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The Origins and Popularity of Baseball Cards

Baseball cards have been popular with game-loving adults and children and collectors’ attention since they were first distributed. These cards were originally produced as a marketing vehicle, but with the growing popularity of baseball these trading cards have become a more valuable commodity.

Baseball became a professional sport in the late 1860s, around the same time that photography was also gaining recognition. Baseball clubs soon began posing for group and individual photos which were printed on small cards. These cards were about the size of a wallet photo and were used by various companies to promote their business. The products advertised had no connection to baseball until in 1868 a sporting goods store in New York City named Peck and Snyder began producing trade cards featuring baseball teams. The typical card featured an image on one side and the advertisement on the other.

In the late 1800s, cards with images of baseball players were found inside cigarette packets. This was not only done for promotional purposes but also to protect the cigarettes from damage. In the early 1900s, tobacco companies and confectionery companies began producing and distributing baseball trade cards with their products. A caramel company named Rueckheim Bros. & Eckstein was one of the first to include prizes in boxes. In 1914 they produced the Cracker Jack card numbers featuring major league players.

Baseball card production declined during World War I until the economy shifted away from wartime production. The economic effects of the Great Depression also impacted baseball card production. Goudey Gum Co.’s popular 1933 issue of the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig cards once again revived significant production. These cards featured hand-colored player photos on the front and personal information and brief biographies on the reverse.

During the 1940s, one of the major baseball card producers was the Bowman Gum Company. Its biggest competitor was Topps Gum Company which eventually bought out Bowman and monopolized the American baseball card market over the next two decades. Other players emerged in the 1960s when Post Cereals issued cards on cereal boxes and Jell-O included identical cards on the back of its packages. During the 1970s, Kellogg’s produced 3D cards inside its cereal and Hostess printed them on its baked goods packaging.

The 1980s saw an increase in the number of collectors entering the hobby market, as higher-quality card stock, tamper-evident foil wrappers, and hologram-style logos brought higher card premiums. With the popularity of computers and Internet access in the late 1990s, hobby stores and trade shows saw a decline in business, with online transactions taking away most of their customer base.

Baseball cards have also been popular around the world. Canada followed the same historical footsteps as the United States by first selling commercial cards, then issuing them through tobacco products and later with gum and candy. Baseball card games also appeared in Japan as early as 1898, although they used traditional Japanese pen and ink illustrations. The Topps Gum Co. issued licensed sets in Venezuela from 1959 to 1977 with Spanish text on the cards, and Cuba issued sets in the early 1900s.

What began as a clever marketing ploy primarily targeting adults, has led to a growing market of collectors and historians who trade and sell, hoping to acquire a vintage baseball card worth thousands of dollars. dollars.

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