It surprises many to find out that baseball cards have been collected since long before Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb or Mickey Mantle were born. A young Ruth may have found an old Peck and Snyder trade card in the attic and marveled at its age. A young Ty Cobb may have been given a tobacco card of Cap Anson and wondered who was that old geezer.
Baseball cards have been made and collected since the late 1870's. Companies used the popularity of baseball players to sell their products. Nearly all baseball cards contain have some form of advertising. Some cards were given away for free. In the early 20th Century some cards were sold in packs of cigarettes or candy. In the 1950s-70s Topps sold their cards with a stick of gum. Cards have promoted the sale of nearly everything from cheese to underwear to dog food to beer. Today's cards are popular enough that they are sold alone.
A collector has quite a selection of cards from which to collect. This can be confusing but it also offers freedom. In the end the choice of what you should collect is yours. A theme or taste often guides a collector. Some collectors collect cards from a specific era or type or of a favorite player or team. Some collectors collect unusual or rare cards. Some collectors simply collect what fancies them at the moment. Some collectors change their focus over time, perhaps switching from 1950 Topps and Bowman to 1930s Goudey. Some may switch to or include related sports collectibles such as football or hockey cards or baseball autographs and memorabilia.
Baseball card collecting is a great hobby for baseball fans. Collections can be a source of pride for people who have lots of resources to buy rare and valuable cards, but people on a tight budget can also afford to enjoy it by focusing on less-expensive sets and cards. It can be a great pastime for retirees, great fun for kids, and a really good shared activity for families or groups of friends. In short, baseball card collecting can be fun for anyone.