Baseball Cards Brief History, Hall of Fame Players,Career Stats, Vintage Baseball Radio Broadcasts
The exciting part of collecting Baseball Cards is finding the greatest
players in the history of the game, looking at their career stats, and reminiscing about the golden age of Baseball which dates back to the early part of the century and through to the 1960’s which include players like Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Mickey Mantle. As we are well aware these original cards costs are in the thousands and yes almost 3 Million for the T206 Honus Wagner. That is why I am thankful for the beautiful reprints of these cards, now everyone that loves the game and collecting cards will be able to afford them.
During the mid-19th century in the United States, baseball and photography were both gaining popularity. As a result,clubs began to pose for group and individual pictures, much like members of other clubs and associations posed. Some of these photographs were printed onto small cards similar to modern wallet photos. As baseball increased in popularity and became a professional sport during the late 1860s, trade cards featuring players appeared. These
were used by a variety of companies to promote their business, even if the products being advertised had no connection with baseball. In 1868, Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods store in New York, began producing trade cards featuring baseball teams. Peck and Snyder sold baseball equipment, and the baseball cards were a natural advertising vehicle. The Peck and Snyder cards are sometimes considered the first baseball cards.
Typically, a trade card of the time featured an image on one side and information advertising the business on the other. Advances in color printing increased the appeal of the cards. As a result, cards began to use photographs, either in black-and-white or sepia, or color artwork, which was not necessarily based on photographs. Some early cards could be used as part of a game, which might be either a conventional card game or a simulated baseball game.
By early 1886, images of the players were often included on cigarette cards with cigarette packs and other tobacco products. This was partly for promotional purposes and partly because the card helped protect the cigarettes from damage. By the end of the century,the game had become so popular that production had spread well beyond the Americas and into the Pacific Isles.
In the beginning of the 1900’s, most cards were produced by confectionary companies and tobacco companies.The American Tobacco Company decided to introduce baseball advertising cards into their tobacco products with the issue of the T205 Gold Border Set and the T206 White Border Set between 1909-1911. The cards were included in packs of cigarettes and produced over a three-year period. The most famous, and most expensive card for the grade, is the Honus Wagner card from this set that recently sold in Sept. 2007 for more than 2.8 million and the rest of the cards in this set mostly of Hall of Famers like Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Mordecai Brown are in the thousands of dollars.
At the same time, many other non-tobacco companies started producing and distributing trading cards to the public. In 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack produced two card issues, which featured players from both major leagues as well as players from the short lived Federal League. Players included in the Cracker Jack sets were Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Christy Mathewson, Napoleon Lajoie. The set also had managers and owners such as Charles Comiskey, Connie Mack and John McGraw. The 1915 Cracker Jack cards were also reprinted so all can enjoy.
In the early 1930s, production soared, starting with 1932 US Caramel set. The popular 1933 Goudey Gum Co. issue (reprints were made of the 1933 and 1934 Goudey sets), which included cards of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, best identifies this era. Goudey, National Chicle, Delong and a handful of other companies were competitive in the bubble gum and card market until World War II began.
After 1941, cards would not be produced in any significant number until a few years after the end of the war. Wartime production transitioned into the post-war civilian consumer goods, and in 1948 player card production resumed in the US with issues by the Bowman Gum and the Leaf Candy Company At the same time, Topps Gum Company issued their Magic Photos set, four years before they issued their first “traditional” card set. By 1950, Leaf had bowed out of the industry.
Bowman was the major producer of baseball cards from 1948-1952. In 1952, Topps began to produce large sets of cards as well. The 1952 Topps set is the most sought-after post-World War set among collectors because of the scarcity of the Mickey Mantle card, the first Mantle card issued by Topps. Although it is not his rookie card (that honor belongs to his 1951 Bowman card), it is still considered the ultimate card to own of the post-war era.
Topps and Bowman then competed for customers and for the rights to any players' likeness. Two-years later, Leaf stopped producing cards. In 1956, Topps bought out Bowman and enjoyed a largely unchallenged position in the US market for the next two decades.
This did not prevent a large number of regional companies from producing successful runs of baseball cards. Additionally, several US companies attempted to crack into the market at a national level. In 1959, Fleer, a gum company, signed Ted Williams to an exclusive contract and sold a set of baseball cards featuring him. Williams retired in 1960 forcing Fleer to produce a set of Baseball Greats cards featuring retired players. Like the Topps cards, they were sold with gum. In 1963, Fleer produced a 67 card set of active players (this time with a cherry cookie in the packs instead of gum), which was not successful, as most players were contractually obligated to Topps. Post Cereals issued baseball cards on cereal boxes from 1960 to 1963 and corporate sibling Jell-O issued virtually identical cards on the back of its packages in 1962 and 1963. Leaf also issued a card set in 1960.
In 1965, Topps licensed production to Canadian candy maker O-Pee-Chee. The O-Pee-Chee sets were essentially identical to the Topps sets until 1969, when the backs of the cards were branded O-Pee-Chee. In 1970, due to federal legislation, O-Pee-Chee was compelled to add French-language text to the backs of its player cards.
In the 1970s, several companies took advantage of a new licensing scheme, not to take on Topps, but to create premiums. Kellogg’s began to produce 3D-cards inserted with cereal and Hostess printed cards on packages of its baked goods.
In 1976, a company called TCMA, which mainly produced minor league player cards, produced a set of 630-cards consisting of Major League Ball players. The cards were produced under the name the Sports Stars Publishing Company, or SSPC. TCMA published a baseball card magazine named Collectors Quarterly which it used to advertise its set offering it directly via mail order.
Fleer sued Topps and the MLBPA in 1975 to break Topps' monopoly on player cards; it won. In 1981, Fleer and Donruss issued baseball card sets, both with gum. An appeal of the Fleer lawsuit by Topps clarified that Topps' exclusive rights only applied to cards sold with gum. After the appeal, Fleer and Donruss continued to produce cards issued without gum; Fleer included team logo stickers with their card packs, while Donruss introduced "Hall of Fame Diamond Kings" puzzles and included three puzzle pieces in each pack. In 1992, Topps' gum and Fleer's logo stickers were discontinued, with Donruss discontinuing the puzzle piece inserts the following year. In 1984, two monthly price guides came on the scene. Tuff Stuff and Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, published by Dr. James Beckett, attempted to track the approximate market value of several types of trading cards.
More collectors entered the hobby during the 1980s. As a result, manufacturers such as Score (which later became Pinnacle Brands) and Upper Deck entered the marketplace in 1988 and 1989 respectively. Upper Deck introduced several innovative production methods including tamper-proof foil packaging, hologram-style logos, and higher quality card stock. This style of production allowed Upper Deck to charge a premium for its product. In 1989, Upper Deck's first baseball card set included the Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card. The card became highly sought-after until Griffey's persistent injury troubles caused his performance level to decline.The other major card companies followed suit and created card brands with higher price points. Topps resurrected the Bowman brand name in 1989. Topps produced a Stadium Club issue in 1991. Two years later, they followed with a Topps Finest set. Topps Finest was the first set to utilize refractors, a shiny modification to the standard card set. which were proved extremely popular among hobbyists. Meanwhile, Donruss issued its Leaf brand in 1990; Fleer followed with Fleer Ultra sets in 1991; and Score issued Pinnacle brand cards in 1992.
As a result of the 1994 strike, anyone who crossed the picket lines and attempted to work as a replacement player is not permitted to be on a baseball card. As a result, there are many MLB players that do not have cards from 1995 onward. Examples include Kevin Millar, Damian Miller and Cory Lidle.
Starting in 1997 with Upper Deck, companies began inserting cards with swatches of uniforms and pieces of game-used baseball equipment as part of a plan to generate interest. Card companies obtained all manner of memorabilia, from uniform jerseys and pants, to bats, gloves, caps, and even bases and defunct stadium seats to feed this new hobby demand.
The process and cost of multi-tiered printings, monthly set issues, licensing fees, and player-spokesman contracts made for a difficult market. Pinnacle Brands folded after 1998. Pacific, which acquired full licensing in 1994, ceased production in 2001. In 2005, Fleer went bankrupt and was bought out by Upper Deck, and Donruss lost the MLB license in 2006 (they also did not produce baseball cards in 1999 and 2000). At that time, the MLBPA limited the number of companies that would produce player cards to offset the glut in product, and to consolidate the market. As a result of the measure that included revoking the MLB/MLBPA production licenses from Donruss, only two companies remained; Topps and Upper Deck.
Topps and Upper Deck are the only two companies that retained production licenses for trading cards of major league players. In a move to expand their market influence, Upper Deck purchased the Fleer brand and the remnants of its production inventory. After purchasing Fleer, Upper Deck took over production of the remaining products that were slated to be released. Upper Deck continues to issue products with the Fleer name, while Topps continues to release Bowman and Bazooka card products. Topps is also the only company that continues to produce pre-collated factory sets of baseball cards.
In early 2007, two developments in the industry occurred within 24 hours of each other, both of which garnered national media attention. First, it was found that Topps' new Derek Jeter card had been purportedly altered just prior to final printing. A reported prankster inside the company had inserted a photo of Mickey Mantle into the Yankees' dugout and another showing a smiling President George W. Bush waving from the stands. It was later speculated that the "prank" was simply a media stunt engineered by Topps to promote its new baseball cards.
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