The History of Baseball Cards
Baseball cards have a very broad history. In the
beginning, god made man. Then, man produced…….. the
baseball card. From 1887 to the present, billions of
baseball cards have been produced. Some cards are valued at
ten cents, while others, are valued at over one hundred
thousand dollars. Since 1887, Baseball cards have been a
major part of many people’s lives.
The Beginning of the baseball card collecting era
would lead cards to a path of greatness and immortality. The
first baseball cards were made of a cloth like material.
Many of these cards were “home made” (SCD)*. No one but the
creator of these cards, (there all dead) knows for sure what
exactly was used to produce these early cards. This time
period started on 1887 and continued on until 1901. The 1887
baseball cards were part of a unique set. Not only did this
set contain baseball cards, but it also contained boxing.
golf, and horse racing cards.
These cards are very high in value because of their
rarity and because they are some of the early baseball
cards. The common card is worth around $800. All of these
cards are common, considering that there were no star
athletes back then. There were not many cards sizes during
this time period. The only size that I could find was one
and a half inches by two inches. There were manycompany’s
that manufactured cards during this time period.They were:
Mayo Tobacco Works, Buchner, Kimball’s, Old Judge, Allen ;
Ginter, and Goodwin (SCD). These cards are rare, but are
not very difficult to obtain if you’re willing to pay top
What many collectors call “the golden years of
baseball”, took place from 1902 until 1935. One reason that
collectors call this time period that is because cards took
many different changes during this era. Cards were starting
to be packaged with Chewing Tobacco, crackerjacks, and
The value of cards during this time period depends
on many different factors. A large percent of these cards
have misprints (flaws). Because of these misprints, a card
may have a higher value than the exact same cardbecause of
a misprint. The reason there were so many misprints was
because the card industry was just starting to experiment
with the printing process (SCD). The most expensive baseball
card of all time was produced during this era. That card was
the Honus Wagner T-206 produced in 1909. The reason that
this card is so expensive is because only 4 of these cards
were ever produced. Honus Wagner didn’t want kids buying
tobacco for the Baseball cards. One of the Wagners sold at
an auction recently for 451,500 to Wayne Gretzky (SCD).
There were three main sizes of baseball cards during
this time period. One of the sizes was the “tobacco” size
cards. These cards were one and a half inches by two inches.
The second card size was a rectangular sheet of three cards.
These were about two inches by five and one fourth inches.
The third and final size was a square about two inches by
two inches. Cards were packaged with chewing tobacco,
cracker jacks, chewing gum, and cigarettes (SCD).
Many company’s produced cards during this era. Some
of the major manufactures were : Piedmont, Soverign,Ramly,
Hassan, Mecca and Turkey Red. TheT-2.. series is very
common at card shows. With the exception of the Honus
Wagner, most of these cards can be acquired for a reasonable
From 1936 until 1960, not much happened in the card
collecting era. Three major changes occurred during this
time period. The cards themselves changed to a size that
would carry them to present time. Also….., two ground breaking
companies would arrive and last until the 21st century.
The value ofthe 30’s and 40’s cards is around
forty dollars for a semi-star (BKM)*. The value of the 50’s
cards is a little higher at forty five dollars for the semi-
star. Mickey Mantle’s rookie is included in the 1952 Bowman
set. It is valued at $9,000 . Also, another Mantle , his ’52
Topps is worth $35,000 (BKM, SCD, TUFF*). The 60’s
common cards are worth between one dollar and five dollars.
There were two main card sizes from 1936 to 1960.
The first was two and a half inches by three and one eighth
inches. The second card size is two and a half inches by
three and a half inches. This is the size that ball cards
would remain to be for the next 36 yr.. The major company’s
that produced cards during this time period are Bowman,
Topps, Goudey, and Play ball. The common card from these
years is pretty easy to come by.
This time period really set cards for 80’s and 90’s.
Many present and futureHall of Famers had cards during
this age. Cards basically remained the same. One new card
company came into the card industry.
These cards aren’t valued very highly because they
are very easy to find. A few cards are valued at over
$200.The common card is valued from around ten cents to
three dollars. The size of these cards remained the same as
before,two and a half inches by three and a half inches.
There wereonly a twocompany’s who produced cards
during this time duration. The two company’s that produced
cards during this time period were Topps and Fleer. These
cards are very easy to find.
From 1980 to 1996, cards took several revolutionary
changes. These changes would affect the value and
collectability of baseball cards forever.
The value of these cards is actually quite high
considering how long these cards have been on the market.
Some of the older cards, such as Cal Ripken Jr.’s 1982 Topps
Traded, are valued at over $350. Newer cards, such as Ken
Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas’s rookies are around $80. Card
companies devised a scheme to lure the card collector into
buying more cards, the INSERT!!!! The “Insert card” is a
special card that has a certain chance of you pulling it out
of a pack. The higher the odds, the higher the
value of the card. This was designed to make the collector
buy lots of packs to try to pull an insert. Card company’s
also introduced a card called the redemption card. These
cards are usually seeded at about 1:360 packs. If you pulled
one of these cards, you could send it into the company and
they would send you back a limited edition set. Finally,
those devilish little fellows at the card company’s decided
to to created a premium card. These cards were special cards
that cost more to buy. They have a UV coating that gives
them a slick look. Also, the company only makes so many
of these cards. It is harder to get a autograph on these
cards because of the UV coating. The autograph beads up.
The sizes of these cards remained the ezdard size
of two and a half by three and a half. The only difference
is the new UV coating on the cards. The companies that
manufacture baseball cards now are Topps, Upperdeck, Bowman
O-Pee-Chee, Fleer, Score, Studio, Donruss, Pinnacle, Leaf
and Stadium Club.
Baseball cards have a very broad history as you can
see. Whether it’s homemade cloth cards or store bought
premium cards, you’ll probably find something you like.
Well, have baseball cards affected your life since 1887?
You’ll have to decide yourself.
* BKM – Beckett Baseball Card Mothly
SCD- Sports Collectors Digest