The small town of Hanover, Pennsylvania has deep roots in the history of baseball cards dating back to the late 19th century. As one of the earliest American towns to embrace the growing popularity of baseball as a professional sport, Hanover naturally became involved with the birth of baseball cards as a commercial product and collectible item.

Some of the first rudimentary baseball cards can be traced to tobacco companies in Hanover printing images of star players on cigarette packages and plug tobacco wrappers in the 1880s. While these early examples were primarily advertisements meant to promote specific tobacco brands, they helped plant the seed of what would become a booming baseball card industry in later decades.

In the 1890s, several small card manufacturers opened shop in Hanover to capitalize on the growing baseball card trend. One of the first specialized baseball card sets was published in 1893 by the Hanover Cigarette Company, featuring 51 cards of players from the National League and American Association. Though crude by today’s standards with basic black and white images and no statistics, these early Hanover cards helped popularize the novel idea of collecting player portraits.


The biggest breakthrough came in 1909 when the American Tobacco Company, which had a large factory and headquarters in Hanover, launched the hugely popular T206 series. Spanning 5 years, the meticulously designed T206 set featured over 500 different cards and became one of the most iconic in the history of the hobby. Produced on high quality, glossy stock, these colorful cards featured photographs, player biographies, and even advertisements on the reverse. The T206 set legitimized baseball cards as a mainstream collectible and hobby.

In the following decades, Hanover continued to be a hub for the booming baseball card industry. Companies like Bazooka Bubble Gum and Goudey Gum operated factories in the town that mass produced iconic sets like 1933 Goudey and Topps in the post-World War II era. The influx of skilled manufacturing and printing jobs in Hanover tied the town tightly to the growing baseball card craze.


By the 1950s, Hanover had emerged as the unofficial “Capital of Baseball Cards” with over a dozen companies headquartered and producing sets in the town. Iconic brands like Topps, Bowman, and Fleer all operated factories that pumped out millions of packs annually. The surrounding towns became havens for hobby shops and conventions catering to the red hot collectibles market.

The baseball card boom in Hanover hit a downturn in the late 1980s as the industry consolidated. Topps had emerged as the sole producer after acquiring competitors, and shifted production overseas. The last factory in Hanover closed in 1992, marking the end of the town’s direct involvement in manufacturing cards.


While no longer a production hub, Hanover’s legacy as the birthplace of the baseball card industry lives on. Several hobby shops and museums have opened showcasing the town’s rich history. The T206 cards produced in Hanover over a century ago remain the holy grail for collectors today, selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Through it all, the small Pennsylvania town of Hanover played an outsized role in bringing baseball cards from tobacco advertisements to a worldwide multi-billion dollar collectibles phenomenon.

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