Baseball cards have been around for well over a century. They were a product of the Industrial Revolution in the United States and the surging popularity of baseball, photography, and tobacco products in the late 19th century. Evolving from its beginnings as an advertisement vehicle for tobacco companies, the baseball card industry has since developed into a multi-billion dollar international industry.
In 1952, Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. issued the first baseball cards featuring the modern design still in use today. Since then, Topps baseball cards have become the standard to which all baseball cards are compared with. Despite increased competition in the baseball card industry from newer companies such as Upper Deck, Fleer, and Donruss, Topps has persevered and maintains its venerable status in the industry to this day.
As of 2008, Topps has produced 57 years of baseball cards. That’s 57 years of childhood memories for millions of kids growing up in the America. As for me, I started collecting baseball cards as a kid in 1988 when a sporting goods shop opened up near my parents’ store. The oldest pack of baseball cards I have ever purchased was a 1986 Topps wax pack, from which I found a stick of stale gum, 13 cards of common players, Alan Trammell, and Vida Blue.
This is why I chose to celebrate 25 years of baseball cards and not 50, or 57, or 100. Baseball cards represent childhood memories for many generations of Americans. The memories are different for each collector. 1986 Topps represents the beginning of my memories of baseball card collecting.
No matter how commercialized baseball card collecting gets, or how much baseball as a sport changes, we all need to remember our reasons for collecting them in the first place. Baseball cards are not just historical records of past baseball seasons. They are records of our own past experiences, the games we’ve enjoyed, and the dreams we’ve had.
I’m celebrating 25 years of baseball cards to celebrate 25 years of passion for The Game.