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An article about collecting sporting cards as appeared in 442 The Ultimate Football Magazine September 2011.


We reproduce here the part of the article by Paul Brown with permission of Paul and 442 The Ultimate Football Magazine, which tells a version of the history of Baines Football cards.

Football cards were first produced in England in 1887 by Bradford toy-shop owner John Baines. Baseball cards had been traded in the US since the 1860’s and other types of collectable cards were popular in Europe but Baines was the self-styled “sole inventor and originator of the famous packet of football cards” – he even obtained a royal patent. He also produced rugby and cricket cards and eventually covered pretty much every sport, from horse racing to bowls. It was football that made his name and saw him trade under the title of “The Football Card King”

The shield-shaped cards featured colourful depictions of teams and kits and sometimes drawings of popular players at a time when photographs of footballers were scarce.

Flicking through Baines collections reveals some real gems, including cards for clubs that no longer exist. Anyone remember Imperial Rovers and their star player W Hamilton?. What about Manchester Rangers or Heckmondwike Casuals? There are also cards for Newton Heath and East End, the clubs that respectively became Manchester United and Newcastle United.

                Baines himself was something of a Willy Wonka figure, operating from a “Doll’s Hospital” on Bradford’s North Parade and drumming up frenzied demand for his products via ingenious promotions , including hidden gold medal cards that could be exchanged for prizes. Eager Victorian kids would queue up outside confectioners for the new deliveries of Baines cards, which were distributed around the country in an intricately-liveried carriage pulled by a horse with a monkey on its back.

                Inevitably, as the popularity of football cards soared, competitors arrived on the scene but Baines dominated the market. At the peak of their popularity Baines was printing millions of cards each year but good condition examples are relatively scarce today, largely because Victorian kids damaged them playing a popular game called ‘skaging’ which involved flicking the flimsy things against a wall. They now fetch upto £60 each on Ebay.

” Even the most recent ones will be more than 85 years old now” – Says James Petty of Bainesfootballcards.co.uk. “There seems to be quite a few around but nothing compared to the 20 million produced".

Paul has a new book out about Victorian Football. Details about the book and a flavour of Victorian football can be found at