BASEBALL CARDS OLATHE

The history of baseball cards in Olathe, Kansas spans over 100 years and provides a unique window into the growth of the sport and culture in the city. Some of the earliest baseball cards produced featured players from early Olathe baseball teams in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

One of the first documented baseball card productions in Olathe originated from the Olathe Cigar Company in the 1890s. As tobacco companies began inserting cards into cigarette and cigar packages as a marketing gimmick, the Olathe Cigar Company followed suit by including cards featuring players and teams from the Olathe City League. These early tobacco era cards helped promote both the cigar company and local baseball. Only a small number of these rare Olathe Cigar Company cards still exist today, making them highly valuable collector’s items.

In the early 20th century, drug stores and local hobby shops began producing their own sets of baseball cards as a way to advertise their businesses and connect with the local community. Stores like Olathe Drug and Johnson’s Hobby Shop printed simple cardboard cards often featuring amateur or semi-pro players. These early 20th century “local” sets helped grow interest in baseball card collecting in Olathe during the pre-World War I era.

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The golden age of baseball cards arrived in the 1930s and 1940s as production expanded nationwide. Olathe residents could find cards featuring Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other major leaguers for the first time inserted randomly in packs of gum, candy and cigarettes. Allen & Ginter, American Caramel, Goudey and Topps were among the most popular national brands producing cards during this time that could be found throughout stores in Olathe.

In the post-World War II era, Olathe native and baseball legend Bob Dernier got his start in the minor leagues and began appearing on his own baseball cards. Born in Olathe in 1956, Dernier went on to play 13 seasons in Major League Baseball as an outfielder, most notably for the Chicago Cubs. Topps, Donruss and Fleer were some of the manufacturers that featured Dernier on rookie cards in the late 1970s and 1980s that are highly collectible today among Olathe fans.

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The modern era of baseball cards arrived in the 1980s and 1990s as the sport experienced unprecedented popularity. Kids in Olathe traded, collected and played with cards at an all-time high. Iconic Olathe businesses like Hobby House and The Sports Card Shop opened to cater to the booming local collecting scene. Stores hosted baseball card shows, release parties for new sets and tournaments for popular trading card games. Olathe natives Chris Gwynn and Jeff Granger went on to play in the majors and had their own rookie cards produced by the major companies.

Today, baseball card collecting and memorabilia remains an integral part of baseball fandom and local history preservation in Olathe. Card shops like Hobby Corner still do a bustling business catering to collectors. The Olathe Historical Society has amassed an impressive archive of early 20th century local baseball cards and related artifacts that help tell the story of the sport’s evolution in the city. While the industry has declined from its 1990s peak, baseball cards continue to connect current and future generations of Olathe residents to the rich baseball tradition of the city’s past.

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