New York City

Man Amasses Epic Collection of MetroCards Spanning Decades

What to Know

  • A man who has been stockpiling MetroCards since he was a kid in the 1990s has given them away on Reddit
  • The collection documents historical moments like the Grand Central centennial
  • It also includes a few CTA cards from Chicago and some LIRR monthly cards

A man accumulated dozens of MetroCards over the course of two decades, a collection that offers a unique timeline of the city as seen through the cards' artwork and design.

User yamleaf recently offered the collection of 174 cards to other users on Reddit, saying he wanted to give them to a history or transit buff who could really appreciate their value.

Yamleaf said Reddit’s response to his offer “was so much more than I expected!” He said he got numerous private messages from history fans and subway fanatics (and a self-proclaimed "MetroCard hoarder") asking about the cards. 

Despite the impressive collection, he said part of him still felt the cards “were just junk.” But he thinks they'll go up in value now that the MTA has moved to phase out the cards and replace them with a contactless payment system.

MetroCards were introduced in 1992 to replace subway tokens, which had been around since 1953 and were discontinued in 2003. For the first five decades of the subway, straphangers paid with nickels and then dimes. When the price of a trip rose above a dime, the token was introduced to retain the single-coin system.

Yamleaf, who works as an urban planner, said he began collecting the cards back in grade school, when he’d get them for free as a New York City school student.

“As a kid who didn’t grow up with too much, you end up hanging on to the few things you do own yourself, even if you know they are technically worthless,” he said.

In the end, he gave the card collection to a city historian and tour guide who manages the popular Twitter handle @Discovering_NYC.

“She got it because she literally responded within four minutes of my initial post,” he said.

The cards, strung together with a chain, offer a glimpse of the city's history from the 1990s until the present day. Yamleaf said his favorite cards in the collection are the ones the MTA created for the Grand Central Terminal centennial.

“The only card I kept refilling right up ‘til the expiration date, even when getting a new one would have been free, is one with a black-and-white photo of Grand Central,” he said. “The sunlight is streaming into the windows of this gorgeous Beaux-Arts train hall.

That scene with the sunlight streaming in can never happen again because of the buildings that have grown up around it. It’s just a sign of how the city is constantly changing.”

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