Baseball cards have been collected by fans for over 130 years and Fargo, North Dakota has a rich history with the hobby. While not a major league city, Fargo residents’ passion for baseball and collecting cards has been strong for generations.

Some of the earliest baseball cards were produced in the late 1880s by tobacco companies as promotional items to include in their cigarette and chewing tobacco packs. In the early 1900s, these tobacco cards started to gain widespread popularity among young collectors. Fargo saw its first baseball card collectors emerge during this time as well. While the selection of cards available in rural North Dakota was much less than in major league cities, many Fargo youth would trade and share cards they received in tobacco products.

By the 1920s and 30s, the mass production of baseball cards really took off. Companies like American Caramel, Goudey, and Play Ball began printing sets featuring current major leaguers. These higher quality, glossy cards replaced the old tobacco issues and were sold nationally in drug stores and general stores. Fargo shops stocked these new baseball cards that could be purchased outright rather than hoping to find them randomly in cigarettes. This led to more kids in Fargo starting organized collections for the first time.


During World War II, card production was scaled back due to rationing of resources. However, Fargo’s card collectors kept their hobby alive through trading with others via mail since few new cards were entering the market. The late 1940s saw the start of the golden age of baseball cards thanks to the entry of the Topps company. Topps signed exclusive deals with the players’ union and leagues, releasing highly popular and visually appealing annual sets each year. Fargo shops saw a huge increase in baseball card sales during this post-war period that lasted into the 1950s.

In the late 1950s, the first card shops dedicated solely to sports cards started to pop up across America to meet the booming demand. Fargo got its first card shop, Ernie’s Sportscards, in 1958. Located downtown, Ernie’s was an instant hit with local collectors. Kids would flock there on Saturdays to trade, buy packs and boxes of the newest Topps releases, and check out the latest additions to the store’s inventory of vintage cards. Ernie’s Sportscards would remain a Fargo institution for collectors for decades.


The 1960s saw the rise of other card manufacturers like Fleer and Leaf to challenge Topps’ dominance. These companies introduced innovative promotion techniques, oddball sets, and even the first non-sport trading cards. Fargo collectors enjoyed exploring the wider selection of cards now available to them compared to previous eras. Teenage collectors in the city also started to specialize, with some focusing only on acquiring vintage cards from the early 20th century onwards.

In the 1970s, the speculator boom took baseball cards mainstream as never before. Inspired by the hot collecting markets in major cities, Fargo also saw card values skyrocket. Local newspapers even ran columns evaluating recent card sales prices. Some Fargo residents became full-time card dealers, traveling to shows nationwide to do business. Meanwhile, the two card shops in town now struggled to keep popular new releases in stock.


The late 1980s crackdown on card gambling and subsequent crash cooled Fargo’s card market for a time. But the arrival of the internet in the 1990s brought a renaissance. Online groups like gave Fargo collectors a new way to trade with others across the country. Today, while the sports card industry has consolidated, Fargo still enjoys an active community of enthusiasts. Local card and comic shops like the Dungeon hold regular trading events. Meanwhile, garage sales and antique stores in the area remain top spots for longtime Fargo residents to unload decades-old collections. The hobby remains an integral part of the city’s recreational landscape.

Over 130 years since the earliest baseball cards reached Fargo, the city’s collectors continue their time-honored tradition. Multiple generations have grown up sorting, swapping and appreciating the cardboard stars of yesteryear through booms and busts. And Fargo’s small but dedicated group of today’s enthusiasts ensures the hobby stays alive for many more to come.

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