History of Baseball Cards

The oldest and most popular category of sports trading cards; baseball cards have been produced since the late 1860’s. Originally included in packs of chewing gum, tobacco, and cigarettes as a marketing tool; baseball cards were not mass produced until the 1930’s.  The early tobacco cards are among the most collectible cards in the sports collectible hobby, due both to their age and scarcity.  The 1933 Goudey set is considered by collectors to be one of the first mass produced baseball card sets, and features the first cards for some of the game’s greatest stars: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  The 1934 Goudey set is smaller, but also very popular.

1962 Jello Mickey Mantle cardThe production of baseball cards declined during the Second World War, but exploded again in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Between 1948 and 1955, the baseball card industry was dominated by the Topps and Bowman companies. The rivalry ended in 1955 when Topps purchased Bowman in a dispute primarily over Bowman’s exclusive contract with Mickey Mantle.  Topps essentially monopolized the industry until the early 1980’s, with only limited competition from companies such as Fleer and Leaf.

Fleer sued Topps over Topps’ exclusive agreements with Major League Baseball and in 1981, Fleer and new company, Donruss, re-entered the baseball card industry. Combined with an explosion of interest in the hobby, the arrival of new competition (including Upper Deck in 1990) spurred what has been dubbed the “Age of Overproduction.”   The value of baseball cards declined drastically as the market was flooded with new sets.

In the late 1990’s, with a declining customer base and sagging card prices, card companies began including ‘memorabilia cards’ in their sets, featuring game-used pieces of jerseys, bats, gloves, and even bases. These insert cards have been largely responsible for revitalizing interest in the hobby. In late 2009, Major League Baseball signed an exclusive contract with Topps, granting Topps the sole right to use MLB team logos. The long-term effects of this contract on the industry remain to be determined.

Rickey Henderson 2014 Gypsy Queen Mini Photo Variation RC Hobby Box Topper #200
Rickey Henderson 2014 Gypsy Queen Mini Photo Variation RC Hobby Box Topper #200
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2012 Topps Baseball Series One Factory Sealed Hobby Box
2012 Topps Baseball Series One Factory Sealed Hobby Box
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Greg Maddux 2014 Gypsy Queen Mini Photo Variation RC Hobby Box Topper #75
Greg Maddux 2014 Gypsy Queen Mini Photo Variation RC Hobby Box Topper #75
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Manny Machado 2014 Gypsy Queen Mini Photo Variation RC Hobby Box Topper #280
Manny Machado 2014 Gypsy Queen Mini Photo Variation RC Hobby Box Topper #280
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2014 TOPPS TIER ONE BASEBALL FACTORY SEALED HOBBY BOX
2014 TOPPS TIER ONE BASEBALL FACTORY SEALED HOBBY BOX
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2013 Topps Supreme Didi Gregorius Auto # 19/20 Diamondbacks and Yankees
2013 Topps Supreme Didi Gregorius Auto # 19/20 Diamondbacks and Yankees
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2014 Donruss Signatures Chris Rusin Auto Colorado Rockies
2014 Donruss Signatures Chris Rusin Auto Colorado Rockies
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2014 Bowman Chrome Zack Greinke Black Wave Refractor #26/35 Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Bowman Chrome Zack Greinke Black Wave Refractor #26/35 Los Angeles Dodgers
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2014 Topps Tek Max Scherzer Auto Tigers and Nationals
2014 Topps Tek Max Scherzer Auto Tigers and Nationals
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Baseball Sealed Sets Card Collector Box With Over 500 Sport
Baseball Sealed Sets Card Collector Box With Over 500 Sport
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Baseball Lots Baseball Card Collector Box with Over 600 Cards Great Mix of
Baseball Lots Baseball Card Collector Box with Over 600 Cards Great Mix of
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2003 Topps Shoe Box REGGIE JACKSON #260 A's MT Baseball Card 11 yr old 42 / 96
2003 Topps Shoe Box REGGIE JACKSON #260 A's MT Baseball Card 11 yr old 42 / 96
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