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Picture of Card Feeder for a Trading Card Machine
Trading Card Machine - Card Feeder Thumbnail.jpg

Card Feeder for a Trading Card Machine

The Background

When I was young, I collected tons of trading cards, but for some years, the passion for collecting has been decreasing. In the meantime I have children and slowly but surely they also start to get interested in trading cards. So I'm back in the game. :)
Meanwhile, we have more than 10,000 cards. Most of them are from World of Warcraft, but we also have many others:

Some of our cards are sorted and protected in UltraPro 9-pocket pages and UltraPro Albums, but most of them "stored chaotically" in boxes. We tried to sort them by hand, but after a few days we gave up frustrated. Especially with these quantities, handling and administration is very laborious and time-consuming.

The Solution

A few months ago, I stumbled across an interesting article published in the MagPi Magazine Issue 71, Jul 2018. Michael Portera explained there how he built a Card Counter.

It was exactly the motivation and inspiration that I need. Which that said, I want to create a machine that can handle our trading card collection.

Some goals; Trading cards should automatically be

  • managed (Which cards do I have?, Which ones are missing?)
  • sorted (Block, Language, Set, Series, etc)
  • rated (How valuable are my cards?, How much money do I have to spend for a full set?)
  • traded (Buy and Sell)

Because of this ambitious goals, I decided to split the huge machine into 3 parts.

  1. Card Feeder - a machine which grab and transport a single card out of a card stack
  2. Card Scanner - a part where the cards will be analyzed
  3. Card Sorter - a machine which will sort and store the identified cards.

Let's do it!

In this instructable I will show you Part 1 - How to create the Card Feeder.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials
Trading Card Machine - Card Feeder Materials.jpg

Tools and Materials

I decided to create the Card Feeder out of cardboard. It's cheap and easy to handle.

Here's what I used:


  • Cutter
  • Cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Rubber bands
  • Scraper
  • Wire cutter and stripper
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pencil, markers
  • Sanding paper
  • Files
  • Acrylic paint and brushes
  • Hot glue gun
  • water-containing adhesives or solvent-containing adhesives.
  • Soldering iron and tin solder
  • Table saw


mrbanuc3 months ago
Hey theguymasamato,

I found your project on yt and loved it! I tried to build something similar but it didn't work. I don't understand why your card feeder get just one card at once. Does your feeder still work if you put a lot of cards in it?

theguymasamato (author)  mrbanuc3 months ago
thank you.
Yes, the feeder is still working. You will see it in action when my Card Scanner is finished. I hope this will happen in the next 4 weeks.

Show me some pictures of your version.
Do you use rubber bands on the wheels?
Do you have enough tension between the wheels?
Do the cards have the right angle in relation to the wheels?
dynamas20027 months ago
I love this project. I am trying to build it for myself.
Could you possibly give a link to the 40mm and 10 mm wheels.
I really appreciate the work you put into this and the step by step instructions where great!
theguymasamato (author)  dynamas20027 months ago
thank you very much.
This should be the smaller wheel and this the big one.
Please share your version, when it's finished.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Lukillith8 months ago
Dope! This would be great for my cards.
theguymasamato (author)  Lukillith8 months ago
Thanks man
Schabenstolz9 months ago
Great project and well documented. I'm looking forward to the next parts. :)
theguymasamato (author)  Schabenstolz9 months ago
Hey, nice to hear from you!
I am working on the second part and I hope that I can publish this year the article to this.
What are you working on?
Great! :D

Its just a small project. I ordered a Mini-PCIE to USB adapter and a matching small USB stick. I would like to install it in my notebook. Possibly with an external on/off switch to save power eg. to boot the Linux Live System (Tails OS) "hidden" without a visible entry in the boot manager. A bit of a gimmick, but I didn't want to carry a USB stick around with me and booting from SD card didn't work. :x

Good luck at the contest, you got my vote.
cu :)
theguymasamato (author)  Schabenstolz9 months ago
Sounds interesting. Share some pictures when you are finished. I would like to see it.

Thanks for your vote. I appreciate it. There are lot of good articles in the contest. We will see.
srilyk9 months ago
This is fantastic! I've recently taken to using cardboard for prototyping and I <3 it
theguymasamato (author)  srilyk9 months ago
Cardboard is awesome. Before this project i never used it. But now,... I will try to create everything with cardboard. I also felt in love.
attosa9 months ago
That is so cool. Well done :)
theguymasamato (author)  attosa9 months ago
Thank you very much.
jseager649 months ago
I have been thinking of this project for two years now. I have about 1/2 million baseball cards, some worth in the thousands, but I could not get past my fear that running the cards through using any type of "rolling" mechanism would decrease the value of the card because of rubber trails appearing after the scan is done. My thoughts now is to use a rolling ramp like you have here but once the card reaches the rubber rollers it would use a vacuum mechanism to move the card into the photo arena. Once the card is safely in place there would be a top and bottom cam run with a RaspberryPi to get both sides at the same time and forwarded to my computer. Nevertheless you actually did what I have been thinking about. I just don't want the mental and emotional pain of destroying the value of a card. I buy and sell quite a bit of baseball cards, hence the 1/2 million cards I have. OK fine call me a hoarder. As of right now I only provide stock images that someone else took but offer the potential buyer an actual scan from my 3 in 1 printer upon request as baseball card collectors want to look closly at the corners, edges and stains on the front and/or back.

Any thoughts on this comment? You did a nice job by the way for cards other than cards that are worth 1000 times more than Yoogio (sp?) cards. Did you know that porn stars also have trading cards? I didn't until a few weeks ago by accident. Some of those cards go for $300+ each. I found that fascinating. And NO I have zero interest in trying to make a buck or two on anything related to porn or anything I wouldn't want my kids to find as kids know where everything hidden in the house CAN be found. :-)
theguymasamato (author)  jseager649 months ago
First, thanks for your comment.
I really like to discuss different options and ideas around a project. Great!

In the intro I wrote about my “huge” collection, but that word fit better to yours.
0.5 million WOW.

Yes, I understand your fears. It is a torture for the cards and it is hard to watch, because the bending is quite a lot. But… I can not see any effects afterwards on the cards. On the other hand I used only scrap cards at the moment. If I would have very valuable cards I can not say if I would torture them with my machine.
It’s made for the bulk process.

Back in the days, when the idea grew in my mind I thought about possibilities to transport a card. This vacuum option was also on my list. But after the first test this idea failed. You can try this as well.
I used a suction cup gun from my kids. The dart has a suction cup. I pressed it onto a card a lift it up. It works perfect and without any mechanical issues for the card, but (and this was the reason why this idea failed) it never happened the only one single card was lifted up. There are some physics behind, maybe static charge or static friction. I don’t know. But on every test two or even more cards were lifted up. Sometimes it lasts only a few seconds and the other cards fall down, but quite often even after minutes they are still stucked together.
Maybe your baseball cards don’t have these problems.
Maybe this problem can be solved with some air flow that will blow off all the additional cards.
But I don't focused on this idea anymore .

Pornstars trading cards? Interesting!
No, I never heard of that.

Yes you're right. Kids will find everything. :)
I woke up thinking that instead of sliding in cards on a ramp into the "darkroom" might be easier to do by dropping the cards one at a time down from the top vertically then the two Rpi cams can take the pic with it standing upright. After the pic is taken it could then be moved out of the "Darkroom" any number of ways. It seems to me that doing it that way would cut down on parts, meaning fewer items to replace WHEN they fail :-)

theguymasamato (author)  jseager649 months ago
Yes, I totally agree. Gravity is the key to save money, mechanical and electrical parts.
I will do this very similar in my machine. When the cards came out of the Card Feeder, they will slide down (because of gravity) to the Card Scanner. There the cards will be stopped and then (again with gravity) will slide down to the Card Sorter.

In the past I tried some ideas on my desk. If the angle is too high, the cards will have too much speed and when they are braked sharply it will damage the edges. So vertically can be critical.
How would you stop your cards to take a picture?
Your suction cup idea has some potential if you used a small pump about the size of an aquarium pump only that it sucks the card up with a vacuum, instead of pressing the cup to the card manually it would then pass over something like artificial grass cut really low. With new bbcards they tend to stick together. The artificall grass would prevent anything more than the top card to be picked up, slide just below the top of the grass to the drop ramp, and hopefully the grass will brush everything other than the single card with the suction preventing two and three card pickups (jams).
theguymasamato (author)  jseager649 months ago
Sounds interesting!
Can you create a little sketch?
I was thinking more of a vacuum rolling, say stainless steel to get from point a (the pile of cards) to point B (insertion into the photo darkroom) and then point c (egress out into a pile gently.) There are some cards that just will not ever work in whatever the two of us think of in that there are Topps and Bowman Chrome cards that come out of the box with a bend in them, or curve if you will. Even if one were to get the picture into the "darkroom" the curvature of the card would make for some fairly unfocused images.

Thank you for "re-inspiring" me to take up this thought process again. I LOVE making things. If I manage to put together a prototype I would eventually 3d printing as much as possible.

If you keep thinking about it I promise to do the same and we can exchange notes. I am pretty well versed in everything Raspberry Pi's as I use several of them as timing, sensoring water status in our open air aquaponics greenhouse which is really easy to do living here in Florida. So anything I design and try to put together my pi's will have a significant role in the complete design.

theguymasamato (author)  jseager649 months ago
The bending and curved problem was one reason why I switched to the mechanism with the wheels. It is not a big deal for the Card Feeder it can handle "curved" cards. But I know what you mean.
Yes of course. We can share our thoughts and ideas.
My machine is not finished yet, there is a lot to do.
ronanry9 months ago
What a huge project ! Great ambition... the least i can say is "you have some work to do man!"
and i will follow it !
theguymasamato (author)  ronanry9 months ago
Thanks, dude!
Yes you're right. There is still a lot to do, but I'm optimistic. Wherever it will end up, I have little doubt that it will be a hugely exciting and challenging project.
Some parts do not even exist on paper. For example final design/look. :) We will see.
HaydnH9 months ago
That was a very skillfully done video!
theguymasamato (author)  HaydnH9 months ago
Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
There is still enough room for improvement.
I filmed it on my phone and I had some strange problems with exposure and color profile. I hope I can fix it until next video.