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Baseball Cards

Baseball cards are an excellent way to learn about individual players and the history of the game.

Many older baseball cards have significant value. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Many older baseball cards have significant value.

Baseball Cards

Baseball cards have been around for decades and were originally called cabinet cards. The baseball card, in its earliest form, was a photograph of a baseball player glued onto cardboard. Baseball cards were first circulated in the 1840s, and  from the 1860s to the early 1900s basebacll cards became known as trade cards or, more recently, trading cards.

The term "trade card" was associated with advertisements for various trades (businesses), the first one being a sporting goods store by the name of Peck and Snyder that started putting their business (their trade) on these cards that were manufactured with baseball players featured on the opposite side. Of course, more recent propensity to trade the cards between collectors and children likely led to the more common trading cards of today.

Baseball Card History

Many companies eventually got into the trade card business. Most commonly there were candy and tobacco companies, which joined in the trade card business by using baseball players photographs to help promote their respective businesses. Over the next 50 years there were various events, including World War II, that slowed baseball card production due to a shortage of the products used in the trade card business.

After the war, the types of businesses that were associated with trade cards were primarily confection and bubble gum companies. The baseball trade card business started to become competitive between these companies as they were trying to sell their respective products with baseball cards. In the 1950s, two gum companies, Topps and Bowman, were top producers in the trade card industry. They began fighting over rights within the baseball trade card business. Legal fights over contracts, exclusive baseball player card contracts, and even monopoly suits have taken place ever since. However, in spite of all the fighting, the cards are still being made and collected. Fans and collectors contribute to the cult status of some baseball cards. 

Most Valuable Collectors Cards

According to Time Magazine for Kids, the top five most valuable baseball cards and their dollar value are:

  • $1.265 million, Honus Wagner
  • $325,000, Mickey Mantle (1951)
  • $275,000, Mickey Mantle (1952)
  • $203,000, Eddie Plank
  • $178,598, Joe Doyle

Starting a New Baseball Card Collection

The best way to start collecting cards is to visit a local card shop and talk with the owners and collectors there. Friends or family members who collect cards are good first sources of information, too.

There are no rules for how to collect cards, as it is a matter of preference and personal choice. The only guidelines to remember are those that help the new collector to take care of his/her collection and find easy methods to organize and store the cards in the collection. T

he basic storage container for the beginner may be as simple as a cardboard shoebox. Or, individual cards can be protected with plastic sleeves or sleeve booklets that can be purchased at collectors shops. Additional information on collecting, care, and organizing baseball cards can be found at fan sites such as CardCollectorUniverse, which offers a fun environment and the ability to ask questions. Sportscardfun, focuses on the social aspects of trading and collecting, and Diamondfans, helps collectors find the worth of their collections.

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