I was intrigued when I first heard of sketch cards. The idea sounded great! You get paid to do fan art on a small scale--usually 50 to 100 or more cards--with traditional media. Quick little illustrations to indulge your inner fanboy, and paid as well! So I did some research, figured out who was publishing these cards, and inquired about who to send my samples to. Once I discovered the submission requirements and the name of the editors/art directors, I was on my way. Samples were submitted and I was fortunate enough to get work on a number of card sets. The amount of cards varied (50 to 100 or more) and the schedule was quite flexible. Not all the cards were superhero sets. Some were classic horror and sci-fi, or classic comics and animation or "The Walking Dead."
There were always restrictions on who you could and could not draw in a particular set. The thing that surprised me though, was the pay rate--anywhere from $5 to $8 a card, for full color cards. I thought that if I could do them quickly enough, the pay rate would be fine. However, speed is not always a friend of quality, and I soon discovered the the cards were called "sketch cards" in name only. More often, than not, the publishers were looking for finished artwork, sometimes multiple figures and backgrounds, for $5 a card.
Now, I also received a special "Artist's Proof" card for every ten regular cards that I competed. The idea was that I could spend extra time on these limited AP cards and sell them to collectors, at a premium, in order to supplement the low rate on the sketchcards. I still have all of my blank AP cards. I haven't had the motivation, or inspiration, to do some special sketch editions and sell them. Every now and again I see some of my original production cards on ebay, selling for 10 times or more my original rate. I suppose that's the collectors/speculators market. The thing that bugs me, is that it's usually the weaker cards on ebay, the ones I was happier with are nowhere to be seen.
These days I usually think of doing larger illustrations and pieces of art, based on my own ideas. However, when I find my energy or enthusiasm flagging, I kick around the idea of sketch cards again. Simple little sketches that make me appreciate the ability to pursue my own creative ideas.