From cancer sticks to rookie cards
The family tobacco business was going under but baseball cards came to the rescue
We’d like to dedicate this article to the Oompa Loompas. Talk about a triple threat. They make chocolate, sing, and teach kids valuable life lessons. You know what else is a triple threat? Topps. The trading card company. Over the years, they’ve covered three different industries: cards, tobacco, and candy. So, grab your Golden Ticket, and let’s dive into the story of how Willy Wonka and Babe Ruth made a baby (sorry for putting that image in your head).
Abram, Ira, Joseph, and Joseph had a problem—the family tobacco distribution business was going under. They needed to pivot. And so Topps, the candy company, was born. Their first successful product was none other than bazooka bubblegum. To sell even more gum, they started putting trading cards of baseball players in the boxes. This was essentially the start of the trading card boom. Cigarette companies had been trying doing this for years but very unsuccessfully. The problem was that kids were the only ones that wanted the cards and there weren’t a lot of 10-year-olds ripping cigs and packing hogs.
Since then, the trading card industry has had its ups and downs, but during the past year, their popularity has exploded yet again. Those to blame are those social media influencers who have been using their networks to give the hobby more publicity. Shelves are empty and wait lists are long. Many cards have seen increases in value of up to 15x and are selling for thousands upon thousands of dollars.
Some people are under the impression that younger generations view these cards in a similar fashion to the way older generations would view a painting. Picasso isn’t cool anymore. LeBron is. Culture sells, and sports cards speak to a younger generation’s culture.
All of this is great news for local card shops, which in the past might have struggled to survive in smaller cities. But, with the hobby expanding and influential people getting involved, it’s certainly possible that local card shops will begin thriving everywhere. Thanks Topps.
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