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.

The 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.

1989 topps bubble gym card box 24 packs unopened
1989 topps bubble gym card box 24 packs unopened
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# M 1986 Topps Baseball Wax Box Card Dale Murphy
# M 1986 Topps Baseball Wax Box Card Dale Murphy
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TED WILLIAMS 23 KT Gold 1996 Bleachers Great Champs foil card w/ box
TED WILLIAMS 23 KT Gold 1996 Bleachers Great Champs foil card w/ box
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1989 TOPPS BOX BASEBALL
1989 TOPPS BOX BASEBALL
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2010 TOPPS  BASEBALL CARD 16 PACK BOX SER.1-POSS.MANTLE RELIC-.1/1 CUT SIGNATURE
2010 TOPPS BASEBALL CARD 16 PACK BOX SER.1-POSS.MANTLE RELIC-.1/1 CUT SIGNATURE
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1989 O-PEE-CHEE BOX PANELS-HAND CUT #L MIKE SCHMIDT PHILLIES HOF PSA 9 B1396803
1989 O-PEE-CHEE BOX PANELS-HAND CUT #L MIKE SCHMIDT PHILLIES HOF PSA 9 B1396803
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1989 O-PEE-CHEE BOX PANELS-HAND CUT #K NOLAN RYAN ASTROS HOF PSA 9 B1396801
1989 O-PEE-CHEE BOX PANELS-HAND CUT #K NOLAN RYAN ASTROS HOF PSA 9 B1396801
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1989 O-PEE-CHEE BOX PANELS-HAND CUT #J CAL RIPKEN JR. ORIOLES PSA 9 B1396800
1989 O-PEE-CHEE BOX PANELS-HAND CUT #J CAL RIPKEN JR. ORIOLES PSA 9 B1396800
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1989 O-PEE-CHEE BOX PANELS-HAND CUT #I JIM RICE RED SOX HOF PSA 9 B1396802
1989 O-PEE-CHEE BOX PANELS-HAND CUT #I JIM RICE RED SOX HOF PSA 9 B1396802
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╰☆╮2014 Donruss Diamond King 5x7 Box Topper #20 Braves Kris Medlen╰☆╮
╰☆╮2014 Donruss Diamond King 5x7 Box Topper #20 Braves Kris Medlen╰☆╮
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1999 Topps factory sealed baseball box set 462 cards
1999 Topps factory sealed baseball box set 462 cards
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Baseball Superstars cards mint unopened box 1981
Baseball Superstars cards mint unopened box 1981
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