Collecting, selling and trading ACEO art (Art Cards Editions and Originals) is as easy as buying and selling anything on eBay -- and it has the advantage of a specialized market. Here's how to turn drawing miniature artworks the size of trading cards (2 1/2" x 3 1/2") into some added income to help you add to your collection!
Things You'll Need
- Computer with Internet access
- Trading card sleeves
- Finished ACEO art
- Bank Account
- PayPal account
- Local post office
- Trading card album for your purchases and trades
Create some ACEO artworks. These need to be 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" exactly, or they will not count as ACEOs. They should be flat enough to put into a trading card sleeve, and preferably no thicker than a heavy piece of cardboard. Some raised elements in collages like ribbons and lace are fine, but try not to make it so three dimensional a collector can't put it in an album. Accordion-folding some elements that fold out can be fun though, as long as it looks nice folded flat too.
Any medium can be used -- collage, watercolors, do oil or acrylics on canvas paper or miniature ACEO canvas boards (not stretched canvases), found objects, pencil, pastel, colored pencils, any flat type of traditional art is fine for creating ACEOs. Try to do groups and series with themes, so that if a collector buys one, they may want all six of the turtles you did in collage.
When you're done, be sure to put the following on the back of your ACEO card. It's not required as it is for ATC (Artist Trading Cards), but it is nice -- the difference is only that ACEOs can be sold and collectors don't need to be artists themselves to get them. Write in name, contact information, title of the ATC and number (1/8, 2/8...) if it's part of an edition or series. You can also mention the medium on the back, since that helps collectors know how to preserve it, or put that information on a note with the card when you sell it.
Make sure you have a validated PayPal account. Down in "Resources" I've listed the URL for PayPal, which requires you to have a bank account in order to cover your expenses and accept payments. PayPal is now owned by eBay (another site I have listed at the bottom, don't worry about those links till you read the instructions), and so it's become the payment method of choice for many, if not most, online purchases. Other options are credit cards, debit cards and mailing checks -- but you will get the most sales if you can accept PayPal payments.
If you don't have an account already, just follow the directions on the PayPal site to sign up.
Pick up some trading card sleeves from a hobby shop. They're usually about a dollar for a box of 100. These archival plastic sleeves are something all buyers expect their ACEO cards to come in, not putting them in the sleeve before mailing comes off as very unprofessional. It's a small expense but it pays off in the long run. Also, you can keep unsold cards in them to keep them clean and handy before someone buys them. There are also albums, boxes and other trading card paraphernalia that can prove useful if you do a high business.
ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals. This means that you can not only sell your original 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" artworks, but have prints made in either limited or unlimited editions. Have your prints made before you sell any of them online. Many websites including the biggest, will expect you to be able to mail out a card or print you sold within five days of receiving payment -- and so it helps to have the prints in hand before listing any online for sale. ArtCardsWanted dot com (listed as a link at the bottom) will make prints to order in batches of four that you cut apart, 15 precut cards in a clear plastic box, or 500 precut cards. As this site is also a prime selling site that has no listing fees, it's a good place to start for selling ACEOs online.
To be sensible about it, I would make a 300 dpi image or 600 dpi image of your card before posting the original for sale. Then if it's bid high at auction or gains a lot of attention after it's sold, order prints in either a limited edition or unlimited.
Decide what to charge for your original cards and prints.
The price range for originals runs from $5 on up to $25 or even $85 or $100 or more for well known artists. Look at the quality of your art and compare it to artists who post cards in similar styles with your level of skill, and price accordingly. There's no point selling yourself short if your favorite subject and style is going for a higher price than average!
Prints sell for much less than originals, but a limited edition print should be priced at a higher rate than unlimited editions. Some prints go as low as a dollar or two, but limited edition prints could sell for $3-$5 or even more if they're in demand. On limited edition prints, sign the printed card by hand and put the number -- if I did a limited edition of 30, I would sign in pencil with something like this:
Robert A. Sloan, 1/30, and so on, the fifth one I signed would be 2/30 until I finished up the stack of 30 cards. The rest are artist proofs. With the way ArtCardsWanted prints, limited editions of multiples of 15 are probably common.
Sign up for an eBay account to auction cards, or if you already sell things on eBay, look at the category listings. ACEOs can be listed under Art > Self-Representing Artists or Art > Self-Representing ACEO. This helps collectors find your auctions easily. Follow the directions on eBay for setting up an auction.
With a small flat item, it's very easy to get a good image of the card with any home scanner. If you don't have a scanner, just use a print shop to get good scans -- and remember to make a low-resolution scan for Internet display at 72dpi or 100dpi, as well as a high 300dpi or 600dpi image in case you want to make prints after the original card sells.
Also, while you're at eBay, look into joining eBay Groups centered on ACEOs. You'll find many experienced sellers who can help you find your way around, help you promote your auctions and get the most exposure. Participate in discussion boards and more people will get to know you personally, then check out your album and your auctions. Buyers are also often sellers, they don't get into these without liking them!
The groups also sometimes have weekly or monthly themes, and participation will raise interest in your auctions.
When posting to sell on any website, be sure to use keywords in your description. What the subject is -- "flower" or "sunflower," is a keyword. "Watercolor" is a keyword. "ACEO" is an important keyword, the one that lets collectors find yours and not wander off into someone's larger sunflower painting. Use many specific concrete terms in the description but keep them simple. Pen drawing, watercolor, ACEO, sunflower, flower, yellow, green, leaves, these are some keywords I might use for my ACEO sunflower. Mentioning the colors really does help -- because the Google spiders that rate pages (including your auction page) can't see the image. They will check for things like "yellow" and it'll move up by how often those keywords get used. It's fascinating -- so describe your art in detail with as many concrete nouns as you can!
Set up an art blog at a host that also has image hosting. I've listed a couple of sites I use, but if you search on art blogs, you will find other hosts. There are many good services and hosts out on the Internet. If you participate in online discussions and keep a blog entry that lists all your auctions, you can include a link to that entry in your signature on all your posts -- and that will get interested buyers to your auctions.
Also visit art sites and art blogs. Volunteer articles and tips, then trade links with other art blogs. The best exposure you can get is to have many other sites linking to your art site, so reciprocating with other artists can move your art page up in Google ratings. Be sure to link to your auctions on your art blog whenever you post them.
Describe your art and why and how you do it on your blog in more detail than the auction listings, make it fun to read.
Finally... do a few ATCs (Art Trading Cards) and trade them. Get to know other artists who do ATCs and ACEOs. Collect them. You'll be inspired by other artists' work and you'll start to understand collectors better by becoming one.
Paint, draw or create images you would want to buy for yourself. Stick to the themes and subjects you love. With millions of collectors in the world, whatever you like best has a large number of dedicated collectors. The trick is just putting your work out there and making sure they know what you do and where to find your work!
In Resources, I have three sites listed where you can sell ACEOs and other useful sites. I hope this gives you a good start in selling ACEOs online. See you at eBay and ArtCardsWanted!
Tips & Warnings
- Use good art supplies when possible. Not only are artist grade supplies often easier to use, they will get better results and the item will have more value. Be sure to mention this in your description of the ACEO.
- If you use random cool stuff, collages done with glue and ribbon and lace or ticket stubs and photos, call that "found objects" and art collectors understand these things are not necessarily archival -- and love it anyway, because collage is a popular medium.
- Offer an explanation and possible refund if something goes terribly wrong. Example: "My puppy got into the album and ate your art, so you have the choice of a refund or I can try to create another card in the same style, or a partial refund and I'll send it as is. Which would you prefer?" is a good way to head off permanent negative feedback -- rather than sending a dog-chewed card that doesn't match its image.
- Be conscientious about shipping fast when you get a sale. Give good seller feedback when you buy anything unless they really gave you a hard time -- and contact them first, try to work it out before doing that to anyone. Negative feedback never goes away and hundreds of positive marks don't seem to count against it. So give positive feedback and contact privately for problems unless they are extreme, and do your best to live up to a professional standard of business ethics. Describe what you sell accurately, ship it fast or let the buyer know why it's delayed.
- Don't expect eBay auctions to get many bids till the last day. In the last day and last few hours of an auction, it comes up to the front page where people see it while surfing, also people who saw it earlier will often wait to bid till the last minute hoping to get it lower than if they bid early. This just happens, it's nothing to worry about if it's day five and you didn't sell anything. Auctions are usually 7 days by default, I go with the default.
- ATC defined for traders
- ACEO defined, organization has galleries for one-time $10 fee
- ArtCardsWanted.com -- buy prints to sell, post cards to sell without fees
- Author's ArtCardsWanted store for example
- ETSY.com -- low 20c fee per listing, 4 months per listing, handmade items only (no prints unless altered)
- Author's ETSY shop for an example
- eBay, for auctions with large traffic
- DeviantART for a large community, gallery space and blog
- Author's DeviantART blog entry listing all auctions with thumbnails
- LiveJournal, an online community that allows uploading images with a paid or ad-supported account, blog host
- PayPal, to send or receive online payment
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