Play Ball!

Most everyone knows about baseball cards and bubble gum, but did you know that the popularity of baseball card collecting began when tobacco manufacturers started to include cards in cigarette packages?  Driven by the rising popularity of baseball, some form of collectible cards, such as cabinet cards and carte de visites, had been issued by teams for purchase as early as the mid-1800s.  However, early photographic methods were time consuming and expensive, and it wasn’t until the introduction of better printing methods, such as chromolithography that cards began to be more widely available.

In the years 1909-1911 one of the largest and most popular series of Major and Minor League baseball cards was issued by the American Tobacco Company.  These cards were inserted into packages as stiffeners, but also as incentives to buy more cigarettes.  Known as white-borders, or the T206 series (so categorized by Jefferson Burdick the “father of card collecting” who donated his 300,000 card collection to the Metropolitan Museum), the set includes over 500 different fronts; on the back were advertisements for cigarettes.  This is the series that includes the infamous Honus Wagner card which sold at auction for over 2 million dollars.

Unfortunately we do not have that card here at the Richmond History Center, but we do have a nice collection of T206s in excellent condition.  Included in our collection are several cards featuring Virginia players and teams such as Dutch Revelle of the Richmond Colts, Frank King of the Danville Red Sox and William Otey of the Norfolk Tars.

In addition we have many Major League teams represented, such as the Milwaukee Brewers, the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals  – the winner of the 2011 World Series.

















Although the 2012 season has just begun, perhaps the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees or the Detroit Tigers will make it to the World Series.











Laura Carr
Museum Technician
Valentine Richmond History Center