Collecting

Baseball: America's Home Run

The stamp and baseball collecting communities overlap. Some postcards sent through the mail are recognized as legitimate baseball cards, while first day covers autographed by players have become collectible to baseball fans. Postal authorities all over the world market baseball stamps and postal items, and baseball souvenirs resembling postage stamps, complete with collecting albums, were commonly published in the twentieth century. Whether they specialize in stamps or baseball memorabilia, all collectors speak the language of rarity, authenticity, history, and condition. A bumped corner, crease, or microscopic tear can dramatically affect collectability and value.

Display cases containing objects related to stamp production and collecting

“White Border” Baseball Cards

The “White Borders” baseball cards were produced by the American Tobacco Company in sixteen different types, each advertising a tobacco brand such as Piedmont or Sweet Caporal. This is widely regarded as the most famous baseball card set ever issued, for the number of Hall of Fame inductees it depicts and the rarity of cards such as Honus Wagner and Eddie Plank.

 

refer to caption
Honus Wagner “White Border” baseball card (5), 1909-1911. American Card Catalogue T206 baseball card.
Loan from Scott and Kim Ireland.
refer to caption
Back of the Honus Wagner “White Border” baseball card (5), 1909-1911. American Card Catalogue T206 baseball card.
Loan from Scott and Kim Ireland.

 

 
Sheet of 16 round stamps, featuring different types of ball that are used for ballgames.
Forever (49¢) Have A Ball! Issue, 2017
Scott Catalogue USA 5203-5210
Flexible, textured printing plate for the Have A Ball! stamp issue featuring raised shapes that add dimensional coating when printed.
Forever (49¢) Have A Ball! Issue printing plate, 2017
Loan from United States Postal Service
 

This flexible printing plate (above) was used to add a textured, dimensional coating to the Have A Ball! stamp sheet. The baseball stamp in the sheet mimics the feel of raised stitching.

 
refer to caption
Baseball card postcard, circa 1908–1915
Loan from The Stephen Wong Collection
refer to caption
Baseball card postcard, circa 1908–1915
Loan from The Stephen Wong Collection
 

Between 1905 and 1930, several publishers printed baseball cards at regulation postcard size, with spaces for a message and address. These are collected by baseball collectors and philatelists alike—though card collectors prefer mint condition and philatelists generally want cards that have been sent through the mail.

refer to caption
Helmar baseball card stamps, 1911
Scott, Baker, Moore, Herzog, and Speaker
American Card Catalog T332
Loan from National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

The Helmar brand of Turkish cigarettes included photoengraved vignettes of baseball players, which they described as stamps, in their 1911 packaging. Player busts appear within a frame and their name in a scroll below, very closely resembling postage of their era. Moreover, the Helmar stamps came in little glassine envelopes marked “philately.”

refer to caption
Definitive postage stamps, series of 1902-03
Scott Catalogue USA 300/306
refer to caption
Fleer Baseball Logo Sticker and Stamp Album, 1982
Loan from National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Stamp and baseball card collecting intersected again from the 1960s through the 1980s. Topps, Fleer, and other companies began issuing baseball stamps, first by inserting them into packs of baseball cards and eventually as standalone products. They also offered stamp albums.

fake baseball cards

Some baseball fans want to bring home a piece of the game. There is a multi-billion-dollar market for sports memorabilia—and there are plenty of unscrupulous people willing to make a quick buck selling forgeries and counterfeit goods.