WHAT GUM WAS IN BASEBALL CARDS

For many decades during the 20th century, baseball cards were commonly packaged with a small stick or piece of chewing gum. This tradition began in the late 1880s when American card manufacturers started including gum and other small toys and incentives along with cigarette cards and baseball cards as a marketing gimmick. The gum was originally seen as a way to get consumers, especially children, more interested and engaged with the baseball cards. It helped make the experience of collecting and trading cards more interactive and fun.

The specific gums used in baseball cards varied over the years depending on the card manufacturer and time period. Some of the most common gums included in cards in the late 19th/early 20th century were Black Jack, Cuesta-Rey, and Fleer’s Juicy Fruit gum. Often these early gums were a simple stick of chewing gum made primarily from chicle, the sap from sapodilla trees that is the key ingredient in most chewing gums. The gum sticks were usually quite small, only about 1/2 to 1 inch in length to allow them to fit easily inside tobacco tins and card packages.

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By the 1930s-50s, the two biggest manufacturers of baseball cards, Topps and Bowman, perfected the process of mass producing gum-with-cards packages on a large scale. Topps in particular helped popularize and normalize the tradition of finding a piece of bubble gum inside baseball cards. They utilized Bubble Yum, their own branded sweetened chewing gum made of sugar, corn syrup, gum base, and natural and artificial flavors. This gum had a distinctive bubblegum flavor and produced large bubbles that kids found very fun and satisfying to chew.

During the peak years of the baseball card boom from the late 1950s through the 1980s, Topps solidified its dominance of the market and its packaging of cards with Bubble Yum gum became the standard. The gum was often a small oval or circle shape, around 1/2 inch in diameter. It was usually quite tough and sticky, designed to last a long time in the mouth for maximum chewing enjoyment. Some memorable brands and lines of gum packaged with Topps cards included Pink Bubble Yum, Clean White Bubble Yum, and Bubble Gum Time.

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As competitors like Fleer and Donruss entered the baseball card scene starting in 1981, they emulated Topps’ successful model and also included gum. Fleer utilized “Fleer Stik” gum sticks that were similar to the original cigar-tin included gums, while Donruss used “Donruss Chewz”. Through the 1980s and early 90s, the specific gums may have varied between manufacturers but the tradition of a small piece of bubble gum reward inside baseball card packs remained strong.

As the 1990s rolled around, concerns started being raised about the potential hazards of including loose gum with small collectibles that kids would handle. There were worries kids could choke on gum pieces or trading and collecting cards with gum residue could spread germs. In response to these valid public health and safety issues, the baseball card companies slowly phased out including actual gum in packs starting in the mid-1990s.

While baseball cards no longer contain real gum, the memory and nostalgia of that iconic tradition remains an indelible part of the history and culture surrounding the hobby. Finding that small gum reward was an exciting surprise that hooked many young collectors and fueled their passion and dedication to amassing complete sets. Even today among older collectors, the very concept of a “gum stain” on a valuable vintage card can instantly trigger fond recollections of carefree summers spent eagerly opening packs in search of their favorite players.

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Chewing gum was included inside early tobacco cards, baseball cards, and trading cards primarily as a marketing gimmick to engage consumers starting in the late 1800s. Over the peak decades of the 1950s-80s, Topps helped solidify and popularize the tradition through their mass production of cards paired with Bubble Yum gum. Though real gum is no longer provided for safety reasons, the memory of selecting that small gum reward remains an integral part of the rich history and nostalgia surrounding baseball cards.

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