The post-war years of 1948 to 1955 ushered in the modern era of baseball cards. It was the result of what Dean Hanley describes in his new book, The Bubble Gum Card War, as "the perfect storm."
With the end of World War II, rationing also came to end. Bubble gum manufacturing came back in full production. The key ingredients to make the sugary treat were, once again, readily available.
This factor combined with the post-war baby boom, the growing popularity of America's pastime, an influx of extraordinary young talent and the creative visions of Warren Bowman and Sy Berger. All of this culminated in a competitive playing field for the nickels of American boys. The result was a truly American tale, The Bubble Gum Card War.
Dean Hanley, author of this compelling tale, is the owner of Deans Cards, an online store with an inventory of over a million cards. His specialty is the vintage market. Hanley's knowledge and expertise have lent themselves to numerous articles and other books throughout his storied hobby career.
In his latest offering, Hanley documents, in rich detail, the fascinating story of the birth of a hobby that was born out of the competitive spirit and capitalistic ideals of the Bowman Gum Company and the Topps Gum Company.
The text on the back cover of the book brilliantly captures the subject matter:
It's more than just gum. In 1951, Bowman's short-lived baseball card monopoly was broken by Topps and the great Bubble Gum Card War was in full swing. Consumers almost always benefit from competition in the marketplace and card collectors were no exception during the Bubble Gum Card War.
The result was the birth and rapid evolution of the modern baseball card.
Each spring during the years 1952 to 1955, American boys had their choice between two great sets of baseball cards. The boys would cast their votes for their favorite issue of the year by sliding nickels across the counter of America's dime-st0res to purchase baseball cards from either Topps or Bowman.
These wonderful Topps and Bowman Sets of the early 1950ís sparked the addiction of an entire generation of boys to the hobby of collecting baseball cards. By the end of the decade, 89% of American boys would be collection baseball cards.
The battle between Topps and Bowman, for control of the baseball card market became known as ìThe Great Bubble Gum Card War.
This contest was fought with such ferocity that shortly after the war began it became clear that only one company would be left standing at the conclusion of hostilities.
The winner would take all.
Beyond documenting the birth of the modern baseball card, the book serves as an excellent resource for vintage collectors. It examines, in detail, the intricacies and nuances of such legendary sets as 1951 Bowman Baseball and 1952 Topps Baseball. The entrepreneurial spirit was played out in real life between Sy Berger of Topps and Warren Bowman as they took what was once a vehicle to sell gum, to selling the cards themselves.
Through out the book, Hanley provides insight that even expert collectors may not be aware of, including but not limited to:
- How Topps being headquartered in New York and Bowman in Philadelphia greatly influenced the outcome of the baseball card landscape.
- How Leaf Cards of Chicago was bullied out of the market and in doing so missed the opportunity to which Topps was able to capitalize upon.
- 1951 Red Backs are so much more plentiful than Blue Backs.
- How sexual discrimination played a huge part in the outcome of the war.
The Bubble Gum Card War is a must read for any collector.
Regardless of whether you collect vintage cards, the book provides an easy-to-read explanation to the origin of this hobby we have come to love.
Baby boomers had a massive influence on the development of American culture as a whole. Collectors can add baseball cards to that list with thanks and gratitude.