The Beginning of Baseball Cards
Since the game first started in the 1840’s, Baseball almost immediately becomes USA’s most popular sport. And basically since the start of baseball, there has been some form of baseball card to collect.
Originally just mementos stuck in books of either famous or local baseball players and teams, these cards evolved into commercial cards in the 1860’s, which were a form of advertising.
This form of baseball cards was similar to stamp collecting; the cards were also collected and stored in scrapbooks.
Moving into the 1880’s, the tobacco brand Old Judge started mass production and national distribution of baseball cards. This card inset was practical, and used to stiffen the cigarette box but was also advertising, used to outdo the tobacco companies. When these tobacco brands merged, there was a lull in the interest and production of baseball cards as there was no business competition. When this merger of tobacco companies was broken in the early 1900’s the rise of the baseball card began again.
The Most Sought After Period in Cards:
Seen as the best years of baseball card manufacturing, 1900 to 1915 has some of the most exquisite examples of baseball cards ever made. This era produced the most famous and wanted baseball card, the T206 Honus Wagner, which is said to only have 50 in current circulation.
This is the most expensive card ever sold, the Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206, and it sold for a staggering $3.12million.
Also during this period, other kinds of card beside baseball were manufactured like bakeries and playing cards, and are now also investment pieces, that will be growing in value. But there is nothing quite like the baseball cards on auction, for example a Babe Ruth 1915-16 which recently sold for $717,000 could easily increase in a just few years to $1 million.
The Second Most Sought After Era:
World War I changed the world massively, and in very small ways. Tobacco companies stopped producing baseball cards but this was not an issue as the candy/gum cards took over the production. These are not as sought after as the 1900 to 1915 cards, but kept the tradition going and opened the collection to different economic and age bands.
The 1930’s are the second most sought after era in baseball cards, with cards of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth fetching astonishing prices at auctions. This great era of baseball cards was once again interrupted by a war, World War II.
The Modern Era
Moving on to “modern” times, but still before gaming sites became big, the late 1940’s produced simple black and white cards that were not pretty but did restart the baseball card industry and really built the foundation of the current card collecting world. The 1950’s saw Topps Chewing Gum Company make a play to become the number one baseball card provider, and this era produced some of the most collectable cards to date.
A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for over $1,1 million, the second most expensive card ever sold.
Topps kept up their domination in the baseball card industry until 1981, the year before courts had ruled that other companies could also produce baseball cards. This had led to the current era of cards…the options are too many and there is no investment in post 1981 baseball cards, the only reward is the sheer enjoyment which originally started in the 1840’s.