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Illustrated History Index

The Origins: Early Photographys (1839-1879)
The Origins: Early Prints (1850-1885)
Early Trade Cards and the First Baseball Cards (1868-1879)
The Tobacco Revolution (1886-1899)
Non Commercial Cabinets & Photos of the 1880's-90's
Baseball Albums

Early Trade Cards

the first baseball cards

 

 

While the first true baseball cards were Trade Cards, Trade Cards were an advertising vehicle even before the American Revolution.

A Trade Card is an advertising card that is given away. A local store might stack a pile of cards with advertisement on the counter and the customer was encouraged to take one. Travelling salesmen handed them out like flyers. This is opposed to most later baseball cards which were tied directly to a product. For example, inserts, like the 1914 and 15 Cracker Jacks or the 1950s Topps Cards, were inserted into a product. This meant that you had to buy the product in order to get the card. Premiums, like the 1880s Old Judge Cabinets or 1913 Turkey Reds, were obtained by sending in coupons found inside the respective brands of cigarettes. Trade Cards were free. At their height they were colorful and popular with the public.

The earliest Trade Cards were found at the beginning of the 17th Century in London. These were essentially used as advertising and maps directing the public to merchants' stores which had no formal street numbering at the time. These Trade Cards were printed by the relief method. In the 18th century an unsophisticated one-color engraving became the popular method. Paul Revere printed early examples of American Trade Cards.

As detailed in the chapter Early Prints, chromolithography became the most popular printing method after the Civil War. Cards were cheap to produce and the public loved the colorful designs. Many companies sold stock cards to merchants. A merchant would then add its own stamp on the back or on a space on the front. This meant that the same Trade Card can appear with different advertising. Subjects ranged from flowers to actors to everyday scenes. One of the most popular hobbies of the day was to collect Trade Cards and paste them into albums. Not only was this long before television, radio or movies, this was before color in newspapers, so owning these cards was a treat.

Trade Cards were printed as there were no mass communications of the time. The hey-day of Trade Cards was from the 1880s to the turn of the century. The introduction of affordable post cards, mail order houses such as Sears and Ward, along with other forces, lead to the downfall of Trade Cards.

 

 

1868-70 Peck and Snyder Team Cards

 

1868 Brooklyn Atlantics

The Trade Cards distributed by Peck and Snyder are generally regarded as the first baseball cards. They were the first 'mass produced' advertising cards with a baseball theme. Peck and Snyder was a manufacturer of baseball equipment, and their cards featured prominent teams of the day. They are the size and style of a Carte de Viste with a paper team photograph pasted to a cardboard mount. The backs can be found with advertisement for Peck and Snyder, other companies or are blank.

The 1869 Peck and Snyder Red Stockings depicts the first unabashed professional team. While players on other teams had been paid in covert ways such as being given a jobs, the Red Stockings were overt. The team was led by Harry Wright ('the father of professional baseball') and his shortstop brother George Wright. Both are members of the Hall of Fame.

Peck and Snyder cards are rare and highly sought after. A high grade Peck and Snyder Red Stockings is worth around $20,000.

 

 

1871 The National Game Trade Card. This card advertises a prominent baseball and bat manufacturer. The pictured card, in ExMt condition, sold for $2,500. All baseball Trade Cards from the early 1870s are rare.

1875 Trade Card by the same company as above.

 

The Late 1870s

As the use of chromolithography dramatically increased printing in the late 1870s, Trade Cards from this period are more plentiful and can be found at a more than reasonable cost. The following are typical examples, some of which can be bought for under $100 a piece. Most of the cards have advertising on the back. The chromolithography gives rich images.

 

Card front (above) and back (below)

 

 

 

 

 

Main Index

The Origins: Early Photographys (1839-1879)
The Origins: Early Prints (1850-1885)
Early Trade Cards and the First Baseball Cards (1868-1879)
The Tobacco Revolution (1886-1899)
Non Commercial Cabinets & Photos of the 1880's-90's
Baseball Albums
Forgeries

 

 

 

 

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