For decades, sports fans have been enamored by the furthest thing from an actual sport: inanimate images of players on a paperboard cutout. Trading cards have become a huge part of the sports memorabilia industry. Did you know that some of the most brilliant minds in history have also had their likeness printed on trading cards?
Before Wikipedia and Baseball Reference, sports fans raced to the store to collect cards filled with statistics on their favorite players. The last thing you would expect to find in your box of Topps cards is the mustachioed face of Albert Einstein. Alas, the Topps “Look N See” special deck of trading cards in 1952 not only includes the notorious physicist but also Alexander Hamilton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Galileo, and William Shakespeare. The special collection of cards included 135 cards and was one of the first non-sports collections from Topps.
Susan Lulgjuraj from Topps said, “Trading cards have been a way for people to connect with sports, entertainment and pop culture. It’s also a great way to record moments and celebrities from throughout history. So it’s been neat looking back through Topps’ archives to see the types of sets created and those that resonated with collectors.”
Sports trading cards were first printed around the time that baseball became a professional sport. Cards would generally come in packs of gum or cigarettes. The most infamous trading card of all, the Honus Wagner T206, was printed during this era. For some people, the cards became a common family interest, passing down boxes or binders of cards for generations. If you get the right card, you could be an overnight millionaire.
Just like the sports cards, the Look N See cards can also fetch a nice sum. They occasionally pop up at sports memorabilia shows. One auction house worker claimed that the cards can sometimes go for $500 each and that a whole set could cost thousands of dollars.