BASEBALL CARDS CRANBERRY PA

Baseball cards have a long history in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania dating back to the late 19th century. Some of the earliest baseball cards produced featured players from the early professional leagues that first began forming in the 1860s and 1870s. While most early baseball cards did not specify player positions or teams, some cards from the late 1800s featured players associated with teams based in Pennsylvania, including the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, later known as the Pittsburgh Pirates after the club joined the National League in 1887.

As baseball grew in popularity across America in the early 1900s, the mass production of baseball cards took off. In the first decade of the 20th century, numerous regional tobacco, gum, and candy companies began inserting baseball cards in their products to drive sales. Several of these early baseball card manufacturers had production facilities located in western Pennsylvania. One of the first was the American Tobacco Company, which operated a large cigarette factory in nearby Pittsburgh. From 1909-1911, American Tobacco issued the famous T206 series, widely considered the most valuable set of early baseball cards due to the high-quality photographs and scarce surviving examples today.

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In the 1920s, numerous smaller baseball card companies emerged in Pennsylvania looking to capitalize on the booming hobby. Cranberry Township itself became home to two pioneering baseball card manufacturers during this period. In 1926, the Topps Chewing Gum Company was founded in the township. Topps immediately began producing and inserting baseball cards alongside their gum product. Another baseball card pioneer, the Goudey Gum Company, opened a large production plant and headquarters in Cranberry Township in 1929. For over a decade through the 1930s, Goudey issued some of the most iconic early baseball card sets, including the famous 1933 Goudey issue. Both Topps and Goudey employed many local residents at their Cranberry Township factories.

The 1930s through 1950s represented the golden age of baseball card collecting in Cranberry Township and beyond. As the national pastime exploded in popularity during World War II, production of baseball cards skyrocketed. Topps and Goudey cranked out thousands of baseball cards per day at their Cranberry Township plants. Other notable regional manufacturers like Leaf Candy Company and Bowman Gum also contributed memorable baseball card issues during this period that featured many of the game’s greatest stars. Cranberry Township became a hub for the booming baseball card industry, employing hundreds and fueling the growing hobby.

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The postwar years of the 1950s saw baseball cards truly dominate the marketplace. Topps in particular established itself as the clear industry leader, producing the iconic red-backed cards that thousands of American children traded and collected throughout the 1950s. By mid-decade, both Topps and Goudey had outgrown their original Cranberry Township factory spaces. In 1956, Topps relocated its headquarters and main production plant to larger facilities in Brooklyn, New York. However, Topps continued operating a smaller insert card production facility in Cranberry Township for several more years.

While the baseball card industry center shifted eastward after Topps’ relocation, Cranberry Township’s contributions were not forgotten. The township cemented its place in the early history of the hobby thanks to manufacturers like Topps and Goudey. Local card collectors remain passionate about sets produced in their hometown, especially the classic 1930s Goudey issues. In the 1990s, the baseball card collecting boom of the late 80s and early 90s renewed interest in the pioneering manufacturers. Today, vintage Topps and Goudey cards produced in Cranberry Township frequently command high prices at auction.

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Though no longer a hub for baseball card production, Cranberry Township continues to have an enthusiastic community of collectors. Local card shops have hosted shows and conventions celebrating the rich local history. In recent years, the Cranberry Township Historical Society has mounted exhibits focused on Topps and Goudey’s early factories. While the industry landscape has changed dramatically, Cranberry Township’s formative role in the early decades remains an important part of both the area’s heritage and the broader story of American baseball cards. The township’s factories produced some of the most iconic cards that fueled generations of collectors’ passions.

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