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In the late 1930s through the 1950s, there was one brand of bubble gum that was synonymous with baseball cards – Topps chewing gum. The Topps Company, which is still a leading manufacturer and distributor of sports and non-sports trading cards, conceived the innovative idea to include a bubble gum ball with each wax paper wrapped package containing a random assortment of baseball cards.

This revolutionary marketing strategy was devised by Topps co-founder Sy Schulz in 1938. Prior to Topps distributing cards with gum, baseball cards were sold loose in packs without any other incentives. Schulz realized bundling a fun treat like bubble gum along with the coveted cards would help drive sales, especially among children and young collectors. The very first Topps gum and card series debuted in 1947 and was an overnight sensation.

Kids eagerly tore open the thin yellow packaging hoping to score rare cards of their favorite players while enjoying the stick of grape or cinnamon flavored bubble gum inside. All that vigorous chewing and blowing bubbles also had the added bonus of ensuring any collected cards would be stuck together, helping fuel demand for replacement packs. This ingenious dual product format pioneered by Topps revolutionized the trading card industry and set the standard business model still utilized today across many sport, non-sport, and entertainment card lines.

Throughout the 1950s golden era of baseball, Topps held the exclusive license to manufacture official Major League Baseball cards packaged with their bubble gum. Each year, the company would release several series totaling over 500 unique cards featuring the biggest stars of the day like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron. The cards measured approximately 2 1⁄2 inches by 3 1⁄2 inches and featured a black and white player photo on the front along with career stats on the back. The quality and sheer volume of cards produced during this vintage period has ensured 1950s Topps issues remain some of the most coveted and valuable in the entire hobby today, routinely trading hands for thousands of dollars per card in near mint condition.

Besides just baseball, Topps expanded into other sports like football, hockey, and basketball throughout the 1950s bringing the same winning formula of trading cards coupled with bubble gum. The gum flavors and packaging designs evolved over the years too. Initially only grape and cinnamon were available wrapped in yellow paper. But later flavors like lime, berry, and fruit punch were introduced packaged in modern multi-color designs on both the gum wrapper and box. This helped Topps cards and gum stay fresh and exciting for new generations of collectors.

Peak production and sales years for Topps were undoubtedly the 1950s as the post-war economic boom and rise of television brought unprecedented attention to professional sports. Topps even launched related non-sport products on the side like Wacky Packages parody trading cards and Bazooka Joe comic inserts found in each stick of bubble gum. The company maintained its hold on official MLB, NFL, and NBA licenses well into the 1980s still distributing the card-gum combo millions of kids (and adults) enjoyed as an integral part of the sports tradition.

While competitors like Fleer and Donruss tried imitating the Topps formula with varying degrees of success starting in the 1980s, no other brand could replicate the genuine nostalgia and importance of those classic postwar Topps issues packaged alongside grape, lime, or cinnamon bubble gum balls. The origins of today’s robust multi-billion dollar trading card industry can be directly traced back over 75 years to that simple, yet profoundly impactful, decision by Topps to stuff baseball cards inside sticks of chewing gum. Their novel approach helped spark a collecting phenomenon that bonded generations of sports fans both young and old for decades to come.


The tradition of including small pieces of bubble gum in baseball card packs began in the late 1930s and lasted for several decades, but the inclusion of gum eventually ended in the late 1980s/early 1990s as the baseball card industry changed dramatically. There were several factors that led to the demise of bubble gum in cards.

In the late 1930s, the American Chicle Company, which was a leading gum manufacturer, began including baseball cards as a promotion for its Bubble Gum brand. This helped drive sales of both the gum and cards. In the post-World War II era, the baseball card market boomed in popularity among children and collectors alike. Most major gum and card manufacturers of the time, such as Topps, Fleer, and Bowman followed the model of including ball cards and small pieces of gum together in wax-wrapped packs that sold for a low price, typically around a nickel or dime. This became the standard promotional model for the baseball card industry for several decades through the 1950s-1980s peak of the card collecting hobby.

Signs that the inclusion of gum was coming to an end started emerging in the late 1980s. One major factor was the decline of the traditional baseball card companies as the industry consolidated. Topps had dominated the baseball card market for years but faced new competition from larger entertainment corporations that got into the baseball card business, such as Fleer (owned by Phillies owner Roly DeLyon) and later Donruss and Upper Deck. Larger and more marketing-savvy entertainment conglomerates like The Walt Disney Company and Marvel Entertainment began acquiring traditional card companies. This led to business model experimentation as the large corporates sought higher profits than the traditional model could provide.

Another major issue was the rising costs and liability associated with including gum with cards. Food production requires strict guidelines and quality control which increased packaging and manufacturing costs. There was also the risk of potential lawsuits if children choked on gum or got cavities from excessive gum chewing while collecting and trading cards. In an increasingly litigious environment, the gum inclusion opened card makers up to potential liability. Some manufacturers like Fleer had already stopped including gum in the late 1980s over these food safety concerns.

At the same time, the baseball card market was peaking in the late 1980s. Overproduction led to a spectacular crash in the early 1990s as the speculative bubble of skyrocketing rare card values abruptly deflated. With falling profit margins in this down market, card companies sought to cut costs wherever possible. The inclusion of gum was an obvious place to reduce expenses. Without the promotional need to drive gum sales either, the tie-in became less necessary from a business perspective.

In 1991, industry leader Topps ended the tradition when it discontinued including gum with its baseball cards due to profit pressures. Other manufacturers soon followed suit. While some smaller regional brands held onto the gum inclusion for a short time more, the baseball card industry transitioned to a non-edible model. This brought an end to an era where children could simultaneously enjoy chewing bubble gum and sorting through their newest baseball cards acquired from the corner store. Instead, cards would now be sold sans gum in thicker plastic packaging designed for storage and protection of the card collection within. This marked a symbolic end of an innocent time for a generation of baseball card collectors.

Changing economics, industry consolidation, increased costs and liabilities, coupled with the early 1990s baseball card crash were the factors that led card manufacturers to drop the time-honored tradition of including small pieces of bubble gum within baseball card packs. It brought closure to an iconic promotional model that had successfully driven the growth of the baseball card hobby for decades. While the inclusion of gum was a fond memory for many collectors, it became an unnecessary inclusion as the industry professionalized and modernized operations in the early 1990s’ changing marketplace.


When shipping baseball cards, it’s important to select a bubble mailer that fits the cards securely without excess room for them to slip around inside and potentially get damaged. The most common bubble mailers used for baseball cards come in a few standard sizes that are generally suitable depending on the quantity and type of cards being shipped. Let’s take a closer look at the options:

For most standard shipments containing a few hundred common baseball cards in penny sleeves or toploaders, the #000 or #00 size bubble mailer is usually sufficient. These measure approximately 9×12 inches when sealed. They provide enough interior space to comfortably fit a few hundred cards with room for some additional protective packaging like cardboard or air pillows without being too loose. The #000 and #00 mailers balance protecting the cards from shifting/bending with minimizing excess unused space inside.

If shipping a larger lot of several hundred cards or cards in thicker protective cases like plastic team bags, the next size up #0 bubble mailers measuring around 10×13 inches are a good choice. They accommodate greater card quantities while still being compact enough to keep postage costs reasonable. The slightly larger interior prevents overcrowding and provides more flexibility if including extras like business cards, notes, or stickers in the package.

For very large collections in the thousands of cards, #1, #2 or retail sized bubble mailers may be needed. #1 mailers are 11×14 inches while #2 and retail sizes range from 12×15 to 13×18 inches depending on the brand. These jumbo mailers allow pain cards to be neatly organized inside transparent view windows without forcing lots of layers that increase bending risks. Their increased size means higher shipping rates apply compared to the smaller standards sizes.

Rarer and high-value vintage or autographed cards that are absolutely critical to protect may warrant even larger custom sized mailers. Having extra room provides maximum cushioning ability when packing individually or with ample protective dividers. But for regular shipments, the cost-benefit usually favors using appropriately sized standard bubble mailers over specialized larger sizes.

It’s also worth noting bubble mailers come in multiple thickness/strength options. Thinner basic stock is fine for routine shipping but thicker water-resistant polymailers provide enhanced durability, which may be worthwhile for valuable cards or international/risky domestic routes. Different surfaces like smooth vs. textured interiors can also impact how cards are held in place during transit.

When selecting a bubble mailer for baseball cards, consider the expected card quantity, types of protective cases/sleeves, desired organization inside, and importance of each card. Properly fitting standard mailers in sizes #000, #00, #0 or larger #1-2 as needed will securely transport cards while balancing protection, viewability, and shipping affordability. Using the right sized mailer helps minimize stacking pressures and movement to keep your baseball card collection safe.


The tradition of including baseball cards with sticks of bubble gum dates back to the late 1930s. At that time, the Frank Henry Topps Company, which is now known simply as Topps, began experimenting with ways to market and sell baseball cards to children. They realized that bundling the cards with bubble gum was an innovative way to generate interest and incentivize kids to purchase the packs. This business model became wildly popular and helped turn Topps into the dominant manufacturer and distributor of modern baseball cards.

For decades throughout the mid-20th century, it was common for kids to find packs of Topps or other brand baseball cards featuring the latest players, stats, and action shots, along with a piece of bubble gum to enjoy. The combo helped spark children’s interest in collecting cards as well as enjoying a snack. Throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, Topps baseball card packs with gum remained enormously popular among young fans and collectors. In more recent times, some changes have occurred in regards to the pairing of cards and gum.

While Topps still produces baseball cards today, they have largely moved away from including physical gum with every pack over the past few decades. There are a few key reasons for this shift away from the classic cards plus gum model. One factor is that including gum poses certain logistical and hygienic challenges in terms of packaging, distribution, and preventing moisture damage to the cards. Gum is also more expensive to produce and ship compared to card stock paper alone. Concerns about littering discarded gum wrappers and sticks led many retailers to ban products containing gum from their stores.

These pressures incentivized Topps and other mainstream baseball card manufacturers to move to gum-free models. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, gum slowly disappeared from Topps packs and was replaced by other bonus incentives like team logos or serial numbers. By the 2010s, physical gum was virtually nonexistent in Topps flagship baseball card sets bought in traditional hobby shops or mass-market retailers. Some manufacturers now include digital ‘gum’ coupons or exclusive online-only virtual packs that can be redeemed for digital stickers or emojis instead of real bubble gum.

While traditional gum-inclusive baseball cards have declined, they have not disappeared entirely from the market. A number of smaller independent companies have sprung up over the past decade specifically catering to nostalgic collectors seeking a retro experience. Many of these boutique brands still produce limited edition, high-end runs of baseball cards packaged together with small sticks or slabs of bubble gum hand-inserted into vintage-style wax paper envelopes or tin containers. The inclusion of real gum helps command premium prices of $10 or more per pack from dedicated hobbyists.

While mass-produced Topps packs found in stores are now gum-free, the company has created special annual or limited “Gum Edition” release sets primarily sold online directly to collectors. These exclusive runs go back to bundling individual cards with true bubble gum pieces or gumballs to satisfy die-hard fans longing for the original experience. Topps also occasionally still produces special summer or holiday “Gum only” packs sold in independent card shops as a nichey nod to history. Some ballparks even sell retro-style cards plus gum bundles as a nostalgic concession item.

While the inclusion of bubble gum inserts declined for practical reasons within mainstream baseball cards sold widely in stores, the tradition has certainly not been forgotten amongst collectors and niche manufacturers. Periodic releases going back to the classic combo of cards and chewing gum help satisfy history buffs and allow a newer generation to experience what captivated so many young fans over many decades following the late 1930s innovation by Topps. So while rare in typical new packs today, the linkage of baseball cards and bubble gum remains alive as a collectible specialty item keeping alive memories of simpler times at the local candy store.


While baseball cards accompanied by stick of bubble gum was a staple of the hobby for much of the latter 20th century, in today’s market gum is rarely included with baseball card packs. There are a few reasons for this change over the past few decades.

To understand why gum is no longer a standard inclusion, it helps to look at the history and origins of the baseball card-bubble gum pairing. The concept of including small toys, stickers, or other non-baseball accessories with card packs took shape in the 1930s as a marketing tactic by card manufacturers to broaden the potential audience and boost sales of their products beyond just dedicated baseball card collectors.

Including a stick of bubble gum helped transform baseball cards from a niche hobby item into affordable recreational fare that could appeal to younger children as well. It was a savvy business move that paid off tremendously for companies like Topps, making the baseball card-gum combination synonymous with the hobby from the post-World War 2 era through the 1980s golden age of the sport.

Attitudes and safety standards slowly began changing through the 1990s with a sharper focus on potential risks to consumers, especially for products aimed at kids. Lawsuits over harmful ingredients in candy and toys generated new regulations and restrictions. Gum manufacturers reformulated recipes to remove potentially hazardous additives and dye colors. Additional packaging and labeling was also required by law.

These consumer protection measures drove up production costs. Meanwhile, the baseball card market was maturing as the memorabilia and collectibles craze took off. Older hobbyists replaced children as the main consumers. The extra costs of including gum in each pack started to seem like an unnecessary expense for manufacturers to absorb.

Baseball cards transformed from affordable impulse purchases at corner stores to a serious investment market targeting established collectors. Individual cards or sets sold at higher premium prices through specialized shops and online dealerships. There was less incentive to use freebees to entice younger or casual customers when serious adult fans were rewarding companies with big money for premium vintage and rookie cards.

So in the 1990s, Topps was among the first manufacturers to phase out the bubble gum, instead introducing bonus stickers or other minor extras into common card packs sold through mass retailers. By the 2000s and 2010s, even those token additions faded away in favor of singularly focusing on the baseball cards themselves in standard packs sold in hobby shops and boxed factory sets targeted at dedicated collectors.

Nostalgia for the classic baseball card-gum pairing never went away. Periodically over the past 20+ years, companies have experimented with limited throwback releases pairing modern cards with bubble gum to cash in on fondremembrances of the golden era combination. These special retro product runs normally command higher prices reflective of their novelty collectability rather than widespread availability or mass market pricing structure.

While increased costs, safety standards, and maturing hobby demographics combined to make bubble gum additions economically impractical for ongoing mainstream baseball card production since the 1990s, the memory and appeal of that classic postwar formula never faded for longtime fans and collectors. Occasional nostalgia-driven releases hint that perhaps some form of gum could potentially be paired with cards again if manufactured and priced as celebratory commemorative items rather than as an everyday product standard. But for regular ongoing series and sets today, baseball cards stand primarily on their own without any supplemental bubble gum promotion or treat.


Topps baseball cards held a virtual monopoly on the baseball card market from the 1950s through the late 1980s. In 1989 another company called Upper Deck began producing high-quality baseball cards that challenged Topps’ dominance. For the 1990 season, Topps had to step up their game to compete with the new kid on the block.

The 1990 Topps baseball set contains 792 total cards. The base card design featured a much larger team logo than in previous years along with a color photograph of the player. At the bottom were printed statistics from the previous season. The reverse side contained additional stats and a brief bio. Topps increased photographic quality and cardstock thickness compared to 1989 in response to Upper Deck. The set lacked innovations and exotic parallels that made Upper Deck cards so popular and collectible.

Rookie cards in the 1990 Topps set include All-Stars Kenny Lofton, Gregg Olson, and Frank Thomas. Lofton and Olson had impressive rookie seasons but were overshadowed by Thomas, who batted .329 with 21 home runs and won the American League Rookie of the Year award. Thomas’ rookie card from this set remains one of the most sought after and valuable from the 1990s. Other notable rookies include Steve Avery, Moises Alou, and Jermaine Dye.

Topps also included Update/Traded cards for players who were involved in mid-season trades. Notable traded cards include Nolan Ryan (Texas to Houston), Harold Baines (Texas to Oakland), and Kevin McReynolds (San Diego to New York Mets). Ryan and Baines were veteran stars nearing the end of their careers, while McReynolds was still in his prime. Ken Griffey Jr.’s traded card shows him with the Seattle Mariners after being called up from the minors during the 1990 season and quickly establishing himself as a future superstar.

The 1990 Topps set includes several insert sets beyond the base cards. One of the most popular was the Topps All-Star cards, which featured expanded statistical and biographical information on 41 MLB All-Stars from the 1989 season. Players included Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens. The backs provided career highlights and All-Star Game stats. These premium cards of top players were highly sought after.

Another insert was the Topps Traded and Draft Picks subset, which featured 80 prospects selected in the 1990 amateur draft class. This gave collectors an early look at future big leaguers like Pedro Martinez, Jim Thome, and Larry Walker before they made their MLB debuts. The Traded cards in this insert spotlighted recent trades and up-and-coming players like Bobby Bonilla and Eddie Murray switching teams.

For longevity and career achievement, Topps issued a 10-card Legends of the Game subset highlighting retired greats like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Stan Musial. Each card paid tribute to the player’s incredible baseball accomplishments in both statistics and narrative form on the back. As these legends aged, such subsets helped to ensure they were not forgotten by new generations of collectors.

In addition, Topps issued several special multi-player cards outside of the base set. Two popular ones were a 16-player N.L. Pennant Race card featuring the teams battling for the 1990 National League East Division title and a 15-player AL Pennant Race card for the heated American League West race. These provided a snapshot of the contending clubs’ star players at the season’s halfway point amidst tightly contested divisional fights.

Among the odder subsets was the 10-card Steroid Era controversy subset. Released in the wake of the José Canseco book alleging rampant PED use, these call-out cards named 10 controversial stars like Mark McGwire, Ken Caminiti, and Lenny Dykstra with discussions of their purported connections to performance enhancing drugs whether proven or rumored. It showed Topps trying to capitalize on a salacious collectible within the industry’s growing steroids scandal.

There were also minor league and non-sport subsets like Topps Traded Football ’89, Stadium Club World Tour, and Topps Desert Shield military support subset highlighting servicemembers stationed in the Middle East during the Gulf War era. While not traditional baseball cards, including such diverse supplemental subsets helped Topps appeal to a wider collector base beyond just MLB fans.

When it comes to oddball and specialty parallel inserts, the 1990 Topps set did not go overboard compared to modern issues. But they did have Glossy send-in subsets, including a 20-card team subset where you could request specific club cards in shiny foilboard. Other parallel options included factory sets stamped “Gold” instead of the standard design and randomly inserted ESP gold parallel retro-style cards numbered to 100.

The 1990 Topps set had stunning rookie cards, popular inserts showcasing stars and prospects, and a strong regular base design responding to the burgeoning card war. While maybe not quite as innovative overall as competitors, Topps retained their status as the most iconic card brand in the hobby through brand recognition, large print runs, and availability through everyday stores. 30 years later, many consider 1990 a classic vintage Topps issue and benchmark year amidst changes that made the baseball card industry boom like never before.

Faced with new challengers in 1990, Topps responded with higher production values and well-curated inserts while retaining what made the brand familiar and popular for decades. Though not quite as flashy as concurrent sets from Donruss or Upper Deck, the mix of rookies, parallels and specialty cards helped 1990 Topps remain a relevant and collectible set during one of the baseball card boom’s most competitive eras. Its timeless designs and subjects still captivate collectors and provide insight into one of baseball card history’s most pivotal periods.


The iconic connection between baseball cards and bubble gum dates back to the late 1930s when the Topps Chewing Gum Company began packaging their popular gum with collectible cards featuring professional baseball players. This innovative marketing strategy was a huge success and helped establish Topps as the dominant force in the sports card industry for much of the 20th century.

Topps was founded in 1938 by brothers Israel and Lazarus “Les” Goodman as a chewing gum manufacturer based in Brooklyn, New York. In the early days, Topps focused mainly on producing bubble gum products like Bazooka Joe comic strips and candy cigarettes. During this time, chewing gum companies were constantly looking for new promotional ideas to attract customers, especially children. Some competitors had experimented with including tobacco cards or non-sports related images with their gum but were looking for something more exciting.

In 1948, Topps seized on the emerging popularity of Major League Baseball by making a deal with the players association to use professional baseball players’ names and photos on small collectible cards inserted randomly into packs of their bubble gum. This was the very first set dedicated entirely to current major league players. Called the “Magic Photos Gum” series, the inaugural 1948 set featured a total of 101 cards featuring both the American and National Leagues.

The combination of baseball cards and gum was an immediate hit with young collectors. It allowed Topps to leverage two affordable indulgences, collectible cards and chewing gum, into one hugely popular packaged product. Kids could enjoy chewing the gum while eagerly searching packs for their favorite players or trying to complete the full set. The cards themselves were small, about 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches in size, which allowed Topps to include multiple cards in a pack of gum at low production cost.

Over subsequent years, Topps refined and expanded their baseball card lineup. They increased the number of cards per set, added player statistics and biographical information on the back of cards, and incorporated bigger rookie cards, stars, and all-stars into the mix to ramp up collector interest. Topps was aggressive in securing exclusive player contracts from both major leagues, helping them build brand loyalty and shut out competitors. By the mid-1950s they owned over 90% of the burgeoning baseball card market through sharp dealmaking and timing.

The golden age of baseball cards is generally considered to be the 1960s, when the hobby truly exploded across America. An entire generation of Baby Boomers got hooked on collecting cards of their favorite heroes like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax. Topps leveraged the sports card craze to expand into other licences like NFL, NHL and non-sports properties. At the peak of their popularity in the late 60s, Topps was producing over 500 million card packs annually across all their sets. Distribution widened beyond corner stores to mass retailers like supermarkets.

While some challengers like Fleer tried entering the baseball card space, none were ever able to seriously threaten Topps during this dominant period. Their exclusive contracts with the Major League Baseball Players Association were nearly impossible barriers to overcome. Topps standardized the design of their sets, including logos, layout, card stock and the tradition of including statistics and fun facts on the back of each card which further ingrained them with collectors. Many vintage Topps sets from this “golden age” are now considered some of the most iconic and valuable in the entire hobby.

The arrangement between Topps and MLB endured for decades until 1989, when rival company Fleer was finally able to break through Topps’ ironclad monopoly by convincing a United States district court to terminate Topps’ exclusive license on antitrust grounds. This opened the floodgates for Fleer, Score, Leaf, and other competitors to enter the baseball card market. Suddenly consumers had a much wider variety of sets to collect beyond Topps for the first time in over 40 years.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the sports card market saw drastic changes as the industry consolidated. The introduction of serial numbered “parallels” and non-base short print cards accelerated chasing strategies among collectors. The rise of online retailers also made it much easier for resellers to purchase and break open cases of unopened wax packs en masse, massively increasing the influx of raw cards into the market. Coupled with non-sports related trading card busts like Pokémon in the late 90s, overall interest in traditional card collecting waned among younger generations.

To keep up, Topps launched innovative premium products like autographed memorabilia cards, targeted subsets and adopted flashy chromium and refractor parallels to compete. In the 2000s they even began offering hits like game-used jersey cards with scientific verifiable authentication technology. The sports card collecting boom of the 1980s was clearly over as an oversupplied market caused overall price values to deflate significantly compared to vintage ‘50s/‘60s era cards.

Topps has continued producing their flagship baseball wax packs annually since 1948 right up to today, through various company ownership changes. While no longer the iconic mass media phenomenon it once was in the 1960s, the tradition of young collectors enjoying bubbling chewing gum alongside flipping through packs for stars, rookies and chase cards lives on. For millions of baby boomers and Gen Xers, Topps baseball cards remain forever linked to nostalgic memories of summers past spent collecting with friends outdoors in their neighborhood.

In summary, Topps’ innovative pairing of collectible baseball cards inside packs of bubble gum in the late 1940s tapped into an enduring formula that helped ignite the entire sports card collecting craze. Their exclusive license with Major League Baseball brought kids and fans alike a never-ending array of new cardboard heroes to enjoy. Through strategic expansion, savvy marketing and an exclusive dominance that endured for decades, Topps became a household name practically synonymous with the golden age of baseball cards in the 1960s. Their flagship brand remains an iconic part of American pop culture and nostalgia to this day.


The 1989 Topps baseball card set was produced by Topps and released to the public during the summer of 1989. The set contains cards on players from that season’s American and National Leagues. Some key facts and highlights about the 1989 Topps set include:

The 1989 set contains 792 total cards including regular base cards, manager cards, checklists, and special subset cards. The base card numbers run from 1 to 760 with manager and checklist cards making up the remainder. The design continues Topps’ late-80s extended border look featuring team logo and player name within the border and stats and career highlights outside on a white background. The photography quality was an upgrade over past years with crisper, higher quality images on the cards.

Gum was still included inside of the wax sealed wrappers as was traditional with Topps releases at the time. Chewing the gum could potentially damage or stain the enclosed card so most collectors opted to leave the gum intact and unchewed. The taste and experience of enjoying a piece of Topps bubble gum was still part of the appeal and nostalgia for many collectors and fans.

Several notable rookie cards and debuts are found in the 1989 set including Gregg Olson’s first card, Gary Sheffield’s rookie, and Frank Thomas’ rookie card which is considered one of the most valuable modern-era rookie cards. Other stars like Ken Griffey Jr., Ryne Sandberg, and Ozzie Smith have highly sought after cards as well from the set which added to its collectibility over the years.

Topps also included multiple insert sets within the base 1989 issue. The Turn Back The Clock subset featured 18 cards highlighting legendary players wearing period-accurate uniforms from different eras. A 15-card Captains of the Game subset highlighted various team leaders throughout the league. And a 20-card Milestones subset called out notable career achievements by players. These specialty inserts broke up the base card design providing variety for collectors to hunt.

The 1989 Topps set has increased significantly in value and collectibility over the decades since its original release. Frank Thomas’ rookie card consistently commands some of the highest prices on the secondary market. But other star cards like Griffey Jr., Sandberg, Smith, and the rookie cards of Sheffield and Olson also retain strong demand. The condition of the cards is important, as are specific variations that occurred during production which adds different layers of complexity for seasoned collectors.

While the simplicity of the design does not stand out compared to modern highly graphical cards, collectors still appreciate the clean photography-forward style of late 80s Topps issues. And those who followed the sport during that season can enjoy the nostalgia of seeing the players and teams as they were at that point in Major League Baseball history frozen in cardboard form. Beyond the stars, the set also provides a time capsule of more obscure players who were prominent for that one season but are less remembered today.

The 1989 Topps baseball card set represents an important bridge between the classic designs of the 1970s/early 80s and the more modern collector focused Topps releases that would emerge in the 1990s. Its solid rookie class, memorable stars, and balance of popular inserts with a traditional base card aesthetic have allowed the set to retain long term demand and appreciation amongst collectors. Even over 30 years later, 1989 Topps remains a highly collectible and historically significant issue that encapsulates late 80s MLB.


The Origins of Bubble Gum Baseball Cards

The tradition of including small collectible items inside bubble gum packages can be traced back to the late 19th century. In the 1880s, some chewing gum manufacturers began placing lithographic cards featuring famous people or scenes inside gum packs as a novelty and marketing tactic. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the concept truly took off and became associated specifically with baseball cards.

In 1938, the Brooklyn-based Fleer Chewing Gum Company sought a new way to attract customers and sell more of their bubble gum products. Company executive Benjamin Paschal had the idea to include small cardboard cards featuring professional baseball players inside packs of Fleer’s Double Bubble gum. The first series, known as ‘A Caramel Gum’, featured players from the National League and American League on 36 different cards.

While rudimentary by today’s standards, these early Fleer gum cards were an instant hit with children and helped spark a collecting craze. Other gum manufacturers like Topps and Bowman soon followed Fleer’s lead and inserted their own series of baseball cards inside bubble gum packs. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the inclusion of these collectible cards became standard practice and helped popularize both baseball and the hobby of card collecting among American youth.

The Golden Age of Baseball Cards

The post-World War II period from the late 1940s through the 1950s is considered the golden age of baseball cards and their association with bubble gum. Major card companies like Topps, Bowman, and Fleer were churning out new sets on an annual basis featuring the biggest stars and newest rookies from both major leagues. Kids eagerly awaited the arrival of the new season’s cards at stores and traded vigorously with friends to complete their collections.

Topps in particular came to dominate the baseball card industry starting in the early 1950s. They produced some of the most iconic and valuable series from this era including the famous 1954 and 1955 sets. Topps also introduced innovative concepts like the inclusion of player statistics and career highlights on the backs of cards that added valuable information for young fans. By the late 1950s, annual Topps baseball card sets had become a staple of the baseball season for children across America.

The Golden Age Bubble Gum Baseball Card Series

Some of the most coveted and valuable individual baseball cards produced during the golden age of the late 1940s/1950s originated from these classic bubble gum card series:

1948 Leaf Baseball – Highly collectible early post-war set known for its colorful design and rarity. Features star rookies like Jackie Robinson.

1951 Bowman Baseball – Considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing vintage sets. First color photos on baseball cards which were still a novelty.

1952 Topps Baseball – Topps’ first true “flagship” set that began their long run of dominance. Highly collectible with stars like Mickey Mantle.

1954 Topps Baseball – Possibly the most iconic vintage set ever due to the inclusion of rookie cards for future Hall of Famers like Hank Aaron. Extremely valuable complete sets and individual cards remain.

1955 Topps Baseball – The pinnacle of the classic golden age design before the advent of modern glossier styles. High-value rookie cards like Sandy Koufax made this a hugely important release.

1957 Topps Baseball – Last of the “classic” designs before the 1960s changes. Contains a rare Frank Robinson rookie among other valuable short prints.

The Decline and Resurgence of Baseball Cards

Through the 1960s and 1970s, the popularity of baseball cards began to decline some as the collecting boom cooled off and kids had more entertainment options. The advent of color television also lessened the novelty appeal of baseball cards. Annual Topps series continued and the company innovated by introducing the first “traded” subset in the 1967 set.

In the 1980s, the baseball card market received a rejuvenating boost from two main factors. First, the arrival of high-priced star rookie cards like the 1984 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. generated new excitement. Secondly, the growing collector’s market fueled by baby boomers seeking to recapture their childhood hobby caused demand and prices to skyrocket on vintage cards.

This resurgence led to overproduction of sets in the late 1980s that have since flooded the market. It also caused problems as unscrupulous dealers and investors drove up prices in schemes like the infamous 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck rookie card bubble. In the 1990s, the market stabilized but baseball cards had found a new life as a serious collecting hobby and investment opportunity driven mainly by adult nostalgia.

Bubble Gum Baseball Cards Today

While no longer primarily aimed at kids or included in bubble gum as before, baseball cards remain big business driven by the collector’s market. Topps holds the exclusive MLB license and produces annual flagship sets alongside high-end releases. The golden age of bubble gum packs finding their way into the hands of every youth baseball fan is sadly long gone.

Today, vintage bubble gum-era cards from the 1950s are among the most valuable in the collecting world. Sets like the iconic 1952 and 1957 Topps are holy grails that can sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands when complete. Individual rookie cards like the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle are routinely worth well over $100,000 in gem mint condition.

For collectors and fans alike, the bubble gum baseball cards of the 1940s-1950s era still represent the true innocent beginnings of the hobby. Their colorful paper stock, connection to the chewing gum treat, and capturing of that special time period in baseball history is what makes these classic cardboard collectibles so iconic and treasured to this day.


The 1989 Bowman baseball card set was truly unique from previous years. Featuring young stars and prospects, the design stood out with brightly colored borders and flashy photography. This release would become infamous for the infamous printing error that caused the classic bubble gum cards to suddenly bubble up.

Bowman Gum Company had been producing baseball cards as incentives with their chewing gum packs since 1948. By the late 1980s, the growing popularity of collecting cards had turned the hobby into a multimillion dollar industry. Eager to capitalize on this market, Bowman embarked on their most ambitious baseball card release yet for the 1989 season.

The base set totaled 528 cards and had an all-star roster of players both emerging and established. Ken Griffey Jr continued his ascent with a stunning rookie card that would become one of the most iconic and valuable in the history of the hobby. Other notable rookies included Gregg Jefferies, Gary Sheffield, and Derek Bell. Veterans like Orel Hershiser, Rickey Henderson, and Wade Boggs also received prominent placements.

Compared to Topps, the main competition at the time, Bowman took a bolder approach with their 1989 designs. Vibrantly colored photo borders accented action shots of the players. Blue, red, yellow, and orange hues popped attractively on the glossy stock. On the reverse, stats were shown along with the familiar team logo and Bowman branding at the bottom.

Packs originally retailed for fifty cents and came with a stick of bubble gum as always. It was the gum itself that would lead to catastrophe. During production, the plant experienced a mechanical failure that caused pressure buildup in the chewing gum formula. Unknown at the time, this created microscopic yet destructive bubbles inside the gum.

When consumers started cracking packs in late spring, problems quickly emerged. As kids and collectors chewed the gum, it started suddenly expanding within their mouths. The gum rapidly inflated into bloated messes impossible to swallow or spit out. Some reported chunks of enlarged gum shooting out across rooms! Understandably, phones at Bowman headquarters were soon ringing off the hook with complaints and demands for refunds.

Within days, the major issues behind the infamous “bubble gum incident” came to light. An immediate recall was launched, collecting all remaining 1989 Bowman stock from stores. While some opportunists today try passing off damaged examples as novel oddities, most serious collectors avoid the set due to condition concerns. The mini-bombs in each pack wreaked havoc on centering and surfaces for virtually every card affected.

Naturally, values dropped drastically for years afterwards based on all the negative publicity and ruined cards. Interest and demand have gradually increased again as the set matures. Especially for high-grade examples provably untampered by the bubble gum fiasco. Key rookies like Griffey and Sheffield have rebounded strongest in price. Short prints and stars also hold collector value despite the troublesome backstories.

In retrospect, the 1989 Bowman release stands out as a truly unique moment in hobby history thanks to its ill-fated gum. While a nightmare for the company at the time, the cartoon-like mayhem has granted the set lasting notoriety. Cards that survived the bubbles relatively unscathed have an engaging story behind them. As one of the largest baseball releases ever, it also captures a pivotal time of ascending young talent just before the steroid era. The 1989 Bowman set endures as a colorful capsule from when baseball cards were still attached to bubble gum bombs.