History of Golf Trading Cards

Golf trading cards form a relatively small niche in the trading card industry. Not usually associated with the glamour of other major sports, golf cards have had a rocky history with collectors.

While a number of golf cards were issued with tobacco and other issues through the first part of the 20th century and Goudey included a few stars in its Sport Kings set of 1933, there were relatively few golf cards issued until the last 30 years.

Donruss produced one of the earliest mass produced golf card sets in 1981.  Since many of the player had never had a trading card during the early part of their careers, this set features what are considered the rookie cards for a number of major PGA stars, including Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, and others.

Golf cards were produced sporadically by a number of companies throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, primarily by Pro Set and Grand Slam Ventures.  These sets were not enormous commercial successes, and golf cards did not achieve a major popular breakthrough until the release of Upper Deck’s SP Authentic lines in 2001.  This set is famous for featuring what is generally accepted as the original Tiger Woods rookie card, and is quite collectible.   The autographed Tiger Woods cards often sell for hundreds of dollars. Woods was featured on the Grand Slam Ventures set in 1997, however.

Upper Deck ceased production of its golf cards in 2005, although the company still maintains an exclusive licensing agreement with Tiger Woods to produce memorabilia items. No other major card company has produced a large-run golf card set since 2005, although rumors have circulated for some time that Upper Deck will restart its golf line in the next several years.

The only company to produce golf cards in any quantity currently is SportKings. There are a handful of golfers included in the SportKings Series B and Series C sets, including Payne Stewart, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Nancy Lopez, and Arnold Palmer. Due to the limited size runs of the SportKings series, these cards can be quite collectible.

The future of mass produced golf cards remains up in the air, and has probably been damaged by the recent scandal surrounding star Tiger Woods. Barring another major revival of public interest in the sport, it seems likely that sport card companies will focusing their energies on emerging sports such as Mixed Martial Arts.


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