"The 1937 baseball season is now in full swing and the nation's fans are daily cheering their favorite diamond stars. Baseball's heroes come and go, but few people have a better record of the game's great ones than the card collector . . . For Ruth and Gehrig and other present-day celebrities we must turn to the various candy and gum cards issued during the past few years. While intended primarily for the younger fans, they are of equal interest to all who love our national game."
—Jefferson R. Burdick
The more than 30,000 baseball cards collected by Jefferson R. Burdick represent the most comprehensive collection outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The cards also illustrate the history of the game—from the dead-ball era at the turn of the 19th century to the golden age and modern era of the sport. Baseball cards were first used as advertising inserts by tobacco companies beginning in the late 1800s. Burdick's earliest cards were incorporated into a series called Champions of the World, produced by Allen & Ginter Tobacco. These illustrate players like Mike "King" Kelley, "Cap" Anson, and Charles Comiskey. The most magnificent card in the collection is the rare and pristine 1910 Honus Wagner card from the White Border series. Only 57 copies of this card are known to exist because Wagner is believed to have pulled them from the tobacco products, unhappy that they would entice boys to buy the product. Wagner's act may have instigated the shift from the advertising of baseball primarily in tobacco to including the inserts within more youth-friendly gum and candy goods.
Burdick's collection also includes Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Stan Musial, as well as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, and Hank Greenberg, among thousands of other cards. An avid collector, Burdick's albums are exceptional in that they contain full sets such as the famous Bowman Gum series of 1951, which includes Mickey Mantle's rookie card, and Topps's 1953 set highlighting New York Yankees Philip Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Mantle, and Brooklyn Dodgers Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, and Roy Campanella. Burdick compiled the original albums that these cards are kept in by incorporating the baseball cards alongside other contemporary advertising material.
The baseball cards document the sport through varied types of media—from lithography to photography—with imagery illustrating legends as well as the lesser-known players, owners, and teams that have contributed to the history of the game.