Sunday, June 24, 2012

more Farming trade cards

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Collecting Advertising trade cards

Starting in about the 1860's manufacturers began producing and giving away millions of trade cards. The front would have an attractive picture, almost always in color, and the back would have an advertising slogan and often the name of the local store where the product could be purchased.

The cards were intended for consumers, but they became very popular with children. The cards were collected and traded by children. Often even adults had their own collection, some going so far as to paste the cards in albums to show off to friends.

The fad died down around the turn of the century, when there were more ways to advertise, but the cards themselves are still collected by some people, but now more for their historical interest than for any other reason.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Origin of Baseball Cards

Baseball cards started from advertising trade cards. These small color cardboard designs were used to promote products and businesses and were extremely popular. The cards were avidly collected, especially by children. The cards were made of cardboard and were a little bigger than playing cards.

On the front side was a color image that might have a little bit of advertising on it. On the back of the card was were the bulk of the text was written. Usually the name of the product, its uses and where it could be purchased. Some stores also had their own cards and they would list address and available products on the back.

When baseball became popular, after the Civil War, images of the game and players started to appear in the ads. The cards didn’t necessarily have anything to do with baseball, the ads usually included whatever was popular at the time whether or not it had anything to do with the product.

In 1868 the first trade cards that advertised baseball related items were produced. Pick and Synder, a sporting goods store in New York started to produce trade cards featuring teams. These were not exactly baseball cards; the images were of teams not individual players.

By the mid 1880’s cigarette manufacturer, Old Judge Tobacco started putting images of individual players in their cigarette packs. Cardboard was put in the packs anyway, to strengthen the package, so they might as will put ads on them. The cards proved quite popular and were soon included in chewing tobacco products as well. Piedmont, Polar Bear and other cigarette makers soon followed suit. Cards were also an early prize in Cracker Jack boxes.

So baseball cards were actually popular before there was professional baseball. The cigarette cards continued until the 1920’s. In 1933 baseball cards reappeared, but this time not with cigarettes. The cards were packaged with bubble gum, first by the Goudey Gum Co. Their first set of cards included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The cards included a picture of a player and baseball information, but not stats .

The additional player information wasn’t added to the cards until 1952, but even before then they were widely collected. There was a lull during WWII, when the cards were unavailable due to wartime restrictions. But after the war, Bowman Gum, Leaf Candy Company and Topps Gum Company started reissuing cards.

Leaf quickly stopped producing cards ,but Bowman was very popular in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. But Topps eventually bought out Bowman and offered the most popular cards. All Star cards were first issued in 1958 and Record Breakers cards in 1975.

You may not think of baseball cards as big business but they certainly are. Topps had a virtual monopoly on cards and other card manufacturers had to sue to get access to the players, most of whom were under exclusive contract to Topps. Since Topps lost the lawsuit other brands have produced cards and baseball cards are still avidly collected. Topps also produces cards for other sports.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I must confess the only gambling I do is playing Bingo. Its low pressure, you can talk to you friends or snack while playing and there is always a winner. Personally, I play for fun, but if you are serious about it, you can make some big money at Bingo Halls or online.

Bingo is probably a continuation of the Italian National Lottery, that started in 1530. Through the years it was played in many different areas , under many different names. Some of the commoner names were lotto, lucky,radio, fortune,keno, beanor,pokeno or housey-housey. Early games were pretty much like a lottery, later in France the game took its present day form, with the addition of cards, token, and a person calling out numbers.

In the early 1920’s, Hugh J Ward standardized the rules of Bingo, for play at traveling carnivals. He copyrighted the name and wrote a rule book in 1933. In 1929, Edwin S. Lowe, a toymaker, visited a carnival in Georgia. He watched some fair visitors playing Beano and thought it was interesting. He made his won cards and bought some little prizes. Lowe then gathered some friends to play in Brooklyn. A girl who won yelled out “Bingo!” and the game was complete. Lowe went out to make millions of game cards.

The game is played on medium sized cards, that are shaped like a grid ,5 across by 5 down, with numbers in every square, except the center square, which is free. As the numbers are called out, players place token on the numbers called.

The odds in bingo are pretty good. Chances of winning a particular game have been are about the same as the numbers of cards in play, someone wins every game, since it is played until someone yells out “Bingo!” Odds of winning a particular evening are probably about 7 to 1. The really high odds, about 1,700,000 to 1 are against the first 5 numbers producing a winning card.

Bingo is played in casinos and gaming halls, but some of the best games are at fraternal and church halls. These games typically only run once or twice a week and the money goes to fund good works. This make Bingo more respectable than other gambling and often game is legal in areas where other gambling is not. I would play at the American Legion and I never won, but it was a nice evening out for not very much money. I played maybe 6 cards at a time, but I had friends who played 30 at a time. I didn’t have a lucky object, but some people did. So if you go, don’t be surprised if people have to touch each card with a Troll doll, rabbit’s foot or 4 leaf clover. Its just part of the game.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Word Square was a popular word game for a number of years, a word was spelled out the same horizontally as vertically. This was the forerunner to the modern crossword puzzle.

In the 19th century, the English developed a sort of cross word puzzle, which was somewhat popular, but nowhere near as popular as the word game proved to be in America. In December, 1913, the first crossword puzzle appeared in a supplement to the Sunday New York World. The puzzles soon started appearing regularly in newspapers, including regularly in the Sunday New York WorLd. The puzzles uses interlocking words both across and down.

In 1924, Simon and Schuster teamed up with the puzzle creators at the New York World to develop a crossword puzzle book. The book came with a pencil attached to the book with a string and was immediately a great hit.

Crossword puzzles were one of the great fads of the 1920's and increased the sales of dictionaries and Roget's Thesaurus enormously. Today, the fad is over, but crossword still appear in most American newspapers and puzzle books sell well every month.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012



The invention of the electric trains was a lucky accident. Toy trains arrived soon after the advent of the railroad. Wind-up mechanical trains were available in the 1850’s. But it wasn’t until 1902 that an electric train became popular with children. Joshua Lionel Cowan was trying to create an exciting display in a New York store window. Just to catch the customer’s eye, Cowan made a crude electric train with a cheese box on wheels hooked up to an electric motor. The train ran on some tracks hauling around some of the sale goods. He named the train the Electric Express, and it was just an advertising gimmick.


But customers paid more attention to the little wooden train than they did to its cargo. Soon a customer bought the exhibit train and Cowan realized he had a hit. Cowan soon founded the Lionel Manufacturing Company to make his electric Lionel trains. There were electric trains already on the market, but they ran on limited life batteries and were not under the child’s control. They just turned it on and it went on its own. Cowan was an electrical engineer and he figured out how to run the train on current. He invented a multivolt transformer that reduced house current down to a safer 20 volts. He also invented a controller so children could control the speed and stop and start the train on their own. In later years, the train could reverse and the whistle would blow.

The company quickly became successful, despite the competition from German electric train manufacturers. Germans were renowned for making the best toys, but the WWI changed that. Now Lionel had a chance to not just be one of many manufacturers, but the dominant company in toy trains. By 1921, sales were well over 800,000 a year.

But the Depression hurt his business, his trains were fairly expensive. He was able to continue the business, but the sales were less than the prosperous 1920’s. The company made no trains during WWII, due to wartime shortages of metal.


In 1946 Lionel trains were back on the market. Sales of the train topped 10 million dollars that year and they kept rising each year. By 1953, every little boy wanted a Lionel train and most fathers bought them. Sales were 33 million per year by 1953. The train was successful partially because of advertising. The theme in most of the ads was father and son working together to run the railroad. Lionel Train can “make a Boy feel like a Man and a Man feel like a Boy.”

Undoubtedly many girls played with the trains but this was a boys toy. Lionel did put out a train for girls in the 1950’s called the Lady Lionel, with a pink engine and pastel boxcars. It was not a success. If a girl wanted a train, she wanted the classic Lionel, not a cut little pink one.

After the train was bought, fathers could still buy many accessories including more track, new cars, and stations. For a number of years Lionel was the king of trains, but new companies started offering smaller, cheaper trains and boys fell in love with new toys, such as toy cars. The company changed ownership and was never a dominant part of the toy market after the 1950’s. But Lionel Trains still exist, now they are less of a children’s toy and more of a collectable for adults.