Tag Archives: came


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many American children first became acquainted with baseball through the baseball cards that came packaged with sticks of chewing gum. Two of the most famous brands that included baseball cards as a marketing promotion were Beeman’s Pepsin Gum and Goudey Gum Company.

Beeman’s Pepsin Gum originated in New Jersey in the 1880s. It was a very popular stick of chewing gum, known for its distinctive pink wrapper. In the 1890s, Beeman’s began including small pictures of baseball players on some of their gum wrappers as a way to help market the brand to young baseball fans. These early baseball cards were simply small cardboard advertisements pasted onto or printed directly on the pink gum wrappers. They featured active major league players and provided statistics and information to teach children about the modern game of baseball.

In the early 1900s, Beeman’s discontinued using player images directly on their gum wrappers. They began inserting whole baseball cards – separate cardboard pieces not attached to the gum wrapper – inside some packs of their pink sticks of gum. These were the earliest true standalone baseball cards packaged with gum. They were typically smaller than modern cards, often just over 2 inches wide, and featured an image of a single player on the front with stats or a small biography on the back. Beeman’s gum with included baseball cards remained popular with children through the 1910s.

The most famous early baseball card company, however, was the Goudey Gum Company, based in Boston. In 1913, they began including baseball cards with some packs of their popular Goudey Gum. The Goudey cards were significantly larger than earlier baseball cards, measuring approximately 3 × 5 inches each. This established the standard size that would be used in baseball cards for decades. The 1913 series featured 161 total cards, each with a color image of an individual player on the front. On the back was usually a shorter biography and the player’s vital stats.

Goudey Gum continued to include new series of baseball cards in their gum packs annually through the mid-1910s. Their 1915 and 1917 series stood out for introducing color tinting and color images on some cards for the first time. The vivid color portraits and sleek design of Goudey cards helped turn them into coveted collectibles for children across America. Youngsters would eagerly snap the gum and trade or save the cards to assemble complete sets.

In the 1920s and 30s, several other chewing gum companies followed Goudey’s lead in packaging baseball cards to boost gum sales. Some of the most notable included Diamond Gum, Victor Gum, Fleming’s Cigarettes & Gum Company, and Goodies Gum Company. Each included their own original baseball card sets right in gum wrappers or packs. Titles like “Diamond Stars”, “Victor All-Americans”, and “Fleer Pros” featured even more vivid color images of rising young stars and established greats of the time like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

By the late 1930s, the baseball card bubble began to pop as kids had amassed huge collections and the novelty wore off. Companies like Topps Chewing Gum would reignite nationwide childhood obsession when they began regular annual baseball card releases after WWII in 1951. The long, rich tradition of discovering baseball through the surprise packs of a stick of chewing gum had endured for over 70 years in America, leaving behind a legacy of collectible cardboard today valued in the billions. For generations of children between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, a baseball card inside that stick of pink Beeman’s Pepsin Gum or green pack of Goudey may have planted their very first seeds of fandom for America’s pastime.


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.


In the late 1880s through the early 20th century, it was very common for chewing gum manufacturers to include baseball cards as an incentive inside their chewing gum packaging. This helped drive gum sales among young baseball fans while also serving as an early collectible for kids. Some of the most famous gum brands that included baseball cards were Topps, Bowman, and Bazooka.

Topps Chewing Gum first started including baseball cards in their product in 1951 and would become the dominant brand for modern baseball cards throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Decades earlier in the late 1800s/early 1900s, other gum brands laid the groundwork. For example, American Caramel Company produced cigarette cards in the 1890s that featured baseball players. It wasn’t until the 1900s that true baseball cards designed for collecting began regularly appearing inside gum wrappers and packaging.

One of the earliest gum brands known to regularly include baseball cards was Leaf Candy Company, based in Brooklyn, New York. In 1913, Leaf began producing gumballs that came wrapped in foil with cardboard discs advertising the gum inside. These early Leaf “cards” contained stats and photos of major league players on one side and an ad for Leaf gum on the reverse. A few years later in 1915, the more traditional cardboard baseball cards we now envision started coming inside Leaf gum packages.

Other early 20th century gum producers that pioneered the baseball card incentive model included Boston American League Baseball Club and its Beeman’s Pepsin Gum. In 1915, Beeman’s began including stats-backed cardboard cards of Red Sox players inside small gum packages. Over in Chicago, American Caramel Company produced Corky Caramel gum packs with cards from 1916-1917, focusing on the hometown Chicago Cubs and White Sox.

By far the most legendary early baseball gum brand was Goudey Gum Company of Boston. From 1905 to 1956, Goudey manufactured high-quality stick chewing gums that came packaged with all sorts of trading cards and collectibles to entice young customers. Some of their most iconic early releases included Goudey Sport Kings (1905-1930), Goudey Craze (1915), and their most famous release – Goudey Baseball (1933 and another run from 1952-1956).

The 1933 Goudey Baseball cards set the standard for design and production quality that later card issues strove to match. Featuring 161 total cards over multiple series releases, the 1933 Goudey set highlighted top stars like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. The durable cardboard stock and crisp photographs made these early cards highly collectible even at the time. In fact, Goudey is credited alongside American Caramel Company as helping establish the modern ballplayer photography tradition on baseball cards starting in the early 20th century.

Virtually every iconic early-to-mid 20th century American gum brand included baseball cards as incentives at some point – usually packaged individually inside fresh gum sticks. Chewing gum was an affordable childhood indulgence, and baseball cards turned the product into a small collectible package that drove repeat purchases. Brands like Leaf, Beeman’s, Corky Caramel, and most famously – Goudey helped pave the way for the golden era of Topps baseball cards to come starting in the post-World War II period of the 1950s and beyond. The symbiotic relationship between gum sticks and baseball cards helped grow an entire multi-billion dollar collectibles industry in the decades to follow.


The tradition of including baseball cards with sticks of chewing gum began in the late 1880s when American Tobacco Company started including small cardboard ballplayer photos inserted randomly into packs of cigarettes and tobacco products to help promote and market their brands. It was in the late 19th century when the practice truly took off. In 1888, the company decided to try including full-size ballplayer cards in several brands of gum including Cabinet Gum and Rainbow Striped Gum. This proved successful and helped boost gum sales, so the card insert became a standard practice.

In the early 1900s, most major chewing gum manufacturers included baseball cards as incentives. Brands like Topps, Bowman, Fleer and other smaller regional gum makers began cranking out sets featuring the latest stars of the day. Typically, a stick of gum would come individually wrapped with one or sometimes two random baseball cards stuck to the wrapper. Collecting full sets required buying many packs of gum on the off chance you got that one missing card to complete it. The cards themselves during this era featured black and white or sepia tone photos with basic player stats and positions printed on the back.

In 1909, American Caramel Company debuted the iconic T206 baseball card set, considered one of the most desirable of all time for collectors today. Produced between 1909-1911, these high-quality lithographed cards came one per pack in Caramel Cub Fatima Turkish blend cigarettes and Sweet Caporal cigarette brands. The elaborate designs and rarity of certain players like the Honus Wagner card have made high graded T206s some of the most expensive collectibles in the hobby.

During the 1950s, the golden age of baseball card collecting took off as kids across America pursued the flashy new cards found in bubble gum. Topps Chewing Gum took over the baseball card market in postwar 1950 and had the exclusive rights to produce them each year. Their annual sets became hugely popular amongst kids and included color photos, career stats and biographies on the back of each. Aside from Topps, the Bowman and Fleer gum companies also released competitive, yet more limited runs sold nationwide. Favorite Topps series from this period were the iconic 1952 and 1959 issues, known for their simple colorful designs and great rosters of retired and active players.

In the 1960s, Topps continued their annual releases but also experimented with oddball sets featuring action photos, managers or team sets in addition to the standard rookie card releases. From 1966-1968, the rival Fleer company gained rights to produce a competing set sold nationwide each year known for their unusual glossy finish. Bowman also reemerged after a decade away with their 1968 “blue background” set featuring first-year cards of future Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson. Through the decade, the cards grew flashier with artistic action shots, purple/blue borders and yellow/orange color schemes that embodied the psychedelic era. Kid collectors could still find a pack with a stick of Topps, Fleer or Bowman gum inside store shelves or vending machines.

The 1970s saw the rise of the mega stars as collecting entered a true Golden Age of popularity. Each year, Topps cranked out larger color photo rookies of future household names like George Brett, Nolan Ryan, and Johnny Bench. The 1971 Topps design with dark blue borders and gold stamping became an instant classic. Competition remained fierce as Fleer released innovative sets using oddball materials like wide-vision cardboard or sandwiched cards. The 1976 SSPC set stood out for pioneering the concept of limited parallels short printed within the base set. The popularity and increases in print runs began straining supplies, causing the relationship between cards and gum inserts to diminish.

By the early 1980s, the connection between baseball gum and cards formally ended at card companies could no longer include gum inserts due to rises in production costs, lucrative TV advertising deals and collectability that increased chase factors across multiple parallel releases each year. The tradition did live on as collectors still thought nostalgically of a simpler time rummaging through piles of foil-wrapped cards and gum searching eagerly for their next big rookie addition to their collections. While buying loose packs or boxes became the norm, the fabled pairing of penny stick of gum alongside a slick cardboard ballplayer photo persisted heavily in childhood baseball card memories for generations right up to today.

For over 60 years stretching from the late 1800s through the 1970s, children across America grew up with the fond ritual each summer of scouring drug stores and supermarkets for their favorite brands of baseball trading cards – typically Topps, Fleer and Bowman – all of which inserted the thin cardboard collectibles randomly among sticks of bubble gum hidden in foil packaging. This promoted both the cardboard photo hobby and gum sales, fueling a multi-generational tradition now engrained deeply in American pop culture and the roots of modern sports memorabilia collecting. Even today, the nostalgic pairing remains vivid in the memories of millions who can still taste that childhood gum when thinking back to their worn collection of faded cardboard ballplayers from another era.


Baseball cards have been a beloved collectible item for over a century, allowing fans to learn about their favorite players and accumulate cards featuring the stars of the day. One of the earliest and most memorable ways fans acquired baseball cards was through inclusion in cigarette packs from the late 1880s through the 1960s.

The inclusion of baseball cards and other collectibles in tobacco products began in the 1880s as the cigarette industry sought innovative ways to market their products and drive sales. In 1886, the American Tobacco Company began including various premiums and collectibles like photographs and lithographs in their cigarette packs. This helped popularize the new cigarette format and introduced baseball fandom to many new potential customers.

The inclusion of baseball cards in cigarette packs began in the 1890s and really took off in the early 20th century as the tobacco industry consolidated. Companies like Allen & Ginter, American Tobacco, and Goodwin & Company produced elaborate baseball card sets that were inserted randomly into their cigarette packs. These early tobacco era cards featured detailed illustrations of players and information on the back. They helped build interest in the growing professional baseball leagues while also promoting cigarette brands.

By the 1910s, tobacco companies were producing high-quality, glossy baseball cards exclusively for inclusion in cigarettes. Brands like Fatima, Sweet Caporal, and Murad began regularly including multi-player baseball card sets in their packs. This helped cement the link between baseball fandom, cigarettes, and the early baseball card collecting hobby. Players reached the height of their popularity based on how their cards were distributed through the tobacco industry. Babe Ruth in particular became a superstar in part due to the huge distribution of his popular tobacco era cards.

In the 1920s and 1930s, cigarette companies greatly expanded baseball card production and distribution to new levels. Brands produced elaborate single player and team sets exclusively for cigarettes. Topps, which would later become the dominant modern card maker, had their start producing tobacco era cards for companies like DeLong and Goudey. Sets from this era like T206, M101-5, and Goudey are some of the most coveted and expensive among collectors today due to their superb quality, condition, and historical significance.

After World War 2, the golden age of tobacco era cards continued as companies cranked out innovative, colorful sets on a massive scale. Top brands included Bowman, Red Man, Leaf, and Play Ball among many others. These post-war cards had dazzling designs and featured the biggest stars of baseball’s golden age like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. Their wide availability in cigarettes helped spark new generations of baseball fans and card collectors across the country.

Mounting health concerns about the link between smoking and cancer would ultimately lead to the end of the tobacco era of baseball cards. In the 1950s, the first surgeon general reports warned of smoking’s dangers which tobacco companies fiercely fought. As these health issues came to the forefront in the 1960s, cigarette brands phased out non-tobacco premiums due to legal pressure. The final great tobacco era sets were produced in 1963 by Topps and Fleer.

While the inclusion of baseball cards in cigarettes helped grow the sport’s popularity for decades, it also introduced many youth to smoking. The tobacco industry had strategically used cards and other giveaways to get new customers from a young age. In the end, health concerns won out and this unique period where baseball cards doubled as cigarette advertising came to an end. It cemented cards as a treasured part of American culture and fandom that continues strongly to this day.

The tobacco era of baseball cards spanning from the late 19th to mid 20th century represented the earliest boom in card collecting. It helped build interest in the game, made household names out of players, and introduced generations to smoking. While their distribution method raised long term health issues, these vintage cards remain some of the most prized possessions of today’s collectors for their historical significance, artistic designs, and links they provide to baseball’s past. They show how creativity and promotion helped two major industries rise together for many decades.