BASEBALL CARDS VICTORIA BC

Baseball cards have been an integral part of the sport for over a century. While the modern era of mass-produced cards began in the late 19th century in the United States, the hobby also took root in Canada – including in Victoria, British Columbia. Victoria has a rich history with baseball cards dating back to the early 1900s.

One of the first mentions of baseball cards in Victoria comes from newspaper advertisements in 1905 promoting the sale of tobacco products that included baseball cards as incentives. Companies like Allen & Ginter and American Tobacco were producing sets featuring major league players of the day that were distributed throughout North America. While the players featured would have been American league stars, Victorian residents could acquire these early cardboard collectibles.

In the 1910s and 1920s, several local companies started producing their own baseball cards as promotional items. The most notable was the Dominion Cigarette Company, based in Vancouver with distribution throughout BC. From 1915-1922, Dominion Cigarette included sets with players from the Pacific Coast League, a high-level minor league that had teams in Victoria, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle and other Pacific Northwest cities at the time.

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These early PCL sets from Dominion Cigarette are highly sought after by today’s collectors. They featured stars from the Vancouver, Victoria and other PCL franchises of the teens and early 1920s. While production numbers were low compared to later decades, these regional sets helped grow the baseball card fanbase in British Columbia. They allowed local fans to collect images of players they saw compete in their home ballparks.

In the 1930s, the Goudey Gum Company released several iconic sets that made their way to Victoria. Sets like 1933 Goudey included the first modern style cards with player statistics and biographies on the back. These high quality, colorful cards captured the imagination of young collectors on Vancouver Island. Production numbers were larger than the earlier PCL sets, so Goudey cards from this period can still be found in collections today.

During World War 2, baseball card production was limited due to rationing of materials. But in the post-war era, the hobby boomed alongside the growing popularity of the sport. In Victoria, several shops dedicated to selling cards, comics and collectibles opened in the late 1940s/early 1950s to meet growing demand. Stores like The Hobby Shop and Doug’s Cards & Comics became hubs for local collectors to trade, sell and show off their collections.

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Two Victoria natives who collected cards in the 1950s recounted their memories. “Everyone in my class collected. We’d trade duplicates at recess and try to complete our sets,” said one. Another remembered, “My dad would take me to the local shop every Saturday. I saved my allowance to buy packs of Topps and Bowman. It was so exciting to see what players you pulled.” These anecdotes illustrate how ubiquitous the hobby was for Victorian youth.

In the 1960s, the likes of Topps, Fleer and others released expansive sets each year featuring the biggest stars. Their wide distribution meant they were readily available at shops, drugstores, corner stores and gas stations all over Victoria. The city’s two minor league teams, the Victoria Athletics and Victoria Mussels, even had their own team-specific sets produced in the late 60s after a brief run in the short-season Northwest League.

The 1970s saw the rise of specialty subsets within the standard annual issues from Topps and others. Insert cards spotlighting achievements, milestones and annual leaders became popular chase cards. High numbers parallels and oddball promotions also gained collector interest. Local card shows also started in the 70s, giving collectors a venue to buy, sell and trade with like-minded fans. Shows were held at various community centers and hotel ballrooms around Victoria.

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In the modern era, the internet has connected collectors globally and allowed for easier movement of cards. Online auctions, trade forums and group membership gave Victorian collectors access to a much wider pool of traders. Local card shops also started carrying vintage inventory to meet demand from adults reliving childhood hobbies. Today, the city has an active baseball card collecting community that gathers for shows, attends group meets and trades online. Events like the annual Victoria Sport Card, Comic & Collectibles Show draw hundreds every spring.

Over 115 years, baseball cards have been a constant in Victoria’s sports landscape. From those first tobacco inserts to today’s high-end relic parallels, generations of local fans have enjoyed the hobby. The city’s history with cards mirrors their growth into a worldwide phenomenon. And Victoria’s collectors continue to play a role preserving the culture and memories surrounding the intersection of baseball and collectibles.

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