The Baseball Hall of Fame is planning to open its new permanent baseball card exhibit on Saturday, May 25. Last year, the Hall announced a campaign to raise $800,000 for the exhibit’s design and construction to build the exhibit, billed as a dedication “to the story of baseball cards.”
According to the Hall, the exhibit will span more than 700 square feet of space on the Museum’s third floor. They say it will “examine the history, design and production of cards, the 1980s boom and the joy and camaraderie that so many collectors have found in the hobby.”
Several Hall of Famers are expected to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“We heard from hundreds of Museum visitors who said they wanted to see an exhibit on baseball cards,” said John Odell, the Museum’s curator of history and research who serves as the lead curator for Shoebox Treasures. “We knew that when we created this exhibit that it was going to be a deep dive, not just rows of cards in a case. We wanted visitors to see and learn about cards from the early days of 19th century tobacco cards to today’s glossy keepsakes. Finally, so many of our visitors have a passion for card collecting, and we wanted to acknowledge and celebrate their passion for these pocket-sized gems.”
Large donations were made by Arizona Diamondbacks owner and avid collector Ken Kendrick and others while hundreds of Museum members also contributed to the $800,000 goal. The grassroots support has allowed the project to expand to include future cataloguing and conservation work on the Museum’s collection of cards, which numbers nearly 200,000.
The exhibit will be divided into four primary themes: An exploration of the long history of baseball cards; the evolution of baseball card design; how and why fans of all ages collect baseball cards; and those cards that are considered “Holy Grails.” The latter group will include a T206 Honus Wagner, 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle and 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie.
Shoebox Treasures will feature more than 2,000 cards on display in vertical drawers that will allow visitors to explore a selection from the Museum’s vast baseball card collection (yes, they’ll be in protective cases).
In a nod to the long ago tradition that turned thousands of childhood collections from mint to poor, the Hall will have a bicycle wheel with a baseball card in its spokes that visitors can spin. There will also be an opportunity to make your own virtual baseball card through six designs from the past.
“For so many fans, including myself, learning to love the game came directly from our fascination with baseball cards,” said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “Shoebox Treasures transports us back to the thrilling days of opening packs of cards, looking for our favorite players, devouring the gum, and absorbing every morsel of information on them. It’s an exhibit that tells the story behind one of the most effective marketing campaigns ever conceived.”
Hall officials say Shoebox Treasures will examine the beginnings of card production, from cards inserted into packs of tobacco products to the game-changing arrival of Topps as a manufacturer that would become synonymous with bubble gum cards. It will also highlight the court order that opened the market to Fleer, Donruss and later, Upper Deck and the rise in popularity that saw new interest in current cards and a meteoric rise in value for vintage cards.
In addition to baseball cards from the Museum’s collection, Shoebox Treasures will also feature cards provided through the PWCC Marketplace trading card vault.
Admission to the exhibit will be included with regular Hall of Fame admission.