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The History of Baseball Cards

Baseball players first started posing for photos in the mid-1800s as both photography and the sport were gaining popularity. In the late 1880s, tobacco manufacturers began including some of these cards emblazoned with some of these images in their packaging, both to help stiffen the packages and to incentivize people to purchase the products. Candy manufactures quickly followed suit but took it a step further and created their own cards. Baseball card production ramped up in the 1930s and featured images of famous players like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig printed in bright colors. Production was affected by World War II, but in the late 1940s, manufacturers like Topps and Bowman began putting out cards. At first, their products featured actors, celebrities, and figures from many different sports, but what endured were their baseball cards. Children (mostly boys) began saving the cards, which had their heyday in the 1950s. They traded them, used them to learn baseball statistics, played various games with them, and even used them as noisemakers pinned to the spokes on their bikes. But many also began collecting them seriously, as did many adults. The result? Sought-after baseball card collections filled with rare cards featuring some of the 20th century’s greatest baseball players. Rare cards are sought after by adult collectors and many people today still collect, trade, and sell baseball cards.

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