BASEBALL CARDS OKLAHOMA CITY

Baseball cards have a long history in Oklahoma City dating back to the late 19th century. Some of the earliest baseball cards were produced starting in the late 1880s and featured players from early professional baseball leagues. While Oklahoma City did not have its own Major League team until the 1960s, baseball cards were a popular collectible item for many residents over the decades.

One of the earliest mentions of baseball cards in Oklahoma City can be found in newspaper articles from the 1890s discussing the popularity of cigarette cards, which often featured professional baseball players of the time. Companies like Allen & Ginter and Old Judge were producing sets of baseball cards that could be found in tobacco products across the country, including here in Oklahoma City. These early tobacco cards helped grow interest in the professional game and specific star players.

In the early 20th century, the practice of including baseball cards in gum and candy became more prevalent with the rise of companies like American Caramel, Hazel Atlas Glass Company, and American Tobacco Company. Their baseball card sets from the 1900s-1920s featured some of the biggest names in the deadball and live ball eras like Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Babe Ruth. Stores in Oklahoma City sold these products and the included baseball cards were a hot commodity for young collectors.

The rise of dedicated baseball card companies in the 1930s further exploded the hobby’s popularity in Oklahoma City. Donruss, Goudey, and Play Ball began mass producing colorful card sets focused solely on baseball. Their cards could be found in shops, drug stores, candy stores and newsstands all over the city. Many Oklahoma City youths spent their allowance money on packs of these cards, hoping for stars from the Negro Leagues or Major League teams.

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During World War II, the supply of card stock was limited due to rationing so sets were smaller. The post-war boom in the late 1940s saw a resurgence. Bowman, Topps and others began cranking out cards at a new pace. Oklahoma City’s card shops and hobby stores stocked complete sets and high-grade singles for avid collectors. Stars like Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson were the most sought after by local fans.

The 1950s were the golden age of baseball cards in Oklahoma City. More kids than ever were collecting and many formed card clubs at their schools. Local card shops like Ernie’s Sportscards downtown and Sooner Cards in the suburbs sponsored youth leagues and gave away boxes of cards as prizes. Oklahoma City’s minor league teams, the Indians and 89ers, even had their own local sets produced in the 1950s and 1960s that are now highly valuable.

Topps in particular dominated the market with innovative designs, photographic quality and astute marketing. Their cards were everywhere in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. Many residents have fond memories of opening wax packs from the corner store, hoping for the elusive Mickey Mantle rookie. The late 50s/early 60s cards of Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and more are considered the most iconic in the hobby’s history.

When the original Washington Senators relocated to become the second incarnation of the Texas Rangers in 1961, it left Oklahoma City without a Major League affiliate for the first time in decades. Baseball cards kept the sport’s popularity alive locally. Kids continued to flock to card shops and shows, trading and adding to their collections featuring the biggest stars of the 1960s like Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.

In 1966, Oklahoma City was granted an expansion franchise in the Triple-A American Association, called the 89ers. Local excitement grew and Topps captured it all on cardboard. Their 1966 and 1967 Oklahoma City 89ers sets immortalized the team and players on classic design cards available all over the city. These sets are now highly collectible for their rarity and connection to Oklahoma City baseball history.

The late 1960s and 1970s saw unprecedented growth in the hobby. More people collected than ever before and regional independent card companies like Diamond Kings sprouted up across the country, including in Oklahoma City. They produced fun, novel sets highlighting local high school and college players. Meanwhile, the likes of Topps, Fleer and Donruss cranked out 500+ card releases each year featuring the MLB’s biggest stars.

In 1969, Oklahoma City saw the return of affiliated Major League ball with the arrival of the Oklahoma City 89ers farm club of the new Seattle Pilots franchise. This only added to the local passion for baseball and collecting its stars on cardboard. The 1970s were the peak years for baseball card collecting in Oklahoma City, with bustling card shops and shows every weekend. Kids traded with neighborhood friends, entered national contests, and had pen pals from all over sending and receiving cards in the mail.

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As the 1980s dawned, Oklahoma City’s baseball card scene remained vibrant despite challenges. The 89ers departed for new pastures in 1982, leaving the city without a pro team again. Local shops like Sooner Sportscards kept interest alive by stocking the latest releases, hosting signings with former players, and organizing community events. Meanwhile, the rise of speculators caused prices to skyrocket industry-wide on the most valuable vintage and rookie cards.

In 1990, Oklahoma City was granted another Triple-A franchise called the RedHawks, kicking off a new chapter. The baseball card industry had begun declining due to overproduction and loss of retailer enthusiasm. But local collectors kept the hobby alive, trading online and at shows. In 1997, Oklahoma City gained an important piece of baseball history when the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened the Baseball Card Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

Today, while the industry has declined significantly from its 1990s peak, baseball cards remain a popular nostalgic collectible with deep roots in Oklahoma City. Local card shops like Collector’s Cache still serve enthusiasts, while the Baseball Card Hall of Fame educates new generations. Online communities allow collectors to stay connected despite geographic distances. Though the city’s baseball landscape has changed over decades, its residents’ love of the sport on cardboard continues strong to this day.

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