Baseball cards have been an integral part of American culture since the late 19th century. While some of the biggest names in the hobby come from cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, Birmingham, Alabama has its own rich history with baseball cards that spans over 100 years.

Some of the earliest baseball cards were included in packages of cigarettes in the late 1880s as a marketing promotion. In the early 1900s, Birmingham was home to several tobacco companies that produced some of the first regional baseball cards inserts. The Dillworth Cigarette Company, based in Birmingham from 1900 to 1920, included local baseball stars in their cigarette packages. Some of the earliest known Birmingham baseball cards featured players from the minor league Birmingham Barons team that began play in 1902.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Gum, Inc. was one of the largest chewing gum producers in the country with headquarters in Birmingham. Gum, Inc. is most famous for producing the iconic 1933 Goudey Gum Company baseball card set. They continued issuing regional baseball cards in gum and candy throughout the 1930s and 1940s, featuring players throughout the Southern Association which was a high-level minor league that included the Barons. Stars like Bobo Newsom and Early Wynn who went on to the majors appeared on these early Gum, Inc. baseball cards from Birmingham.


The 1950s saw the rise of the modern baseball card era. Topps Chewing Gum in New York became the dominant baseball card maker but regional sets continued as well. In 1953, the Birmingham Cracker Jack Company produced a 126 card regional set that has become one of the most sought after vintage sets for collectors. Future Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Mathews appeared as rookies in the Cracker Jack set several years before they were featured in Topps flagship sets. Today a complete unopened box of 1953 Birmingham Cracker Jack cards can sell for over $50,000.

In the late 1950s through the 1960s, Birmingham was home to Card King, a large baseball card retailer and distributor. Founded in 1957 by Morris “Moe” Sokol, Card King was located downtown and became the hub of the baseball card scene in the area. They sold packs, boxes and individual cards of the major Topps, Fleer, and Post sets. Card King also produced their own regional sets in the early 1960s under the “Card King Kards” brand that featured many Birmingham Barons players. Sokol and Card King sponsored local baseball and softball teams and gave out free packs to players, helping grow the hobby in Birmingham during a golden era.


The 1970s saw the rise of the hobby shop dedicated entirely to sports cards. Birmingham had several prominent shops open during this decade like The Card Collector and Sports Card World. They sold the latest Topps, Donruss, and Fleer sets as well as hosting card shows and events. In 1977, one of the first major sports card conventions was held at the Birmingham Civic Center, drawing collectors from across the Southeast in the pre-internet era. This helped cement Birmingham’s place on the map as a hotbed for baseball card collecting.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Birmingham continued to have a thriving baseball card and memorabilia scene. National chains like Sportscard Traders and Sportscards Plus opened locations around the city. The Birmingham Barons minor league team also helped promote the hobby, with giveaways and special baseball card nights at games. Star players like future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas appeared on regional Barons team sets issued by Topps and other companies during this time.


Today, Birmingham’s rich baseball card history lives on. Local card shops like Stadium Card Shop and All Star Cards attract collectors of all ages on a daily basis. The annual Birmingham Sports Card and Memorabilia Show draws hundreds each January. Online groups like “Birmingham Sports Collectibles” on Facebook have thousands of members trading, selling and discussing their collections. While the industry has declined some from the peak of the 1980s-90s, Birmingham continues to produce new stars on the diamond and has passionate collectors preserving its baseball card legacy for future generations to enjoy. From those early Dillworth Cigarette cards over 100 years ago to today, Birmingham has left an indelible mark on the hobby.

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