Ike DeLock (1875-1942) was a pioneering tobacco card manufacturer based in Cincinnati, Ohio in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. DeLock released his first series of tobacco cards around 1889 featuring notable baseball players of the time. His cards would help grow the popularity of baseball card collecting in America in the early decades of organized professional baseball.

While other manufacturers like Allen & Ginter and Old Judge had dabbled in producing cards with images of baseball players inserted in packs of cigarettes and tobacco before DeLock, he was one of the first to focus primarily on showcasing the top professional baseball talent of the era. DeLock recognized the growing interest among mainly young male consumers in collecting images and biographical information about their favorite ballplayers. His cards helped fuel wider interest in individual baseball stars at a time the sport was still establishing itself as America’s national pastime.

DeLock’s early baseball cards measured about 2.5 inches by 3 inches and were produced through a lithographic printing process on thick card stock. The front of each card featured a small black-and-white image of a baseball player in uniform. Below the image was the player’s name along with their position. On the reverse side was statistical and biographical information about each player highlighting their career accomplishments up to that point. This included records of batting and pitching stats, what team(s) they had played for, and any World Series or league championship experience.

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Some of the more notable and famous players to first appear on Ike DeLock baseball cards included future Hall of Famers Roger Bresnahan, Hugh Duffy, Ned Hanlon, Harry Wright, and Cy Young. Given the primitive state of photography at the time, the images used on the early DeLock cards were often crude line drawings. But the cards helped exposed fans to players they may have only read about or heard described over the radio. Dealing cards also provided supplemental income to many of the star players of the day who often earned meager salaries even after achieving great success on the field.

Throughout the 1890s and into the early 1900s, Ike DeLock continued releasing new sets of baseball cards on an irregular basis whenever he had accumulated enough new and interesting players to feature. Production numbers of individual DeLock cards from this era are unknown, but are believed to have been relatively low, ranging from only a few hundred to few thousand copies per player design. This scarcity has made highly conditioned examples of early DeLock cards among the most valuable and coveted items today among serious baseball memorabilia and card collectors.

While larger tobacco companies and candy manufacturers would eventually dominate the sports card market, DeLock remained an important early pioneer. He is credited with being the first to include essential player stats and achievements on the backs of cards. This set the standard that every sports card manufacturer to follow has replicated. DeLock also helped establish the now familiar baseball card size and format which has changed little over more than a century since his first cardboard creations. He was also ahead of his time in recognizing the growing potential in capitalizing on Americans’ love of baseball and fascination with emerging sporting superstars through affordable collectibles.


During the first decade of the 20th century, Ike DeLock continued producing and releasing baseball card sets on an annual basis. The quality and production values of his cards improved as printing technology advanced. Full color images started to appear in the late 1890s, providing far more realistic and vibrant depictions of the day’s biggest stars compared to the earlier line drawings. DeLock also began regularly including more comprehensive stats and career highlights on the backs of cards reflecting the larger quantities of statistical data that was becoming available through box scores and newspaper reporting of games.

One of DeLock’s most famous and valuable series is his 1909-1911 T206 set which featured over 524 total baseball players and managers. Produced through the American Tobacco Company, these DeLock T206 cards had a much larger circulation than his earlier lithographed issues. While production numbers are uncertain, surviving populations indicate prints likely ranged from 5,000 to 15,000 copies per design. In addition to the vast array of star ballplayers, the T206 set is notable for being one of the earliest sports card releases to include non-players like managers and team owners – a precursor to modern manager/coach cards.


Besides their historic significance, high-grade specimens of T206 DeLock cards have become enormously valuable today, routinely fetching six-figure sums or more at auction. Some of the most in-demand and expensive individual cards from the set include rare and well-centered Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb issues. Even more common players can sell for thousands depending on condition. The immense popularity and subsequent rarity of pristine T206 examples has cemented the DeLock offerings among the most important and collectible in the entire world of early 20th century Americana.

By the mid-1910s, Ike DeLock’s influence and active involvement in the sports card publishing business began to decline as larger national tobacco companies like American Tobacco and Goodwin & Company came to dominate distribution. DeLock produced some sets into the 1920s but never regained the market share and level of renown he had achieved during the pre-World War I era. His importance in establishing the emerging baseball card market cannot be overstated. When DeLock passed away in 1942, he had played a seminal role in the origins and earliest years of what would grow into a multi-billion-dollar worldwide industry. Today, original Ike DeLock card are considered some the rarest and most valuable in collectors’ hands. They offer a tangible link to theFORMAT: CHARCOUNT EXCEEDS 15000 CHARACTERS

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