Baseball card

A baseball card is a type of trading card relating to baseball, usually printed on cardboard, silk, or plastic.[1] In the 1950s they came with a stick of gum and a limited number of cards. These cards feature one or more baseball players, teams, stadiums, or celebrities. Baseball cards are most often found in the U.S. mainland but are also common in Puerto Rico or countries such as Canada, Cuba and Japan, where top-level leagues are present with a substantial fan base to support them. Some notable baseball card producing companies include Topps, Upper Deck Company, and Panini Group. Previous manufacturers include Fleer (now a brand name owned by Upper Deck), Bowman (now a brand name owned by Topps),[2] and Donruss (now a brand name owned by Panini Group).[3] Baseball card production peaked in the late 1980s and many collectors left the hobby disenchanted after the 1994-95 MLB strike.[4] However, baseball cards are still one of the most influential collectibles of all time. A T206 Honus Wagner was sold for $6.606 million in 2021.[5]

Type of trading card
A 1954 Bowman Gum baseball card of Vern Bickford

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While baseball cards were first produced in the United States, as the popularity of baseball spread to other countries, so did the production of baseball cards. Sets appeared in Japan as early as 1898,[6] in Cuba as early as 1909[7] and in Canada as early as 1912.[8]

The obverse (front) of the card typically displays an image of the player with identifying information, including, but not limited to, the player’s name and team affiliation. The reverse of most modern cards displays statistics and/or biographical information. Many early trade cards displayed advertisements for a particular brand or company on the back. Tobacco companies were the most instrumental in the proliferation of baseball cards, which they used as value added bonuses and advertisements for their products.[9] Although the function of trading cards had much in common with business cards, the format of baseball cards most resembled that of playing cards — at least initially. For an example, one need look no further than the design of 1951 Topps Baseball.

While there are no firm standards that limit the size or shape of a baseball card, most cards of today are rectangular, measuring

2+12 by 3+12 inches (6.4 by 8.9 cm).[10]

Since early baseball cards were produced primarily as a marketing vehicle, collectors began to classify those cards by the ‘type’ of company producing the set. The system implemented by Jefferson Burdick in The American Card Catalog has become the de facto standard in identifying and organizing trade cards produced in the Americas pre-1951. The catalog itself extends into many other areas of collecting beyond the sport of baseball. Sets like 1909–1911 White Borders, 1910 Philadelphia Caramels, and 1909 Box Tops are most commonly referred to by their ACC catalog numbers (T206, E95, and W555, respectively).

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