Back this week with more rumination about the history and development of
the baseball card industry.
Back in 1886 “Old Judge Cigarettes” began adding baseball cards to their
cigarette packages. These early cards were 1 ½ by 2 ½ inches, much smaller
than today’s standards. 
Capitalizing on using baseball players inside the cigarette packages was a
stroke of genius on the part of “Old Judge Cigarettes”, but why?
First, the sport was increasingly popular in the USA. Second, connecting
baseball players to “store bought” cigarettes gave the new product a less
effeminate appeal. Third, advertising the cards as a “collectible item”
made kids beg their dads to buy more “Old Judge Cigarettes” whether or not
dad was a smoker. Since there was only one card per pack of cigarettes,
the little piece of cardboard card ended up selling a lot of smokes for
the company.
In 1890, the Duke Tobacco Company got out of the baseball card business
because at that time store bought cigarettes were such a hot-selling item,
there was no need to advertise anymore. Duke later merged with several
other companies to form The American Tobacco Company. 
The company made huge profits until 1909 when a series of anti-trust laws
were passed that broke up American Tobacco Company. The subsequent
breakups forced the company to get back in the baseball card business
since profits dropped and it found itself needing to resume advertising
its product.
American Tobacco came out with its iconic 524-card set called the “T-206”
which turned out to be the most valuable baseball card series in
history. Shortly after the “T-206” had been produced, Pittsburgh Pirate
star Honus Wagner raised objections to the use of his photo. In fact he
threatened to sue American Tobacco if his card was not removed from all
the sets of “T-206.” 
American Tobacco complied with Wagner’s request but not before a quantity
had been shipped with his card inside the sets. Contrary to what people
still think today, Wagner didn’t object because of being associated with a
tobacco product. He actually smoked cigars and had even endorsed a
particular brand.  He just wanted to be paid for his picture being used.
He didn’t care what the product was as long as he got the money.
Today the Honus Wagner card is the “Holy Grail” of baseball trading cards.
Due to the huge profitability of their product, tobacco companies soon
dropped out of the baseball card business so business men began marketing
their cards to children. Candy, chewing gum and cookies were added to the
card package to sell more; however, none of the companies were successful
until 1928 when the Fleer Corporation invented bubblegum. 
The Goodey Company was the first to actually package the unique Fleer
invention with baseball trading cards and it was very successful. Sales of
baseball trading cards took off and by the 1930s collecting them became a
huge hobby in the USA.  But with the start of World War II, it soon fell
apart.

THE BOTTOM LINE
Next week I will conclude the series on the history of baseball trading
cards. Topps Company soon arrived on the scene and from the 1950s to the
1970s had a stranglehold on the industry.  I’ll also write about the rise
of the mega-successful Upper Deck which became the undisputed leader in
1992 and how it owed its success to the owner getting stuck with $4,000
worth of counterfeit Don Mattingly rookie cards.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.