Small collector cards have been placed in various products since as early as the 1880’s. These were originally used in tobacco products. They were meant to entice a man to buy a certain brand because of the cards, which were handed down to a boy who then badgered the man to buy the same product again in hopes of getting a different card. The card sets from 1909-10 were comprised of hundreds of different cards. To complete a set from this era is quite difficult, but a selection from these sets can be had for a very modest sum. Of course, the more popular baseball players like the ones that have since been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame are going to be more expensive. The real collector puts the dollar amount aside and focuses on the antiquity of the card. They also produced cards of many other subjects like boxers, flags of all countries, flowers etc,
The next age of baseball card popularity was when the Goudy Gum Company issued cards from 1933-38. I went to a card show in Willow Grove, Pa. back in the mid-1980’s that was the premier vintage card show in the country. While my main objective was to complete the sets from my youth, I found that the older cards could be had for very modest sums. Since most of my cards were from the 1950’s, most of the cards I needed were available. I had enough “doubles” to trade for the cards I needed with very little cash outlay. I made a mental note that there were very men in their 70’s trying to finish their 1933 or 1934 Goudy sets and that my 1950’s cards were not going to be in great demand when I reached my golden years. For this reason, when I found myself without a job at 60 years old, and the ‘50’s cards still had good value, I sold every set I had and the money allowed me to retire earlier than I normally would have.
When the prices of baseball cards started escalating some of the good old time dealers became disillusioned and got out of the business of buying and selling baseball cards. They were just too embarrassed to charge the price “the book” said that card was worth. I lost all interest when they started grading cards. I thought a card was O.K. if it wasn’t torn or scuffed too badly. The final straw came for me when I went to trade a 1954 Hank Aaron rookie card to a dealer and he pulled out a micrometer and measured the borders before declaring it off center and not mint. I had taken that very card out of a pack myself back in 1954 and it had not seen the light of day since. I had seen the same things happen in the coin collecting hobby and quit collecting coins. As prices rose, I observed dealers wearing expensive diamond rings, Rolex watches and gold coin necklaces. The joy of collecting was gone for me.
Today, the time of the penny baseball card is gone. They are printing them while you sleep and there is no way you can get them all. The last year I collected (1989), it would have cost me over $32,000 to buy every new issue for that year in the various forms available. And like I always say, “A good hobby is one that you spend more time than money on”.