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Something for Collectors, Digital Trading Cards

Technology

BB-8, a droid from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” is featured on this digital trading card. Photo from Star Wars: Card Trader 

When I was a kid, I collected trading cards. I bought packs that featured superheroes and scenes from movies like “Star Wars.” I kept them organized in nine-pocket plastic sheets and stored them in three-ring binders.

It’s 20 years later and I’m still collecting “Star Wars” cards — but I’m doing it digitally. On my phone. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

A few weeks ago, I read numerous articles about a digital Han Solo card that sold on eBay for $225. When I say digital, I mean an online photo of Han Solo sold for hundreds of dollars. The winner of the auction did not receive a physical card — instead, the digital card was traded via a mobile app.

My initial reaction was one of shock. How could a digital image have such a high price tag? As a “Star Wars” fan and former card collector, I needed to know what all the fuss was about. I downloaded Topps’
Star Wars: Card Trader app, which is available on
iPhones, iPads and Android devices, and opened my first free pack.

As I thumbed through the cards on my screen, I felt like I was 12 years old again, flipping through the plastic sheets in my binder. I opened more free packs and received cards featuring main characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, as well as obscure ones.

While that $225 eBay bid may seem daunting, the game can be played completely for free. Every day that you log in you’ll receive enough currency to purchase about five packs, which is more than I was buying as a kid. Of course, you can purchase credits with real money (bundles range from $0.99 to $99.99), but that’s optional. You can also earn more credits by watching videos, completing surveys and so on.

I wouldn’t recommend pouring a ton of money into the app — if Topps shuts it down, then you’ll have nothing to show for your hard-earned cash. However, a few dollars here and there is worth it for the entertainment value.  

Topps introduces new cards and sets on a daily basis. These cards, called inserts, have a limited print run and can sell out. I know, the concept of a digital image selling out is bizarre, but it’s what makes these cards collectible in the app. When I pulled a BB-8 card (he’s the rolling droid from the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” film) from a digital pack, it gave me the same thrill as if I got it from a physical pack.

If you want to have complete sets, you’ll need to trade with other players in the app. You can scroll through messages of trade offers with varying degrees of luck, or you can trade directly with your friends. The community at www.reddit.com/r/starwarstrader is very helpful.

For sports fan, Topps has three other digital card-trading apps: Huddle for football, Bunt for baseball and Kick for soccer.

I’m not sure if digital cards are the future of the hobby, but Star Wars: Card Trader is more fun than I expected. If you’re a collector, it’s worth the free download to try it out.