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.

2002 Fleer Box Score Press Clippings Game Used Jersey Curt Schilling 4 Color
2002 Fleer Box Score Press Clippings Game Used Jersey Curt Schilling 4 Color
$4.99
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2012 Topps Tribute Baseball Factory Sealed Hobby Box - 6 High End Hits Per Box
2012 Topps Tribute Baseball Factory Sealed Hobby Box - 6 High End Hits Per Box
$549.95
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1990 FLEER BASEBALL 20 BOX SEALED CASE
1990 FLEER BASEBALL 20 BOX SEALED CASE
$119.95
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1989 FLEER CELLO BOX   24 Packs Unopened Right From Case. Griffey Jr. RC Bid Now
1989 FLEER CELLO BOX 24 Packs Unopened Right From Case. Griffey Jr. RC Bid Now
$6.06 (13 Bids)
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DAN HAREN  NATIONALS  2013 TOPPS CHROME UPDATE MEGA BOX #MB-23
DAN HAREN NATIONALS 2013 TOPPS CHROME UPDATE MEGA BOX #MB-23
$0.20
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1989 FLEER CELLO BOX   24 Packs Unopened Right From Case. Griffey Jr. RC Bid Now
1989 FLEER CELLO BOX 24 Packs Unopened Right From Case. Griffey Jr. RC Bid Now
$19.99
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1991 TOPPS STADIUM CLUB BASEBALL SERIES 2  - WAX BOX - 36 PACKS  - UNOPENED
1991 TOPPS STADIUM CLUB BASEBALL SERIES 2 - WAX BOX - 36 PACKS - UNOPENED
$12.99
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(4) 1986 Fleer Mini Baseball Complete Box Set
(4) 1986 Fleer Mini Baseball Complete Box Set
$20.00
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2002 Fleer Box Score 40-card Cooperstown Tour Baseball Set  s/n 1646/2500  Ryan
2002 Fleer Box Score 40-card Cooperstown Tour Baseball Set s/n 1646/2500 Ryan
$12.95
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DEREK JETER RC *RARE* 1993 SCORE ROOKIE #489 YANKEES
DEREK JETER RC *RARE* 1993 SCORE ROOKIE #489 YANKEES
$15.00
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1994 Upper Deck Collectors Choice Series 1 Baseball 36 packs Factory Sealed Box
1994 Upper Deck Collectors Choice Series 1 Baseball 36 packs Factory Sealed Box
$9.99
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NEW/SEALED 1992 SERIES 1 & 2 DONRUSS MLB BASEBALL CARDS CAL RIPKEN AUTO BOX
NEW/SEALED 1992 SERIES 1 & 2 DONRUSS MLB BASEBALL CARDS CAL RIPKEN AUTO BOX
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