CNN Baseball Cards: A Look Back at a Unique Promotional Idea
In 1982, CNN was still a fledgling cable news network looking to raise its profile and gain more viewers. At the time, baseball cards were hugely popular collectibles among both children and adults. So CNN hatched a unique promotional idea – to produce their own set of baseball-style cards featuring CNN anchors, reporters, and other employees.
The idea was that these cards would help familiarize potential viewers with the faces and names of CNN’s on-air talent. They would also generate publicity for the network by being something novel and interesting. While today it may seem like a quirky relic of the past, at the time the CNN baseball cards were an innovative cross-promotional concept.
The cards featured photos of over 100 CNN employees on the front, with profiles on the back listing their role at the network, background, and brief bios. Some of the biggest names featured included anchors Bernie Shaw, Bill Patrick, and Charles Jaco. Producers, correspondents, technicians, and others from across CNN’s operations were also represented.
The cards had the same basic design aesthetic as a traditional baseball card, with a blue and yellow color scheme matching CNN’s logo at the time. They were printed on thick, glossy cardstock for durability. While they didn’t have any stats like real baseball cards, they captured the same fun, collectible spirit that made baseball cards so popular among kids and adults alike.
When the cards were first released in 1982, CNN distributed them for free at trade shows, conventions, and other industry events to promote the network. They also sent sets to media outlets, which helped generate positive publicity. Articles appeared about the novel idea in newspapers and magazines across the country.
This free distribution helped the CNN baseball cards gain recognition, but also limited their availability. So in 1983, CNN began selling complete sets of the cards through the mail to the general public for $2.50 per set plus shipping and handling. This allowed more people access to the unique collectibles and brought in additional revenue for the network.
As the years went by, the CNN baseball cards became a fun piece of memorabilia from the network’s early days. While they were primarily a promotional novelty when first issued, over time they developed a cult following among CNN fans. Completed sets and individual cards signed by anchors started showing up for sale online and at sports memorabilia conventions.
In the late 1990s and 2000s, as the original CNN talent featured on the cards retired, interest seemed to grow even more. Nostalgia for the early days of 24-hour cable news likely contributed to the cards’ appeal. On eBay today, complete 1982 sets in mint condition can sell for over $100. Signed cards by Bernie Shaw have sold for upwards of $50 each.
The CNN baseball cards were ahead of their time in creatively promoting a TV network through a unique collectible. While other networks have since produced similar promotional items, CNN’s were among the earliest attempts to gain name recognition through an unorthodox crossover between sports cards and television news personalities. Though a product of their era, the cards remain an interesting relic that brought publicity to CNN during its formative years. They also endure as a nostalgic connection to the network’s pioneering early days in cable news.
The CNN baseball cards from the 1980s took an inventive approach to promotion that blended news and nostalgia. Though a quirky idea at the time, the cards helped raise CNN’s profile while developing a following all their own among collectors. They stand as an intriguing piece of television and sports memorabilia history from a pivotal time in the evolution of 24-hour cable news.