Ah, the sweet memories of collecting baseball cards as a child: opening packs, hoping to get your favorite player this time, and eagerly peeling back the wrappers to see what was inside. But have you ever stopped to wonder why certain classic aspects of baseball card collecting seem to be disappearing?
Card companies stopped putting gum in packs of baseball cards because it was expensive, stained easily, and took up too much space within card packs. As a result, production costs rose significantly. Card companies started marketing baseball cards as collectibles and didn’t need to add gum anymore.
This article will go into more detail about the reasons why card companies stopped putting gum on cards altogether and if gum will ever come back inside packs, so let’s find out!
5 Reasons Baseball Cards No Longer Have Gum
There are several reasons why companies stopped including gum in baseball cards, including the changes in consumer preferences, costs involved, and quality control. There was also a significant shift in how manufacturers marketed baseball cards as the consumers changed from children to collectors.
Let’s explore these reasons in more detail below.
Change in Consumer Preferences
In the early days of baseball cards, trading card companies used to include chewing gum inside packs as an incentive for consumers to purchase them.
It made perfect sense from a marketing standpoint—what kid didn’t love bubblegum? Plus, including gum was also a great way to keep the entire pack smelling fresh and ensure that the trading cards were in pristine condition when they arrived in stores.
But as generations passed and consumer tastes changed, manufacturers began noticing that people weren’t buying their products just for the gum anymore.
Many buyers found it annoying since it took up valuable space in the packs and made them heavier than they needed to be. As a result, manufacturers stopped including gum in their baseball card packs altogether.
What Does This Change Indicate?
This change marked a shift away from targeting children as consumers—something that had been done for years—towards appealing to adult collectors instead.
Manufacturers took items seen as childish (chewing gum) and replaced them with more high-end items (like autographed cards or memorabilia). Shifting focus in this way allowed manufacturers to show buyers that their products were now more sophisticated and aimed at older people with more money.
The Gums Were Spoiling the Cards
Unfortunately, gum was staining the cards and making them worthless, which is another reason these gums were phased out. Let’s take a look back at this unique piece of collectible history.
In 1933, gum maker Goudey Gum Company included sticks of gums in their baseball card packs. The sticks of gum created an exciting incentive for kids to buy the packs, as they were given not only the chance to get their favorite players but also a delicious treat.
The trend caught on, and other companies followed suit; eventually, almost every set of cards came with some form of chewing gum.
The Unfortunate Staining Problem
Unfortunately, collectors soon noticed that when their cards were exposed to the gum residue for a long time, they became discolored and could no longer be sold. As a result, companies began phasing out the inclusion of gum in their sets in the late 80s & 90s.
When Topps first began producing baseball cards in 1951, they came with gum packs included.
The inclusion of gum was a novel idea at the time, and it became a hallmark of Topps’ brand for decades. Over time, Topps started to realize that gum was too expensive to include with their product.
In addition to being expensive, there were other drawbacks as well.
For one thing, the gum would often stick together and become unusable after just a few weeks on store shelves.
The sticking and staining caused by gum meant that customers were getting subpar products without even knowing it until they got home and opened up the pack. Furthermore, some customers found chewing gum objectionable and viewed its inclusion as an unwelcome surprise.
So in 1991, Topps decided to change—they stopped putting gum with their baseball cards altogether. The company cited customer feedback as the primary motivator behind this change, but cost considerations were also important.
While loyal fans of Topps may have been disappointed when they realized that their beloved gum had been removed from packs of cards in 1991, it was for a good reason.
The cost savings allowed Topps to continue making quality products without having to pass on additional costs to consumers! As such, card collectors will likely not see another era of gums included with their purchases anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean they won’t love opening up their packs just as much (maybe even more) now!
Marketing and Branding
In recent years, manufacturers of baseball cards have focused on marketing their products as collectibles rather than as a means of chewing gum. This shift in branding may have contributed to the decline of gum in baseball card packs. So what caused this big shift away from gum?
The Decline of Gum in Baseball Cards
As we’ve discussed, manufacturers began shifting away from including gum in their packs and instead focusing on marketing their products as collectibles rather than merely snacks.
As elaborated above, there were many reasons why gum was left out of baseball packs. But the change meant that customers had to pay for the cards without getting anything else in return.
However, it also allowed manufacturers to raise their prices without sacrificing sales. The cards were marketed on their own merits rather than as a two-for-one, fun cards with a sweet deal. The focus on the cards was accompanied by a corresponding change in the branding of the product as well.
A Change in Branding
This shift away from including gum was also accompanied by a change in branding for baseball card companies. Rather than emphasizing the snacking aspect of the product, manufacturers started positioning their products as valuable collectibles that could increase in value over time.
This shift in marketing was a clever approach that paid off handsomely for many companies, thanks to the rising demand for vintage memorabilia.
Moreover, this new branding helped make baseball cards desirable items again and increased their perceived value among collectors. Collectors became willing to pay more for them even without the bonus of gum.
Companies could boost sales and profits by changing how these products were shown to customers and putting more emphasis on their collectible value.
The change also allowed manufacturers to keep their loyal customer base, comprising mostly collectors who liked having something unique and valuable at their disposal. The change in the customer demographic also meant that companies could charge more because people would be willing to pay more for their hobbies than for a sweet for their kids.
Quality Control Issues
Gum can be prone to drying out or losing flavor over time, which can be a problem for manufacturers who want to ensure that their products are high-quality.
Many companies decided to leave the gum out of their packages so they wouldn’t have to deal with any problems that gum could cause. Removing the gum allowed them to maintain the high standards they’ve set for their products while ensuring that their customers are satisfied.
No More Bubble Gum Fun
Of course, this also means that baseball card collectors no longer get the fun little bonus of bubble gum in their packages.
While this may seem like a minor inconvenience, it’s been a major disappointment for those who grew up collecting cards with bubble gum in each pack. Many people look back fondly on opening a new pack of cards and enjoying the sweet treat inside as well!
Will We See Gum Make a Comeback?
Gum was an integral part of buying baseball cards back in the day, but now it is almost nonexistent in modern packs due to the rise of guaranteed hits and special limited edition cards.
With all those extra incentives already present within each pack, companies simply don’t need to offer additional rewards like they used to back in the day. There is no need to offer sweets like chewing gum in the packet when the target customers are adult collectors who don’t need to be incentivized to purchase the cards.
It is highly unlikely that we will ever see gum return to baseball card packs anytime soon. Companies know that they don’t need to include it anymore because the special rare cards do enough to attract buyers without any additional incentives.
While we may never see gum return inside these packs again anytime soon, the excitement of opening a pack never changes!
Today’s baseball card market is vastly different from what it was ten years ago. Gone are when consumers bought packs just because they came with chewing gum.
Today’s buyers prefer more valuable items, such as autographed cards or cut signatures. This evolution demonstrates how quickly consumer preferences can change over time—and serves as a reminder that companies must always stay ahead of these trends if they want to remain successful!