This column is a quick look at the fanciful, colorful and esoteric collecting genre of Victorian era sports trade cards, die cuts and scraps.
Trade cards were freebie cards used as advertisement. Unlike with premiums, supplements and inserts, they weren’t directly tied to the sale of a product– meaning you didn’t have to buy something to get them or otherwise pay for them. They were the trading card equivalents of fliers.
Trade Cards come in many forms, but are most commonly on thin stock and made in colorful lithography, called chromolithography. Trade cards were marketed for kids, so will have wonderful, fanciful and often cartoonish designs. Kids collected sport and non-sport trade cards and pasted them into scrap books. Many of these scrapbooks are found on the market, often with a mixture of sport and non-sport trade cards. Sports subjects makes up only a small portion of trade cards, with trade cards depicting everything from animals, cartoons, fairy tales and nature.
There are hundreds of different sports trade cards out there, from nationally distributed to small town locals. Many have yet to be discovered, so keep your eyes on the lookout at antique stores and auctions.
The following is just a small sampling of baseball and other sports trade cards to give you an idea why they were, and still are, popular collected.
Scraps and Die-Cuts
‘Scraps’ were small die cut pieces of paper, resembling scraps of paper. They were colorful, often embossed and pictured everything from animals to fairies to princesses to sports athletes. Scraps were popularly collected by 1800s kids and put in scrapbooks.
Scraps first appeared in the early 1800s as black-and-white engravings. By the 1820’s scraps had become more elaborate and were sometimes embossed. Many scraps were produced made Germany, where bakers used them to decorate cakes.
By the mid 1800s, scraps were brightly colored via chromolithography and usually embossed. They were sold commercially is sheets, with the individual figures meant to be popped out. These pre-cut scraps were connected by small strips of paper to keep them in place.
Scraps are usually easy to authenticate, because they are usually embossed and the fronts are usually super glossy on front and matte on back. As they were often pasted into scrapbooks, the backs often have brown woodglue remnants along with paper loss or remnants.