HOBBY PUBLICATION HISTORY
The following article was published in 7 installments in 2004 and 2005 by Sports Collectors Digest and is reprinted here with their permission. A condensed version appeared in the inaugural edition of Old Cardboard Magazine in 2004
By George Vrechek, OBC Member
I have found that collectors enjoy the nostalgia-clouded recollections of their youth and don’t even mind going back to the nostalgia-clouded recollections of someone else’s youth. When most of us got interested in card collecting as a hobby we were fortunate to have checklists, price guides, auctions, dealers, stores and shows to choose from as to how we increased our collections and our knowledge of cards. But what did collectors do in, say, the 1910s or 1930s? I actually don’t have much of an idea of what they did in the 1910s, although that seems like a worthy question for a future endeavor. Fortunately I do have some information as to what went on in the 1930s that helped organize collectors’ efforts.
Any reporting of early collecting has to mention Jefferson
Burdick, called the father of card collecting. Burdick (1900-1963) published,
collected, organized, donated and researched, all in the field of collected
cards. Burdick was a 1922 graduate of
Burdick’s published writings always impressed me as very
efficient. He may have been encouraged in this by Hobbies Magazine.
It appeared that the editor allowed each writer only so much space. Stamps,
coins, rocks and the like all had their assigned spaces. Cigarette cards as a
collectible was a new miscellaneous category near the back of the book with a
little under two pages available to Burdick. He
thanked Hobbies for their kindness and then used the space given him to
the fullest. Burdick opens with “At one time these interesting cards were quite
extensively collected and attic searches would probably reveal many boxes laid
away and forgotten. There are yet, too, some active collectors.” You can
quickly tell that Burdick is one of them in that he gives a brief outline of
the tobacco manufacturers and the cards they produced – when they felt like
producing them. He describes the tobacco cards from the 1880s to the 1910s,
calling them “neglected” by 1935. He divides the cards between the pre-1900
“old style” of cards on thicker stock, sometimes being
actual photographs versus the “new style” cards printed on thinner stock.
Burdick mentions that he has seen the catalogs and price guides on tobacco
Burdick covers albums, silks, leathers, flannels and the
coupons needed to obtain gifts. There is one small illustration: a buffalo
card. The closest he comes to baseball is mentioning athletes on cards. He
finishes by giving complete checklists for two 50-card sets: Indian Life in the
‘60s (as in 1860s) and the Lighthouse Series both by Hassan. Readers are
encouraged to contact Burdick at
Burdick is given one page in January and uses it to list 189 sets from Allen & Ginter, Duke and Sons, Goodwin, Kinney and others. Buried in the listing which includes “Prize and Game Chickens” and “Histories of Poor Boys Who Became Rich” is the only pure baseball set: the “Goodwin & Co. baseball player photos.” Burdick again encourages readers to write him or better yet to include a sample card of other issues that “will be returned promptly.” Burdick sums up with: “The bare listing of the sets gives but a faint idea of the beauty and interest of these old sets. They rank favorably with other illustrations and prints of the period which are so cherished. They represent a cross section of the art, styles, humor, sports, and other activities of the Gay Nineties and the preceding decade. Lillian Russell was in her glory, baseball players wore big mustaches, and prize fighters were tough guys who were going good at the end of thirty rounds. Some of our Western states were still Territories and a lot of foreign nations of the day have passed out of existence. We wonder if another fifty years will show such great changes.”
Burdick took February off and comes back with one page in March 1936. He thanks the many readers who contacted him with a renewed interest in collecting cards. Burdick estimates that there were probably 20,000 cigarette cards that had been issued. He then continues his cataloging ways by listing large-sized cards as Sets A through DD, medium-sized cards as Am through Rm, small cards as As through Ts as well as many other sets. Burdick mentions that the “new” cards seem more attractive but the old designs intrigue many “perhaps by the somewhat revealing ‘leg shows’ of the old actress cards.” The listings include Set X Baseball folders triple Hassan, set Y Baseball folders double (50) Fatima, Set Z Baseball team (photos) Fatima, Set Ps Baseball players (400) gold framed cards, Set Qs Baseball Champions 1910 Fireside, Set Rs Baseball players (brown background), Set Ss Baseball Players (white framed cards), and Set Ts Domino Baseball Discs Sweet Caporal.
No one else seems to have written about the
Carter’s first column appeared in the Kaw Chief Stamp
In the second article in February 1937, Carter writes:
“Since the last column, several bits of very interesting information and
important news have reached us…. Edward Golden of
A year after the first Hobbies Magazine article
Burdick began publishing himself with the Card Collectors Bulletin
beginning with a two-page issue mimeographed on one side dated
Burdick continues with 4 or 5 page issues from February to
April 1937, listing sets, prices, adding collectors’ names and writing about
the hobby. Not surprisingly, for those familiar with Burdick, each of the
issues came out exactly when he planned to the 23 paid subscribers. Burdick
starts by giving even the subscribers numbers with #23 being a Noyes Huston of
One of the important features in these early issues was including prices for cards in a set. In Issue #1 Burdick writes:
“The question of values is one on which there has heretofore been little attempt at agreement. For the good of the Hobby some price schedule should be worked out. The following suggestions are my personal ideas formed after considerable dealings and correspondence with dealers and collectors throughout the country. It should be remembered that they are suggestions only, and I wish to hear opinions all for the purpose of stating more definite prices in set listings of future Bulletins.
I am told that certain cards have changed hands at from 50 cents to $1.00 each. I doubt the justification of such prices and I think it ridiculous to expect the Hobby to thrive with such ideas in effect. Cards at the present time are distinctly a minor hobby….Supply and demand varies for different sets, but I would place a basic catalogue price of TWO CENTS each for want list and approval purposes and as a basis for trading. There are exceptions in both directions. This price is for cards in FINE UNDAMAGED CONDITION. Many cards are quite common are usually found in worn condition and so are not worth two cents unless perfect.” (Hence the apparent origin of the expression “I wouldn’t give you 2 cents for that….bent up old 1933 Goudey Ruth.”)
In issue #2 Burdick lists about 100 sets with prices per
card as a “checklist of tobacco cards issued since 1900.” He adds “50 copies of
this Bulletin will be printed. About half will be sent out immediately and half
reserved for future orders.” As to advertising he writes: “A collector asks to
purchase space in the next Bulletin in which to list his individual wants.
There is no objection to this but, it will be necessary to charge two cents per
line (6 lines per inch) to cover the additional cost.” (This may have been a
little rich or more probably Burdick didn’t have the room in that the first
small ad didn’t appear in the Bulletin until 2½ years later.) He then lists the sets. Set #521 is called
“Baseball Series (players) white borders, Sweet Cap; Cycle; Piedmont; Old Mill;
Soverign; Obak, etc Same designs on baseball Caramel cards. Several hundred
designs known… .01”
(As in 1 cent each.) The #520 gold borders run the same. The 16 large
In Issue #4 of April 1937 Burdick writes: “No plans for additional bulletins have been made at this time. It is quite probable that later on sufficient material will be gathered for other issues. If, and when, such issues are ready all who receive this Bulletin shall be notified….The card column in Hobbies Magazine is yet to begin, but it is hoped that room may be found soon.”
The card column Burdick referred to finally appeared as “Card Collecting” in Hobbies in May 1937, a year after his last article. Burdick writes about the ‘80’s – the 1880’s. Similar to today’s insert cards, someone had the idea of inserting a $5 gold coin in a very small percentage of cigarette packages. Soon every package of tobacco had card inserts with the practice peaking in 1890. However inserts disappeared as quickly as they had arrived as competition relaxed.
Burdick continues his history with an article in August 1937 on how inserts reappeared by 1909. Turkish tobaccos were the fad and Burdick writes: “the important thing to us is that the early importers of Turkish tobaccos were small independent concerns. To increase popularity of their new brands they turned to inserts.” Burdick explains why the inserts disappeared for the second time in 1915. Given the small space available to him Burdick can’t really write much about individual cards let alone sets.
The last article I found in the 1930s (before getting bleary-eyed from reviewing microfilm) was “Card Collecting” in September 1937. Burdick’s subject this time is variations: “Nothing seems to intrigue a collector so much as a mistake….In the small baseball cards with team symbol in top left corner we find Dougherty of the Chicago White Sox but the sox are red, like the rest of the background and not white. In the extra large cards we find Doolan of the Phillies with the name spelled Doolin. Both these errors were corrected.” We find Burdick was into the details and sounds like he is interested in baseball although he spends an equal amount of space on variations involving cowboys, aviators, and prize fighters. Burdick writes: “For extreme specialists, and there are such, every minute difference such as color of ink, and factory number, make a new variety. In some sets there is seemingly no end for such a collection…Collectors who love to search for mistakes and varieties will be well pleased with card collecting. There is plenty of proof that we all make mistakes or at least change our minds.”
Hobbies Magazine was crammed with information
on many hobbies although none that I saw with the detail presented by Burdick.
Collectors had the opportunity to entertain themselves in the middle of the
depression at many antique and hobby shows across the country. The Hotel
While Burdick’s first column in Hobbies ran nearly two pages with an illustration, the last three articles in 1937 were still buried in the back of the magazine and were about one-third of a page each with no illustrations. Apparently Hobbies didn’t give Burdick a permanent column or perhaps Burdick felt that the space allowed would never be adequate. Burdick’s column does not appear in Hobbies after September 1937.
As he had advised his Card Collectors Bulletin readership of perhaps 27 subscribers, Burdick didn’t return with a fifth issue until nearly a year later. In Bulletin 5 of March 1938 Burdick reported “a satisfactory advance in card collecting can be reported – not a boom but a slow and steady growth. Several collectors have gone after cards via advertising and many fine collections are being built. Most collectors are finding the Bulletin prices to be a fair indication of values for sale or exchange.” He makes no mention of Hobbies Magazine. Subscriber #30 is Howard Myers who shortly thereafter furnishes a surprisingly complete checklist of T206s. The next issues in 1938 are all five-pages increasingly jammed with detail on card sets and prices.
Issue 6 of June 1938 welcomes three new subscribers: Jack
Lionel Carter, now twenty years old, had been searching for other hobbyists. Carter found collector Edward Golden in 1936 and Golden let him know about Jefferson Burdick’s publication. Carter was delighted in finding Burdick and a handful of other subscribers including future trading buddies Harry Lilien and John Wagner. Carter is most likely the only subscriber from the 1930s still alive today. Carter quickly subscribed to the Bulletin and obtained the five prior issues, the very issues on durable 8½ by 11 yellowish paper that I have read to research this article. Carter discontinued his efforts on the Kaw Chief Stamp Journal and began contributing information to Burdick’s Card Collectors Bulletin. (Carter struck out on his own with a small publication in 1940. He got out four issues before being called off to World War II.)
Issues 6 through 8 from June to November 1938 show the gradual evolution in Burdick’s enthusiasm for the hobby. No one else seems to have written a word of text in any of these first eight Bulletins. Early on he writes that he has done about all he intended to by listing the tobacco inserts, then he writes that no other card listings are contemplated except those of candy and gum cards (including those of course issued with ice cream, cracker jack, etc.) You can tell he is addicted. Carter zeroes in on baseball, Burdick expands. Burdick lists more tobacco cards, corrects previous listings, lists coffee cards, soda cards and bread issues. He even lists all the other card types that he won’t “be listing” such as old trade merchandising cards, Bible cards, playing cards, foreign cards, etc. (except he winds up listing Canadian issues anyway). While Burdick doesn’t have room to list individual cards in the Bulletins, you are encouraged to write him to borrow his individual card listings for a short time.
Burdick gives three tips for happy collecting:
Burdick reports on prices. “It has been noted by several that the Bulletin prices need revision of some sort. This is quite natural as information on supply and demand is being accumulated continuously.” He mentions the idea of prices for individual cards desired from want lists versus buying a dozen or more cards in bulk. He mentions discounts for poorer conditioned cards. If several cards are needed he recommends buying lots. If a few cards are needed, the want list or approval method is best. “It is hoped that a permanent ‘United States Card Collectors Catalog’ may be printed at some future time incorporating a new pricing system and furnishing much additional information about the sets….Only a few sets of these Bulletins are now left (subscribers must be up to about 45) and when exhausted must be replaced in some way” (no copy machines at work in 1938).
Other subjects include listing about 150 recent (since 1930) candy and gum cards, album mounting methods, and the increase in card collecting. “No boom (which is not wanted) but a gradual spread which is absorbing supplies as fast as they are found. Dealers of all kinds are watching closely for card finds.”
The Bulletins stop momentarily after November 1938. Burdick devotes his efforts to producing The United States Card Collectors Bulletin in 1939. This “Bulletin” was professionally typeset and had prices for cards in each of the listed sets. It had 72 pages with 3 punch holes. Future updates and corrections (which turned out to be numerous) could be added to the binder to keep the catalog up to date. The bi-monthly Bulletin returned with the same style of paper (6 inch by 9 inch green paper) so that the issues could be added to the original 72-page production. Burdick mentions feedback he has received on the United States Card Collectors Bulletin in his August 1939 Volume II Number 1 of The Card Collector’s Bulletin (Burdick had been a little loose as to when and where he used the apostrophe). He reported producing 500 copies of which 100 were sent to the initial subscribers. The cost of everything to produce the catalog was about $300. Receipts from purchasers and advertisers were expected to be about the same. When all 500 copies were sold Burdick would break even. The method of describing sets was not the N, E, T and R system that we know. Burdick had categories for tobacco and “candy and gum” and listed sets in each category by numbers getting up to about 709.
The six yearly issues of the Bulletin could be ordered for 30 cents per year which was “intended to cover the bare cost of production and postage.” Burdick reports each year thereafter that the Bulletin has enjoyed another year of continuous publication. Many of the early Bulletins contain numerous additions and corrections to the 1939 catalog. The reader needs to buy the catalog to keep track of the set numbers that Burdick uses to report changes. He provides checklists of individual cards in a few sets including very recent issues such as the 1936 Goudey game cards. The Diamond Stars are covered as well: “There are but 96 designs as numbers 97-108 repeat various earlier designs. The series was issued in 1934, 1935, and 1936 with players’ statistics revised for each year. A complete collection contains 156 cards.”
Other miscellaneous bits of news as you page through Volume II, No. 1 that has grown to 10 pages:
This is the first Bulletin with anything written by anyone other than Jefferson Burdick and the first issue with any advertising – three ads that took up less than half of one page.
The news continues:
An editorial by Donald Van Brakle (subscriber #11) praises Mr. Burdick in “the matter of valuation. In his adoption of one cent as a basic or minimum value he has made a wise choice. While every collector will naturally hold a divergent opinion on certain series, in general I find myself in close accord with his scales of RELATIVE valuations…He has wisely avoided the pitfall (of pricing cards for which some are willing to pay 5 or 10 cents). The law of supply and demand does not function satisfactorily in a field like this where the supply of material new to collectors is scanty and uncertain, the floating supply is exceedingly small and usually taken quickly out of circulation, and demand is satisfied as soon as a few collectors have been supplied…He has been immune to two temptations that might assail a less honest compiler. One is the assumption that certain series of which he has or has seen few subjects have a high value. The other is the deliberate undervaluation of certain items which the compiler needs for his own collection. On both counts Mr. Burdick’s performance is beyond reproach. Mr. Burdick deserves all credit for his pioneering in this field, for his intellectual honesty in his dealings with fellow collectors and in his preparation of the catalog, and for his single-minded devotion to this hobby to the exclusion of personal gain.” Mr. Van Brakle had Mr. Burdick pretty well analyzed. (It was nice of Burdick to give him a full page to share his opinion.) His opinion was echoed by many over the next 24 years.
The final Bulletin of the decade offers an observation by Burdick that the year 1939 “has continued the slow tempo of the past two years in new card issues. Most issues were gum cards and the trend has been to larger sizes. Lionel Carter advertises in this issue looking to fill his wants in Batter-Ups, Big League, Sport Kings and many other sets. The guest editorial is by John D. Wagner, one of the first 14 subscribers to the Bulletin. Again the subject is card valuation and the focus is on the almighty penny. “Cards when bought in large lots of 500 to 1,000 or more should always be had at a fair discount of say a third or half of catalog value at least. One must always figure on numerous duplicates as well as many poor copies…I feel that 1 cent per card is a safe guidepost when dealing in unseen accumulations. It seems to me that the early (prior to 1900) cards should be worth close to list price even in quantities. I would say 1 cent each as a basis for large lots of the 1910 era, 1½ cent for the 1887-1900, and $3 to $7 per 1,000 for the recent gum cards. To those of you in search of cards why not try your local paper. Results may indeed surprise you. (I would have certainly been surprised had I gotten a response to an ad that I was looking to pay ½ cent each for Ruth, Gehrig or any of the other 1933 Goudeys.) Often when the owner is allowed to set the price you may get the cards at considerably less than your own offer might be. Should a hobby magazine be tackled you can rest assured they will cost more than catalog prices. So don’t be surprised to hear from parties who will put a $1 per card tag. I have had several and one with even $2.50 per card. All this means nothing, of course, and we are darn near crazy to fall for this stuff, so these may be eliminated altogether.”
In four years the hobby’s visibility went from the first small article in the back of Hobbies Magazine to a well-written and organized catalog followed by a regularly issued newsletter with prices, ads and editorials. Except for Lionel Carter’s articles there has been nothing written about individual baseball players, let alone other sports. All card set subjects are treated with equal enthusiasm by Burdick and many other early collectors. Prices are escalating, but a dime will buy you most any card you can find. After many years of being “laid away and forgotten” as Burdick wrote in his first Hobbies article, the cards were coming into the light.
When we last left our heroes Jefferson Burdick, Lionel
Carter and the rest of the card collecting/hobby publication gang in December
1939, Burdick had just completed issue number 3 of the Card Collector’s
Bulletin that he founded in 1937. A few other collectors had begun writing
for the Bulletin and running small ads. As I read the yellowed pages of
the Bulletins from 1940 to 1945 retained by Lionel Carter, I imagined
that I would see a disruption in the hobby during World War II due to paper
shortages, players as well as collectors going into the service, and the lack
of new card issues. Reading the bi-monthly issues I found, although World War
II impacted the hobby, life went on and hobbies and sports remained useful
diversions. There was a tremendous flow of information among the few active
collectors. Articles in the Bulletin were serious, thorough, and
accurate. Subjects included scarcities in the T206 set, correspondence from
Burdick begins the decade by inviting his subscribers to allow him to list their names, addresses and a few lines about their collecting interests to publish in the next few issues. There is, however, a one cent charge per listing to help defray additional postage costs – seriously. These guys watched their pennies. Fifty collector listings subsequently appear. The majority are not sports specialists. Instead they are collectors of post cards, greeting cards, British cards, “post cards showing Presbyterian Churches,” tea tags, and Americana. Included in the listing are:
The Bulletin of the Cartographic Society of
Advertisers include Lionel Carter looking to complete his
T206 set, although at the time the set was called the #521 series. Burdick
congratulates Carter “on his ‘Carter Council Chamber’ paper.
Subscriber Harry Lilien reports his research on early
tobacco cards and quotes from “George H. Duke/Master Builder by John Wilber
Jenkins (G.H.Doran 1927). “Duke began to popularize his cigarettes in 1885 or
1886 by putting photographs of stage celebrities in each package. Then coupons
were placed in the packages entitling the holder, for a given number, to a
crayon picture of some historical notable…. Later pictures of baseball players,
sovereigns, rulers, and flags of all nations were placed in cigarette packs.
Boys began to make collections of cigarette pictures, to trade and preserve
them, and the craze extended to every town and village…. While Duke sent out
sign painters who blazoned the names of his products on walls, barns and
billboards, Allen and Ginter stuck to tradition, putting in each package of
cigarettes a bright picture of a lady in tights. It was a spectacular fight, a
battle of tights and paintbrushes” Duke started manufacturing tobacco products
in 1865 and began making cigarettes in 1882 by buying the newly invented
cigarette-making machine. Burdick added: “It was hardly correct to imply that
nearly all early cards showed actresses. (Certainly none of Burdick’s
subscribers professed in their write-ups to have the slightest interest in
actresses. They stuck to more wholesome subjects such as post cards showing
Lilien returns with three more articles after finding the
trade magazine Tobacco. This journal was sent to retailers and reported
card issues, albums, and censorship. Cards designed for the retailers to
advertise cigarettes quickly evolved into insert cards put into the packs of 10
cigarettes. Information from 1887 and 1888 issues included: “Portraits of
baseball players used to advertise Old Judge cigarettes attract much attention
in the midst of the present baseball furor.” Lilien deduces that the photos
(Old Judge) preceded the colored litho types (A&G). The small colored cards
were issued at the same time as albums to hold the cards, but by 1892 were
virtually eliminated. “The small flare-up of cards about 1899 were mostly issues with cigars.” Tobacco gives the dates of
issue of various sets (mostly non-sport) that seemed to come out at a rate on
one new set per week in 1888, 1889 and 1890. (Sound familiar?) Censors in
Burdick reports that Dixie Lids has a new issue of Defend
Burdick resists including any personal information in the Bulletin for 20 plus years, but he is suffering from the effects of crippling arthritis and will be classified as a 4-F 41 year-old when the war comes. The 24 year-old Lionel Carter had already been drafted and sent to the 112th Horse Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army. Burdick reports that Carters Council Chamber hobby publication has consequently (as it turns out - permanently) suspended operation. Carter reports “at the end of my year of service, I shall be pleased to hear from all my friends.” The year turned into over four years. Burdick later writes that when Carter’s publication resumes the “Bulletin will have outlived its period of usefulness, and growing aged and decrepit, will gladly step aside and pass the torch to younger and more active publication. (The Bulletin kept going another 40 years.) Editor Carter also hopes to establish a real exchange proposition – something vitally needed…. Many times in the past a card club has been proposed but has been tabled due to sheer lack of time.”
The April 1941 Bulletin covers three sets of recently discovered mint “Abdul Tobacco” non-sports cards. The backs of the cards include a copyright date of 1881. “The copyright attracts notice as this is 5 or 6 years before such cards are believed to come into use.” Burdick investigates and gives several reasons why this issue may be a fake including the observation that they would have failed to comply with the requirements of the copyright law in effect at the time. Although he acknowledges that the 1881 date may have been the date the “Abdul” name was copyrighted and not the date of the card issue. Always the gentleman, Burdick adds: “This represents the charitable viewpoint.” Also: “There may have been strong temptation to produce some ‘rare early’ cards.” In the process Burdick also writes “nearly all old sets were in series of 50 – that being the number of packs in a carton. Originally a carton contained a full set but that practice was abandoned after awhile.”
Burdick reports on using cellophane for mounting cards: “A plan adopted by some is crystal mounts, a prepared cellophane tubing made in various sizes especially for blocks of postage stamps. They fit many sizes of cards and are said to be injurious to paper and printing. Your better cards deserve the cost of much better mounting…. Tests by the National Bureau of Standards show that any type of celluloid or cellophane is harmful for use as protective coverings. However, the best grade of cellulose acetate is recommended and is being used to protect documents in the National Archives…. Still we suggest that collectors test to determine results under varying degrees of heat, moisture, pressure, and to make certain that they obtain the correct grade of material.” (Where have we read of these same issues in plastic sheets?)
The Bulletin has been running Howard Myers’ still accurate 1938 checklist of the “#521 Series” (T206s) and Burdick writes: “The scarcest cards are Plank and Wagner. Amounts of 50 cents and $1.00 are being offered for these. All Southern Leagues are also uncommon and worth 5 cents to 10 cents each according to condition. A few others are also worth premium rates.” These prices are a bit academic in that there weren’t a lot of Planks and Wagners to sell – neither Burdick nor Carter had one. I don’t imagine you could have actually picked up the pair for $1.50 anyway in 1941.
Subscriber John P. Wagner reported that on
Wirt Gammon contributes a newspaper clipping: “Wagner
refused $1,000 a week to go in vaudeville with Cobb and Lajoie. ‘I’m no actor.’
John Gruber, late official scorer in
The first issue after
“VALUES. A book dealer in
Having run several articles by Harry
Lilien on the question of “What was the earliest insert card?” Burdick
adds his thoughts in the February 1942 Bulletin. He comments on sources
of information feeling that trade magazines from the period of issue are more
reliable than magazines or articles written later. The least reliable source
would be newspaper articles “in recent years as experience has indicated such
writers all too often
The 10 page April 1942 issue of The Card Collector’s Bulletin includes articles on the small number of new card issues, upgrading cards through exchanges, exhibit cards, book match covers, checklists of Obaks and Baseball Comics, a long editorial by Burdick on the lack of commercialism in the hobby and a short note that subscriber Charles Bray had purchased an old collection from someone in New Orleans and was offering it for sale. Bray ran a 5-line ad offering “mostly small 19th Century issues…at reasonable rates.” In this modest manner Bray began selling and later auctioning about any piece of cardboard under the sun through the Bulletin. To this point the largest advertising space in a Bulletin had been less than one page. Things were about to change. It was ironic that in Burdick’s editorial he applauded the lack of commercialism in the hobby “But guard must be kept, as commercialism like inflation creeps in without warning. Opinions may differ, but we believe that present conditions are for the best interest of the hobby and should not be changed.” The long editorial got his readers’ attention and in the next issue Burdick reported on the mostly favorable feedback from readers. Burdick begins hinting about his future involvement: “In spite of the many difficulties, we hope to continue publication during the war and thereafter as long as feasible. Quite a number of checklists still await publication although most of these are now of the scarcer sets not largely held by most collectors.”
In his spare time Burdick issues a 1942 supplement to the catalog. He explains the reason for increased prices and that he has had inquiries from people wanting to buy cards in large quantity at low rates. “Years ago it was possible to buy in that manner to some extent but today nearly everybody obtains at least a general idea of value before selling, and snap bargains are the exception.” (Sound familiar?) But then he goes on to report that: “During 1942 at least four collections have changed hands at $70 or more each.” (about $820 in today’s dollars). Burdick’s general guide at the time is that “selected items from want lists” and complete sets are selling for double catalog and a minimum of 5 cents per card. Short sets are at 1.5 times catalog and mixed lots and collections at catalog – except that harder to find cards in T206 for example are running $2 or even $3 each! Cutouts and actresses are of modest if any value. “Many collectors will pay a bonus for the last few cards needed to complete a set. In England the first and last cards of a set, in fine condition, are priced higher as being on the outside they are subject to more damage….In these days much is heard of the investment value of hobby material. It is a safe prediction that these cards will prove as good a value as any. There will always be a strong interest in them and values have been gradually rising in a healthy manner. Any good collection if properly handled should eventually realize as good returns as the better stocks and bonds. Values seem surely destined to go considerably above their present levels with the next few years.” Jefferson Burdick, December 1942.
In 1943 Burdick writes: “The Bulletin does not customarily devote great space to the matter of prices, but at present they are prime topics in all lines…The current season has been notable for the unusual quantity of cards which have been offered collectors. This has been due to the considerable advertising done by collectors and what we may call a streak of collectors luck- fulfilling the ‘never rains but it pours’ adage. While we believe that untold numbers of old cards are still hiding in old stored collections, the recent rate of turn-up is not liable to continue, and the general trend, we believe, will be for supplies to gradually decrease in the coming years….We cannot emphasize too strongly that present rates are real opportunities for collectors.”
A few months later Burdick writes: “In these days we hear about a 30 cent dollar and while the actual purchasing power of a dollar may not have shrunk by 70%, it is quite evident that there is a material shrinkage. Government price controls on most of the necessities of life have kept their prices from rocketing. (Remember the high prices of World War I)…There is the probability that decreasing (card) supplies will be coupled with greater demand from at least two types: soldiers returning to civil life and resuming their collecting, and the increase in foreign demand when the present financial restrictions are removed and normal free trade is resumed…Card collecting is an international hobby.”
War news on hobbyists: Lionel Carter checks in from
In the December 1943 issue subscriber C.G. Sturtevant recalls his card collecting days as a youth in the 1880s. “I clearly remember my enthusiasm in collecting picture cards of all kinds. Many were the advertising giveaways, and for those we used to worry the drug and drygood stores about crazy. Thread companies and patent medicine firms had a big variety. Unground coffee had many series. Many were the sources of cards gotten free….By the summer of 1888 I had accumulated a couple of thousand which I kept more or less assorted in shoe boxes. Constant handling caused wear but was preferred to pasting in albums. During the summer of 1888 a collector showed me several of the small tobacco or cigarette cards of flags and rulers. Ours was a small town where cigarettes were not sold, which accounts for my not seeing them until about two years after they had appeared in other places.” Moving to a cigarette-using town, Sturtevant quickly gathered the tobacco inserts left behind in stores even arranging with store owners to give him all the cards left behind in the store. “I cannot begin to tell you what a fine lot of cards I received here during the winter of 1888-1889.” The cards multiplied, were put in cigar boxes with rubber bands, but eventually were completely soaked by a driving rainstorm. He turned to stamps but then swapped them all with a boy from the East who had a great box of mostly Allen & Ginter cards. But quickly they stopped inserting cards, Sturtevant entered the Army and returned home to find “relatives and other kids had left little of my collections. Throughout the years since I had often thought of the cards and became much interested when the Card Catalog was published. I cannot again recover my losses and so must confine myself to mostly recollections and reminiscences.”
Partial checklists of certain tobacco sets are provided thanks to the joint efforts of readers Bray, Wagner, Van Brakle, Gammon, Ross and Wise….Burdick also writes about advertising cards, the various Allen & Ginter sets, and foreign cards, particularly Canadian and English cards in that Burdick subscribes to some of their publications (Cigarette Card News and Cartophilic World) and has a number of English subscribers to the Bulletin.
The first of what will be many obituaries of long-time
collectors appears in August 1943, that of James N. Colkitt of
Other notes of interest in the “war” Bulletins:
In August 1944 The Bulletin returns to 6 pages that are 8 ½ by 11 rather than 10 half-sized pages. Gum cards in the last auction brought only about 1/3rd of catalog. Burdick predicts that they will increase in value and popularity in coming years. He suggests buying in lots rather than just going after want list items in that you can upgrade sets and get something for your duplicates, perhaps putting them back in the next auction. Readers have noted the difficulty in finding that final card or two for a set. Burdick describes similar experiences and logically attributes it to the last cards issued in a long series (high numbers), errors and corrections (the initial error is usually scarcer), and advises to never give up the search – it is what makes collecting interesting. He also says that you undoubtedly will be taking chances in buying certain lots, but that the pleasant surprises outweigh the unpleasant ones. He surmised that despite the interest in cards that many are still going the way of “the current scrap paper drives.” Bray organizes the 4th Mail Card Sale with 131 lots from various owners. A set of 12 bidding rules is added.
Catalogs are out of print and Burdick advises that there won’t be another until after the war because of paper and printing shortages. He also feels that the numbering system will have to be redone. (T206s are still known as the #521 Series.) Burdick updates the status of certain subscribers in service or returning from service, including Lionel Carter. “After three long years fighting in the South Pacific, PFC Carter was home in November (1944) and we enjoyed a fine letter from him just before he left for reassignment.” Wirt Gammon has an article on baseball cards in the Sporting News. Walt Corson has a detailed article on Baseball Blankets and the years of issue. Charles Barker’s name appears for the first time in August 1945 reporting the existence of ballpark souvenir sets.
As the war is about to end Burdick describes his trip by
train to see “the Charles Brays, whose beautiful home has become a rendezvous
for Eastern collectors for more reasons than a mutual interest in cards….We
recommend this trip down the Lackawanna Trail of Eastern Pennsylvania for its
beauty and pleasure, either way by train or auto. The mining sections, the
mountains, and at the end, the Delaware Water Gap, are things that all should
see. Pulling over the high Poconos, the smooth gliding train, the changing
scenic panorama, with an undertone of rhythmic puffing of two powerful locomotives
make a touching combination.” I drove through this area of
The Bulletin made it through World War II without missing an issue, still at 30 cents per year, still with Burdick writing nearly every word. There is yet to be a photo, drawing or anything other than typed pages duplicated onto whatever paper was available; but it was all great stuff.
1945 to 1953 – Burdick to Bray
World War II ends and The Card Collector’s Bulletin keeps rolling. The December 1945 issue includes the recollections of Harry Lepman as a boy in the 1910s: flipping, matching, 20 cigar boxes full of cards. Other subscribers remember blowing, twirling and other ways of winning cards. Burdick recalls cards that came with chewing tobacco got sandwiched while in the bag and frequently came “mint” but bent. The Bulletin has grown to 14 pages and Burdick returns money to a number of advertisers that he didn’t have room for in the publication. Lionel Carter is just back from the Pacific and runs a full-page want list ad offering to pay 5 cents per card. Paul Masser offers $25 for a Wagner.
A new catalog is now possible and is scheduled for release in 1946, 7 years after the first catalog. Seven years becomes the schedule for future catalogs: 1953 and 1960. In typical fashion, Burdick shares all financial information about the catalog with his readers: 128 pages, 1,250 copies, cost around $1,000. A catalog will sell for 75 cents but they will throw in a year subscription to the Bulletin. Advertising revenue gets the catalog to a breakeven, eventually, in that it will take awhile to sell 1,250 copies. Burdick introduces the T,E,C nomenclature and the American Card Catalog comes out as Burdick predicted albeit with a few errors and omissions which are reported. The October 1946 issue mentions: “Resumption of card issues is said to depend only on the availability of paper stock and collectors are trying to clear their decks in preparation for these first post war issues.”
The December 1946 Bulletin has an article on “varieties and errors.” Burdick’s observations include:
· Variations can be caused by printer’s waste that erroneously reaches the public, the correction of errors, or intentional changes in design during the process
· Reprints include A&G plates reused in 1912 for early candy cards
· Counterfeits – “If new plates are made and exact copies of originals attempted, we have imitations, facsimiles, counterfeits and other bogus productions. These can usually be detected by careful examination but so far nothing has occurred in this line as far as known. The high cost of such work, plus risk of detection, make it a hazardous undertaking.”
Burdick reports his trip to
C.G. Sturtevant returns with his scholarly findings on the early tobacco cards based on a “Cigarette Photo” article in an 1887 amusement journal. Considerable fuss is made over the revealing “leg-art” pictures of “ballet girls” on A&G insert cards. If you’ve seen some of these cards, you noticed that the legs were quite ample. Large sized photos were originally used to help market the cigarettes and evolved into smaller versions inserted into packs. Anthony Comstock was on his high horse to protect “small boys” from such leg-art lewdness. The net effect was to put pressure on the manufacturers to eliminate the “revealing photos.” The photos did “their job of popularizing cigarettes and manufacturers could carry on (in 1886) with designs which would break no laws” – like baseball players.
Burdick chips in again with his research on this
continuously pursued interest in the earliest tobacco inserts. He finds a Frank
Leslie Illustrated Magazine of 1883 that covers a visit to the Allen &
Ginter factory in
In December 1947 Burdick announces in the Bulletin
that he has decided to donate his collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Burdick regularly updates Bulletin readers on the
status of the transfer of the collection. Long-time subscribers such as John
Wagner, Howard Paul, Fanny Traynor, Harry Kenworthy, Paul Masser, Howard Myers
and Samuel Tanenbaum begin assisting Burdick in his efforts to complete various
sets prior to sending them to the museum. Burdick seeks additional help because
he is “too busy to keep up with collectors in the baseball field.” He is
looking to add 2
In October 1948 Burdick reports that John Wagner has given him an extra Hans Wagner card in order to complete his T206 collection to be sent to the Met. Burdick is thrilled in that he had sought this card for many years. “This is the original ‘discovery’ card which Mr. Wagner first spotted among his duplicates. Early lists of the set did not mention this title and it came near being traded off without being noticed. Since then one or two others have been found but the card remains in such demand that several copies could easily be sold at the catalog value of $25 or more.” In the same paragraph Burdick is also enthused to be back organizing the actress cards into 2,037 varieties.
Concurrently Burdick works on the next Catalog and updates, trying to get copies of sets such as Sport Kings extra large R340. He also begins work on a small pamphlet as an index of cards at the museum. It isn’t fully developed for another 13 years, but as with most of his initiatives it is finally printed and is used at the museum’s print room to this day.
The vast numbers of photo actresses in the tobacco cards slow Burdick down in his efforts to ship early tobacco inserts. He sends 13,590 actress cards to the Met. Mayor and Burdick also find that it is going to be complex to properly mount the collection in albums. Burdick later reports that they (Theodore Starr of the print department) would be pasting the cards into the albums if there were no descriptions on the back even though he wouldn’t recommend this for a private collection. The “museum cards, of course, will never be sold or removed from the albums.” The pasting job apparently is hard to staff in that a few years later “Mr. Starr could not continue and Mr. Mayor has been unable to find anyone to take his place….No cellophane has yet been employed but this can be added later if desired, and a suitable type can be found.” A few years later Burdick rationalizes in the Bulletin that “The mounting, unfortunately was begun years ago before the cellophane era and consists of merely pasting on blank album pages. This will seem ruinous to some collectors, but all can be saved if at some future time it is necessary to remount. A moment’s dip in water and all will come free and undamaged. To show the better way, one album uses cellophane. I found genuine acetate very expensive and too thick, and regular moisture-proof cellophane is now off the market.”
Charles Bray Becomes Bulletin Editor
The big news in the June 1949 issue is that Burdick is
turning over the Bulletin to Charles Bray who had taken over the auction
portion of the Bulletin several years earlier. “Mentally I have enjoyed
it (putting out 60 issues over the past 10 years). Physically, however, it has
been a bit different and many issues have been gotten out under somewhat
distressful conditions. I have been bothered considerably (the master of
understatement) by chronic arthritis, and in recent years it has precluded any
unnecessary activities….all in all, I am not in proper condition to continue
magazine publication.” He will contribute articles in the future and asks
others to do so as well to help Charles Bray, a “square shooter.” Burdick later
confided that in the 1950s the new drug of cortisone helped delay what he
imagined would be a crippling disability. In the last 20-page issue of the
1940s, Burdick uses one page to update readers on the 40,000 cards he has sent
so far to the
In the early 1950s a few writers other than Burdick start to
contribute to the Bulletin. Walt Corson writes about the minor leaguers
in the T206 set with finally some references to the players themselves. Charles
Bray describes his visit to the hobby
A refreshing ad is run by subscriber Lowrance Swayze looking to trade 1950 and 1951 Bowman baseball and football: “I am just a poor collector who’s trying to keep from buying any more bubble gum than he has to.” Buck Barker runs an ad apologizing to all his friends “if I have any left. If I don’t then the apology is directed to my former friends. I am not dead. I have not been actively collecting for several years. In fact my collection is in storage. However, I will be back someday, and I hope that I will be forgiven. Charles ‘Buck’ Barker, Baseball Collector.” The collection of the late W.J. Christie is auctioned by Bray with suggested prices of $14.63 for a T205 set, Mecca double folder set for $3.50, a 1948 Bowman baseball set for $1.34, a 1950 Bowman baseball set for $5.52, and a 1941 Playball set for $2.02 – just typical junk cards at extravagant prices.
Burdick announces plans for a 168-page 1953 Catalog that
will be priced at $2 with 1,400 copies printed. The staff consists of Burdick
as Managing Editor, Bray as Associate Editor in charge of Prices, Gene DeNardo
as Associate Editor in charge of Copy Revisions, and Woody Gelman the Associate
Editor in charge of Advertising and Publication. John Wagner contributes
artwork including drawings for the Catalog Stationery. The staff meets
Bray takes the opportunity in the October 1952 issue to discuss pricing in the Catalog. “A lot of people think that because a card is seventy years old it is, ipso facto, a valuable item. It is a valuable item, only if the quantity of surviving copies is considerably less than the collectors who want them and are willing to pay a good price to obtain them….Every group, set and card has to be considered individually in the light of the particular factors which most influence its value.” Sets will continue to be priced at a significant (50%) premium over the price of the individual cards. Of course, all the individual cards are priced the same with no particularly distinction for high numbers or stars.
In a 1953 issue Lionel Carter returns with an article on the
front page thanking Burdick (“Thanks to a Grand Guy”) for his great work in
putting out the 1953 Catalog and his past efforts. Carter writes: “When
I started collecting baseball cards in 1933, I thought I was alone in the hobby
until I was introduced by Edward Golden to Mr. Burdick’s ‘Card Collectors
Bulletin’ in the spring of 1938. From that moment, my interest zoomed, my
collection flourished. The first catalog proved an inspiration, the second
saving my interest in the backwash of the war service. Moving to
The Rest of the Story
This series started as the history of hobby publications.
Until the early 1950s the history of the hobby publications and the history of The
Card Collector’s Bulletin were pretty much the same. However in January
1951 Bob Jasperson’s Sport Fan appeared. The publishers were Helen and
Bob Jasperson of
A want ad in a 1969 Bulletin gave me many names of other early hobby publications. Subscriber O.A.Alley, Jr. was looking for The American Card Collector, Association of Sports Collectors – Bulletin, The Autograph Hobbyists, Baseball Card Hobbiest, Card Comments, The Card Hobbyists, Card News and Comments, Diamond Dust, The Foul Tip, Grandstand Manager, Hobbys to Enjoy, Sport Collector, Hobby Enthusiast, Sport Fan Who’s Who, Autograph News, Sport Fan, Sport Hobbyist, The Sports Exchange, The Sports Exchange Trading Post, The Sports Journal, The Sports Line, The Trader Speaks, Treasure Magazine, The Trading Card Gazette, and Western Hobby News. Everyone seemed to have their own preference for the plurals of Hobby and Hobbyist. As you can see from O.A. Alley’s list there were many enthusiastic and sometimes short-lived publications by collectors and dealers starting in the 1940s. Many of them were undoubtedly superior to the Bulletin in its later years.
Collector Dave Hornish provided me information on the Sports
Exchange Trading Post from a 1987 SCD article by Richard Miller.
John Seifert of
Richard Rubin also provided copies of several other
publications from the 1940s and 1950s. Most publications tended to be more like
baseball team fan club newsletters geared to a young audience. Issues were a
few typed pages, probably mimeographed. There were limited references to
collectibles such as programs and guides. For example, Diamond Dust
began in 1945 with articles on major league baseball players and teams. Ned
Catrone was the “club” president. The ad section included subscribers looking
for autographs, scorecards, books, pictures, pennants but not too many cards
since none had been issued since 1941. Baseball Parade also started in
1945. It was edited semi-monthly by Russell Weston of
In 1953 legendary English collector E.C. Wharton-Tigar provided
a two-page article. He had met with Burdick, Bray and Canadian S.C. Hall. He
considered Burdick’s 1953 catalog to be “a land mark in world cartophilic
progress.” He noted that in the
In 1953 Sam Rosen of
Buck Barker contributed a fact-packed, breathless article continuing the baseball theme. He recalled the Goudey Fine and Wide Pens were given out by storekeepers with the Batter-Ups and Puzzle cards. You got a card, gum, and a large card thrown in all for 1 cent. He followed with another “breathless” article on baseball card errors and variations and yet another recalling the early days of the Bulletin, noting many of the things I did in the initial article in this series.
Woody Gelman added a short note in April 1956 that, by the way, Topps had purchased Bowman and “plans to issue long series of baseball gum cards continuing with Bowman novelty gum production. Their plans are to produce more issues of cards in their expanding business.” In June 1956 APBA Game Company ran a full-page ad announcing their new card game. Write for details and a free card of Duke Snider. The Catalog was sold out, required updating, and a 1956 revision to the 1953 Catalog was announced.
In February 1957 Walt Corson recalled collecting strip cards
“beginning in 1921 until the supply became exhausted several years ago.” They
were given away with candy purchases. Most strip cards were issued by Underwood
and Underwood or International Feature Service. Corson had the foresight to
collect and retain them despite their relative unpopularity. By December 1957
Corson reported that he has had an operation for cancer and was selling his
collection of over 300,000 cards in which there were 616 different complete
sets. He had already sold $2,400 worth of baseball cards….In June 1957 Charles
Brooks advertised his monthly The Sports Hobbyist publication….In April
1958 Barker was back with comments on key players missing in baseball sets. He
even wrote a letter to Stan Musial telling him that he owed the kids a chance
to get his picture. Musial then appeared in the last series of 1958. Barker
gave a detailed breakdown of the players included in the T205 and T206 sets.
The T206 minor leaguers were issued a good year after the 150 Series backs of
early 1909. He contributed many articles with an exhausting wealth of
information, all focused on baseball cards over the next several years…Preston
Orem contributed a three-page article on the Old Judge cards…In early 1959
Burdick reported that he intended to move to New York City to complete the
mounting of the collection. Burdick had also been working on a postcard
collection and catalogs the last few years….Bray’s auction was up to 640
lots….Fleer announced they were returning to the baseball card market in
1959….Burdick, Bray, Gelman, Barker and
The 1948-9 Leafs are now listed as a 96 card set. When this set was first issued only 49 cards were known. Collectors assumed that the skipped-numbered set of 49 was cut short by legal action from Bowman. However in 1958 eight more cards surfaced. In August 1960 Lionel Carter reported: “It is our belief that the same dealer/collector who held back the 1949 Pacific Coast League cards for a number of years then turned them loose one set at a time, also held back the 8 cards mentioned above. This exploded the myth of a 49 card set….We were quite unprepared by the bombshell dropped by Lloyd Hendrick of Lawton, Oklahoma who reported 28 unlisted cards of this set bringing the total up to 85 known cards….Since that time ‘Detective’ Hendrick was found an additional card of Dick Sisler….Perhaps all 168 numbers were issued.” It appeared that 49 cards were printed in quantity and 49 more were “single printed” and distributed regionally. It took collectors years to find them all.
The October 1962 issue had every color of paper in the rainbow with every page different – Bray’s attempt at high design. Jefferson Burdick had reduced the frequency of articles at this point. He wrote his last article for the Bulletin: “Collecting Notes on an Autumn Day.” His subject was collecting and recalled a friend who initially limited his collection to three ferryboat pictures. “There are probably many who limit their collections much more than they should. Even the sports collectors, after a period, reach a point where little can be obtained other than new issues and those -as vast as they are - do not quite satisfy the full-blooded collector. There are but two legitimate limiting factors: available time and money.” Burdick went on to describe ways of collecting within your means, expanding your horizons and buying lots. “Rather than quit in a flurry of frustration, the remedy is to expand the interest to balance the time available for collecting. The field is sufficiently large to accommodate all normal collecting needs and a bit of exploration in these untried fields will make you wonder why you passed them up for so long.”
The June 1, 1963 Bulletin was printed “In Memory of Our
Friend Jefferson R. Burdick” “Jeff passed away in the University Hospital
N.Y.C. on March 13th and was buried in the family plot in
The directory that Burdick wrote for his collection at the Met was finally published in 1964. Gelman, Carter, Barker, Bray and others continued with articles, but the Bulletin increasingly became an auction publication; some 1,083 lots in one 1965 issue. In October 1968 Bob Jasperson had one-fourth-page ad advertising the sale of the collection of the late Frank Jock – three fourths of a ton of baseball memorabilia. In April 1969 Paul Masser advertised the break up of his collection.
Obituaries appeared for Preston Orem by Barker (12/73) and
Howard Leheup by Carter (3/75). Now in his eighties, Charles Bray decreased the
number of issues from 6 to 4. The issues started to be numbered by the auction
number, reaching #204 in 1982. Incredibly Bray kept going with 400 to 500 lots
but with very little in the way of articles or other ads. The commission
increased to 20%. The last issue that subscriber #23 Lionel Carter has is 7
pages apparently from 1984. It had 298 auction lots and stated “The Card
Collectors Bulletin is issued 2 or 4 times a year.” Bray died
The Bulletin from 1937 through much of the 1950s was the leading hobby publication with serious research, an array of information efficiently presented, and well-written articles. Writers and publishers in addition to Jefferson Burdick also showed enthusiasm for the hobby and had a greater interest in the sports themselves. Collectors could pick up 60 year-old cards for pennies and enjoy their appearance and share in their history without too many worries about values and condition. It was great fun.
Contact George Vrechek at: firstname.lastname@example.org. George is always interested in information about the history of the sport card collecting hobby.
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