Airport trading cards: collect them all

MKE Trading Card Front

Baseball teams have them, some police forces have them and the TSA’s K-9 unit has them.

Now more than 20 North American airports have trading cards too.

Unveiled earlier this month, each card has the look and feel of a traditional baseball card. But instead of portraying a rookie player at bat, the cards in the North American Airport Collectors Series feature an iconic image of an airport on the front and geographic information, fun factoids and historical tidbits about the airport on the back.

The card for General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, for example, tells passengers about MKE’s free ping pong table and “recombobulation areas.” The card for Pittsburgh International Airport lays claims to being the first large U.S. airport to offer free wireless.

The idea for airport trading cards started at Lambert-St. Louis International, where “like a lot of other airports, we get calls from collectors all over the world asking for anything with the airport code on it,” said STL spokesman Jeff Lea.

Lambert’s trading card has iconic pictures of the airport’s two terminals on the front and, on the back, historical information, including STL’s connection to Charles Lindbergh.

STL_TradingCard_FRONT

“The cards are inexpensive to produce in bulk, so airports can hand them out for free at information booths and other places” said Lea. “It’s an old way to tell a new story and we know people will hold onto that one piece of cardboard longer than if you gave them a brochure or a pen.”

More importantly, the trading cards remind collectors, aviation enthusiasts and passengers that local airports are part of the larger aviation network, said Kevin Burke, President and CEO of ACI-NA, the trade group for airports in the United States and Canada.

PIT Trading card one

“Airports don’t get the attention they deserve and trading cards are one way to illustrate the importance of an airport in a community, especially the airport’s economic contribution,” said Burke, who plans to hand out airport trading cards, perhaps instead of briefing papers, when visiting elected officials in Washington, D.C.

Here are some of the other cards in the series.

CVG_card

SJC_card

SAN_card

(My story about airport trading cards first appeared as part of my At the Airport column on USA TODAY.)