see their stats, just like baseball players.
One of the great things about collecting movie star cards is that it is not a gender-specific hobby. Men and women, boys and girls all enjoy going to the movies and there are male and female movie stars and movie star cards to collect. There are even animal stars on some movie star cards, such as Rin-Tin-Tin, Lassie, and Bonzo.
The main reason more people don't collect these great old cards is that people don't know about them. Everyone knows there are old baseball cards, but nobody knows there are old movie star cards. When I show them to anyone interested in old movies, they want some for themselves. For anyone interested in collecting these old cards, my advice is to get started right away while prices are low.
ephemera: What resources and tools do you recommend for would-be movie star card collectors?
Kirk: Movie star card collecting is a relatively undeveloped hobby. There are no books or price guides available for movie star card collectors to use as a resource. The Moviecard Website is about the only place to go for checklists, though some checklists can be found in general Non-Sports price guides. That is one thing I like about the hobby, collectors can negotiate their own prices instead of being tied to some artificial price guide price.
The Wrapper and Non-Sport Update are two fine American card-collecting magazines that contain occassional information about movie star cards. There are also some card collecting magazines in England and other countries, but no magazines devoted strictly to movie card collecting. Big Reel is a good magazine for collecting movie star memorabilia.
ephemera: Thanks, Kirk. This is certainly a wide-open area of collecting that I'm sure a lot of savvy ephemera collectors will want to explore in greater detail.For more details about trading cards, read my ephemera card guide.