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A Brief History of Football Cards

By Edited Feb 11, 2016 0 0

A Brief History of Football Cards

A football card is a type of trading card.  A trading card is a small card, typically created from thick paper or paperboard.  The trading card (Also called a collectable card) typically has an image of a certain person, place or thing [7057].  The card also has a description of the picture, along with other pertinent information, such as trivia, statistics or attributes.  There are many types of cards, such as baseball, football, hockey or basketball.  These types of cards are called sports cards, or sports trading cards.  Some cards deal with other subjects and are typically categorized as non-sports cards.

Some of the earliest cards were inserted into cigarette packs in order to stiffen and protect the contents of the cigarettes.  In the late 1800’s, English and British Companies were the first companies to print advertisements about these cards [7058].  The themes were usually concerned with topics such as nature, war or sports.  By the early 1900’s, there were thousands of tobacco card sets manufactured by
hundreds of different companies.  It is said that children would wait outside of stores and ask people for the promotional cards contained in cigarette packs.  Due to limited paper resources as a result of World War II, cigarette card production basically became extinct.  As a result, bubble gum cards became the fad.  This would consist of a pack of cards that contained chewing gum in the pack.  Below is a picture of a typical tobacco card from 1928:


Tobacco Football Card

Football cards followed in the footsteps of bubble gum cards and baseball cards.  Football cards started to gain in popularity after World War II.  In 1948, two major sports card producers produced their first football card sets.  These companies were called Bowman Gum and Leaf Candy Company.  The football cards contained players from the National Football League.  Leaf did not have as much success as Bowman, and only produced one more set in 1949.  Bowman however produced sets from 1950 – 1955.  Eventually, Bowman was bought out by the Topps
Chewing Gum Company in 1956.  Topps is still going strong and continues to produce cards to this day.  Below is a picture of a typical pack of cards with a stick of bubble gum:

Bubble Gum Pack(130200)

Since we live in a digital age, Topps has done a good job of keeping up with technology.  In the year 2000, Topps launched a new concept called eTopps.  These cards are only sold online via an initial player offering (IPO).  The digital card is usually available for a week at the IPO price.  The cards are actually physical, and are stored in a temperature controlled facility.  An individual has the option of having the card shipped to them upon purchase.  These cards can be traded online without ever touching the card at all.  In 2012, Topps announced that they would discontinue the eTopps product line.  Below is a picture of a typical eTopps card:

ETopps Card

Other companies have taken this concept to the next level.  A company called Adrenalyn XL launched digital trading cards.  Other companies collaborated to develop an iPhone Application that host trading card collections.  Below is a picture of a digital trading card:

Digital Football Card(130202)

It seems no matter what decade we are in, trading cards will continue to provide entertainment to people of all ages. From placing trading cards in bicycle spokes in the 1950’s to housing
virtual cards over the internet, trading cards are here to stay.  Now that football is one of the most popular sports in the world, football cards will continue to remain on the scene.



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  1. cardboardconnection "Baseball Cards." The Cardboard Connection. 22/02/2013 <Web >
  2. central, trading card "Trading Card Central - History." trading card central. 22/02/2013 <Web >

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