History of baseball cards
Baseball and photography were both gaining popularity in the United States during the mid-nineteenth century. Consequently, baseball teams started posing for collective and individual photographs in the same way that other clubs and organizations did. Some of the pictures were printed on tiny cards, similar to those seen in modern wallets. Baseball players debuted on trading cards as the sport grew in popularity and became a professional sport in the late 1860s. They were utilized by several businesses to market their goods, even if the items had nothing to do with baseball. Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods shop in New York, started manufacturing baseball trading cards in 1868. Peck and Snyder marketed baseball equipment. Thus the cards were a perfect promotional tool—some believe the Peck and Snyder cards to be the earliest baseball cards.
From 1948 through 1952, Bowman was the leading manufacturer of baseball cards. Topps started huge mass-producing packs of cards in 1952. Due to the rarity of the Mickey Mantle rookie card, Topps’ first Mantle card, the 1952 Topps collection, is the most sought-after post-World War II set among collectors. Even though it is not his actual rookie card (that distinction goes to his 1951 Bowman card), it is still regarded as the best postwar card to possess.
Following that, Topps and Bowman fought for consumers and the rights to any baseball player’s image. Leaf ceased manufacturing cards two years later. Topps purchased Bowman in 1956 and had a virtually uncontested dominance in the American market for the following two decades. Topps always provided five or six-card nickel wax packs from 1952 to 1969 and one card penny wax packs from 1952 to 1964.
The era of 1981–1994
In 1975, Fleer filed a lawsuit against Topps to break the company’s baseball card monopoly. In 1980, federal judge Clarence Charles Newcomer overturned Topps Chewing Gum’s exclusive right to sell baseball cards, enabling the Fleer Corporation to compete in the market. Fleer and Donruss released baseball card sets with gum in 1981. Topps’ exclusive rights only extended to cards sold with gum, according to an appeal of the Fleer case. Topps’ gum and Fleer’s logo stickers were phased out in 1992, while Donruss’ puzzle piece inserts were phased out the following year. Donruss started to take hold as one of the most popular card companies in rivalry with Topps, releasing a highly popular and uncommon (relative to other sets at the time) set in 1984. Several rookie cards from the 1984 Donruss set are still among the most coveted cards of any brand from that year (especially the Don Mattingly rookie card). Two monthly pricing guides debuted in 1984 as well. Dr. James Beckett’s Tuff Stuff and Beckett Baseball Card Monthly tried to monitor the estimated market worth of various kinds of trading cards.
The era of 1995–current
Companies started inserting cards with swatches of jerseys and bits of game-used baseball equipment as part of a strategy to create interest, beginning in 1997 with Upper Deck. To meet this new hobby demand, card makers acquired everything from uniform jerseys and trousers to bats, gloves, hats, and even bases and obsolete stadium seats. Fleer also produced the first “one-of-one” cards in 1997, starting with the 1997 Flair Showcase “Masterpieces” set. Both types of inserts are still widely used in the hobby today.
Multi-tiered printings, monthly set releases, license fees, and player-spokesman contracts all added to the difficulty of the market. Pinnacle Brands ceased operations in 1998. Pacific stopped producing in 2001 after obtaining an exclusive license in 1994. Donruss lost the MLB license in 2006 when Fleer went bankrupt in 2005 and was purchased up by Upper Deck.
In February 2007, a private collector paid $2.35 million for the hobby’s most expensive card, a near mint/mint properly graded and authenticated T206 Honus Wagner. Later that year, the card was auctioned for a record-breaking $2.8 million.
Baseball cards were always constructed of cardboard throughout the twentieth century. Companies are now using different materials that promise to be able to resist being drenched in saltwater.