Q&A: What Is The First Baseball Card?

Question: What is the first baseball card?

Answer: The answer to this question can vary depending on how a person defines “the first baseball card”.  In my opinion, this 19th century game card is what I view as the first card depicting what looks to be some form of baseball.

Based on bat and ball drawings from the 18th and 19th century, baseball historians have dated this card to around the 1830s.  During that time, children’s educational card games were popular in both England and the United States.  The picture shows three boys – one at bat, another pitching, and in the background a boy looks as if he’s standing on what would be first base.  Several other cards came in this set, but none of them deal with sports.

I wish this card was talked about more often, but it just isn’t.  If it dealt with a specific player or team I believe it would be.  Rarely do they ever show-up for sale.  When they do, its usually with an auction house.  Not many examples are floating around.

Is 2020 Bowman Sapphire Edition Baseball On The Way?

Over the weekend an interesting photo popped-up on Instagram.  The photo shows a bunch of Lency Delgado 2020 Bowman Chrome Atomic Orange Refractor Autographs.  What has people talking is the Atomic Orange aspect of the picture.

As far as we know, 2020 Bowman and 2020 Bowman Chrome will not have Atomic Orange Refractor Autographs.  Its also too early for 2020 Bowman Draft.  So what product will these cards be used for?

Its very possible Topps could be gearing-up for a 2020 Bowman Sapphire Edition Baseball online-exclusive release.  These cards look very similar to 2019 Bowman Draft Sapphire Edition.  Collectors/flippers have been all over these Topps online-exclusive products, especially when they pertain to prospects and rookies.

2019 Bowman Draft Sapphire Edition initially cost $35/box.  They are now selling for close to $200/box.  2020 Bowman 1st Edition cost $360/24-pack box.  Currently they’re selling for almost $700/box.  Its extremely fun to watch, and even more fun if you’re fast enough to get in on the action.  I’d never suggest using modern-day sports cards as a wise investment though.

As a member of the Topps 582 Montgomery Club, I hope club members get a crack at buying a box first.  If in fact these cards are meant for 2020 Bowman Sapphire Edition Baseball.  Trying to compete with the general public can be brutal.

Have you noticed how much people complain if they’re not fast enough when it comes to getting their order in with online-exclusive products?  They complain even more if they do get their order in, but the product doesn’t sell out immediately after.

Card of the Day: Michael Jordan 1991 Upper Deck Baseball #SP1

Card of the Day: 1961 Nu-Card Baseball Scoops Fred Merkle #417

Product Highlight: 1994 Fleer Baseball

A lot of collectors consider 1994 Fleer Baseball to be one of the company’s best products.  The base set consists of (720) cards, which was released all in one series.  When it comes to the base cards, the design is very simple.  Card backs have full stats, and a head shot of the player.  Nothing too fancy.

In addition to the massive base set, you’ve got a bunch of inserts to collect.  You’ll find an insert in every pack.  There are (12) different inserts to find, and none of them are that difficult to pull.

My favorite looking insert are the Pro-Visions.  Wayne Still is the artist behind these crazy looking fantasies.  There are (9) Pro-Visions in all, and every box should have (3).

Fleer made a 12-card insert set based on Tim Salmon.  Those come (1) per box.  If you were really lucky you could’ve pulled one of the autographed versions.  Fleer was able to get Tim Salmon to sign 2,000 cards.

The most difficult insert to pull are the All-Rookie Team redemptions.  You could redeem this for a 9-card set featuring some of the best rookies from 1994.  None of these players appeared in the main base set.

From a set collector’s perspective, this product has it all.  The cards were released in one series, the design is simple, (1) insert per pack, and its not expensive.  This product does have it’s share of rookies, but none of them are worth talking about.  Fleer released an Update set later on that has an Alex Rodriguez rookie.

Preview: 2020 Bowman 1st Edition Baseball

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many things will have to be put on hold.  That includes future card products.  According to Topps, Transcendent HOF Edition and Definitive Collection Baseball will be the last products to be released via the traditional route.  The release dates for everything else is TBD, including 2020 Bowman.

Topps is still able to produce online-exclusive products.  Project 2020Topps NOW Turn Back The Clock, and The Topps Living Set are in full swing.  Lots of other ones too.

Even though 2020 Bowman is delayed, Topps has something special planned for collectors.  Enter 2020 Bowman 1st Edition Baseball.

Available as an online-exclusive on the Topps website, 2020 Bowman 1st Edition Baseball will be sold in 10-card packs.  At a cost of $14.99 per pack, these cards will feature the 2020 Bowman design, and contain the 1st Edition logo on them.  Topps plans to sell them on their website between April 22-24.  Card shops who are part of the Topps’ MVP program should also be receiving some of these packs as well.

(150) prospects make-up the set.  This is the same group of prospects who are expected to be seen in the main 2020 Bowman.  Parallels include Sky Blue (1:2) packs, Blue #’ed/150, Yellow #’ed/75, Gold #’ed/50, Orange #’ed/25, Red #’ed/5, and Platinum #’ed 1/1.

1st Edition stamped autograph cards will also be randomly included.

These packs are going to be flaming hot!!!  You’ll only be allowed to purchase a certain amount.  Early May is when the packs are expected to ship.

Checklist

Product Highlight: 1998 Upper Deck SP Authentic Baseball

Boxes can be expensive.  Sometimes an older product might take care of that pack busting itch for a much lower cost.  Just because that new box guarantees ten hits doesn’t mean you’ll come close to pulling something anywhere near what you paid.  One hit from an older set could easily be better than ten from that newer product.  Then again, making money shouldn’t be your #1 concern.  Cards are for fun, not investing.

If you’re looking for an affordable box from the 1990s that has an autograph checklist which hasn’t dwindled too much, I’d suggest 1998 Upper Deck SP Authentic Baseball.  Upper Deck introduced the high-end SP brand in 1993, but in 1998 they changed the name to SP Authentic.  This is mainly due to each box containing an autograph.

The 1998 SP Authentic set consists of (198) base cards.  They’ve got a foil-photo in the middle which is then surrounded by an all-white border.  Magglio Ordonez is the most notable rookie.  David Ortiz has a somewhat popular second year card.  As far as inserts go, there really is only one – Sheer Dominance.  These come in Silver, Gold #’ed/2000, and Titanium #’ed/100.

Autographs are the main attraction.  Glancing over the checklist you’ll notice its fairly solid.  Of course there are some duds, but what product doesn’t have those?  Key autographs include Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Mussina, Mo Vaughn, Nomar Garciaparra, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Roger Clemens, Scott Rolen, Tony Gwynn, Todd Helton, and Vladimir Guerrero.  Every Chirography autograph is signed on-card.

Upper Deck included various Trade Cards for oversized 5″ x 7″ jersey cards as well as full size autographed memorabilia.  If this were 1998, you could redeem them.  Given that they’re decades old, I highly doubt you would receive anything for them today.

On the bottom of the box Upper Deck lists how many of each Trade Card was made, and the approximate retail value of that item.

  • Ken Griffey Jr. Signed Mariners Jersey #’ed/30 – $399
  • Ken Griffey Jr. Signed Glove #’ed/30 – $449.95
  • Ken Griffey Jr. Life Size Standee #’ed/200 – $29.95
  • Ken Griffey Jr. Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50
  • 5″ x 7″ Ken Griffey Jr. 300th Home Run Commemorative Card #’ed/1,000 – $10
  • Robin Ventura Signed Baseball #’ed/50 – $89.95
  • Raul Mondesi Signed Baseball #’ed/100 – $89.95
  • Albert Belle Signed Baseball #’ed/100 – $89.95
  • Brian Jordan Signed Baseball #’ed/50 – $89.95
  • Roberto Alomar Signed Baseball #’ed/100 – $89.95
  • Tony Gwynn Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/415 – $50
  • Greg Maddux Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50
  • Alex Rodriguez Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50
  • Gary Sheffield Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50
  • Jay Buhner Oversized Jersey Card #’ed/125 – $50

Browsing over this price list is fun.  I certainly wouldn’t use it as an official guide though.  There is no way to know if everything on that list was even redeemed.  Quantities could be lower.