History Of Sports Memorabilia

History Of Sports Memorabilia


The other day I was cataloguing three boxes of​ baseball cards for​ a​ friend of​ mine and​ I began to​ think about how this entire card collecting and​ sports memorabilia phenomenon began. if​ you are a​ closet fan (as I am) of​ shows on television that travel from city to​ city checking out and​ pricing antiques for​ the​ general public, you’d be aware of​ the​ fact that often sports memorabilia is​ brought to​ the​ shows for​ assessment. So this tells me that a​ lot of​ people out there have sports memorabilia that they consider to​ be antiques, so collecting of​ sports memorabilia has been around for​ a​ long time.


If it’s true that nothing says “USA” like baseball does, then it’s natural that sports memorabilia collecting in​ this country began with a​ connection to​ the​ American pastime of​ baseball. Tobacco Companies introduced baseball cards to​ Americans in​ the​ late 1800’s in​ an​ attempt to​ sell their products. When I was younger I had always thought that the​ Bubble Gum Companies such as​ Topps first introduced baseball cards, but bubble gum baseball cards were really a​ product of​ the​ fifties and​ sixties.

These days Tobacco Companies are finding it​ next to​ impossible to​ have their names advertised any where near sports and​ sporting events, but in​ the​ late 1800’s and​ early 1900’s, cigarette and​ cigar smoking was the​ norm. the​ Goodwin Company of​ New York put out the​ first real numbered collection of​ baseball cards in​ the​ 1870’s. the​ American Tobacco Company produced the​ most famous and​ therefore, today, the​ most valuable baseball card, the​ Honus Wagner T206 in​ 1909. it​ has been estimated that only around fifty of​ these cards exist today. Wagner was said to​ be not happy having his name connected to​ tobacco sales and​ production of​ his card was therefore limited. in​ the​ early 1900’s baseball card collecting began in​ earnest and​ spawned the​ hobby and​ business of​ sports memorabilia collecting, as​ we know it​ today.

Tobacco Companies continued to​ produce baseball cards through to​ the​ 1920’s and​ in​ the​ 1930’s Bubble Gum Companies began putting collection cards in​ their packages in​ an​ attempt to​ increase sales of​ their product. These sales were halted during the​ Second World War and​ in​ the​ 1950’s production began again with the​ first color photograph cards being offered. Baseball card production continues to​ this day in​ a​ highly competitive business although no longer are card sales inter-connected to​ sales of​ gum.


Of course, sports memorabilia collecting today has gone well beyond just the​ hobby of​ the​ collecting of​ baseball cards and​ today it​ is​ a​ full fledged industry on it’s own accord. Collectors today are not only sports buffs; they are also interested in​ the​ investment aspect of​ their collections. Probably the​ most famous of​ all baseball memorabilia collectors, Barry Halper who recently passed away at​ the​ age of​ sixty-six at​ one time owned over 80,000 baseball related items. He began his lifetime of​ collecting at​ the​ age of​ eight and​ collected over thirty thousand baseball cards along with many signed baseballs and​ other assorted baseball memorabilia. Around twenty percent of​ his collection is​ now displayed at​ the​ Baseball Hall of​ Fame with the​ balance having been sold at​ auction for​ approximately twenty-two million dollars after Halper found himself in​ failing health.

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