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Trading Card Central - History

Baseball cards have a very broad history. 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 "homemade" (SCD)*. No one but the creator of these cards, knows for sure what exactly was used to produce these early cards. As mentioned previously, this time period started in 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 earliest known baseball cards. Even a 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 was one and a half inches by two inches. There were many companies that manufactured cards during this time period. They included 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 are willing to pay top dollar.

What many collectors call "the golden years of baseball", took place from 1902 until 1935. One reason for the name of this time period is that trading cards took on many different changes during this era. Cards were starting to be packaged with chewing tobacco, cracker jacks and chewing gum.

The value of cards from this time period depends on many different factors. A large percent of these cards have misprints (flaws). Due to these misprints, a card may have a higher value than the exact same card without the error. The reason there were so many misprints during this period 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 four of these cards were ever produced. Honus Wagner did not want kids buying tobacco so that they could get the baseball cards. One of the Wagner cards 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 companies produced cards during this era. Some of the major manufacturers included Piedmont, Soverign, Ramly, Hassan, Mecca and Turkey Red. The T-2 series is very common at card shows. With the exception of the Honus Wagner card, most of these cards can be acquired for a reasonable price.

From 1936 until 1960, not much changed in the trading card industry. Three major changes occurred during this time period. The cards themselves changed to a size that would carry on to present time. Also, two ground breaking companies would arrive and last until the 21st century.

The value of the cards from the 30's and 40's is around forty dollars for a semi-star (BKM)*. The value of the cards from the 50's 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 card, 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 baseball cards would remain to be for the next 36 years. The major companies that produced cards during this time period were Bowman, Topps, Goudey and Play ball. The common card from these years is pretty easy to come by.

This time period really defined the cards for the 80's and 90's. Many present and future Hall of Famers had cards during this age. Cards basically remained the same. One new card company came into the trading card industry.

These cards are not valued very highly since 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 at two and a half inches by three and a half inches.

There were only two companies who produced cards during this time duration. The two companies were Topps and Fleer. These cards are very easy to find.

From 1980 to 1996, cards underwent 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 in 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 also introduced a new concept to boost the trading card industry and get card collectors to once again buy more cards -- the INSERT card. The "Insert" card is a special card that has a lesser chance of you pulling it out of a pack. The higher the odds, the higher the value of the card. This was designed to entice the collector to buy lots of packs to try to pull an insert. Card companies also introduced a card called the redemption card. These cards are usually included in packs at about one in every 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, the card companies decided to create 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.

The sizes of these cards remained the standard size of two and a half by three and a half inches. The only difference was the new UV coating on the cards. The companies that manufactured baseball cards were 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 is homemade cloth cards or store bought premium cards, you will probably find something you like.

* BKM - Beckett Baseball Card Monthly
TUFF - Tuff Stuff
SCD- Sports Collectors Digest

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