History of Women in Sport’s Trading Cards

Women in Sports Cards

Date: Jun 18, 2024
Author: Michael Terry
Topics: 2024 Topps Series 2 Baseball, Baseball, Cards and Culture, Giants, Michael Terry, MLB, Rachel Foden, Ronnie Gajownik, San Francisco, San Francisco Giants, Women in Sports Cards
Length: 944 Words
Reading Time: ~5 Minutes

Last week’s release of the 2024 TOPPS Series 2 Baseball included the first-ever insert set devoted entirely to women in the game. “Women In Baseball” is a 5-card set featuring Alyssa Nakken, an assistant coach for the San Francisco Giants, who is the first full-time female coach in MLB history, Ronnie Gajownik, current bench boss for Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles, Rachel Foden, first female coach in Chicago Cubs‘ organization history, Jessica Mendoza, noted ESPN reporter and television analyst, and Veronica Alvarez, the manager of the U.S. women’s national team. TOPPS Senior V.P. of product Clay Luraschi told MLB.com, “We have featured a number of female coaches and execs, but this is the first time where it’s come together as part of a subset within a product,” Luraschi said. “There has always been some presence in the front office, but you’re just seeing it more on the field, and not just at the Major League level. Women are playing a bigger part in this game, so it made so much sense and is probably long overdue.” To mark the occasion, let’s look back at the long and storied history of women’s sports trading cards.

By the late nineteenth century, many cigarette manufacturers were using trade cards as pack-stiffeners and often featuring images of athletes. A noteworthy example is from 1887 when cigarette company W.S. Kimball released a “Champions of Games and Sport” series featuring well-known female boxer Hattie Stewart. 

Champions of Games and Sports series N184 Hattie Stewart

Fast forward over four decades, and it is fitting that one of the iconic cards in women’s sports history belongs to a true icon herself. Dominant multi-sport athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who won two gold medals in track, and is the only athlete to win Olympic medals in running, throwing, and jumping events. She also won 10 golf majors as her celebrity grew throughout the 40’s and 50’s. For good measure, she also pitched four innings in MLB spring training games. Her 1933 card was released by American chewing gum company Goudey, and featured Babe in a hurdle stride. As part of its famous Sports Kings set, Goudey released her card alongside the likes of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Jim Thorpe.

1933 Goudey Sport Kings Gum #45 Babe Didrikson Zaharias

In the baseball world itself, while the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which ran from 1943 to 1954 and was the subject of the Hollywood hit “A League of Their Own,” did not have cards released during its existence, multiple commemorative sets were released through the 1990s. 

It is impossible to speak to the evolution of women’s sports trading cards without mentioning the influence of Sports Illustrated for Kids, which, beginning in 1989, included a page of nine perforated cards in each issue. These included an array of female athletes, such as USA soccer legend Mia Hamm, whose 1992 card is still highly sought-after, selling in 2021 for $34,440.. A card put out by S.I. for Kids 1999 is the first ever to showcase tennis great Serena Williams, one of which sold for auction in 2022 for $117,000.

1992 Sports Illustrated for Kids #71 Mia Hamm 

Indeed, no female athlete has had a stronger grip on the women’s sports trading card market than the 23-time grand slam winner. Her 2003 NetPro International Series Apparel Autograph card went for $266,400. The three most valuable women’s cards of all-time feature Serena. Next on the list is fellow tennis star Naomi Osaka, whose 2020 TOPPS Transcendent Tennis Hall of Fame Collection framed autograph card went for almost $40,000 in 2021. Williams also appears in the 2008 Allen & Ginter’s set from TOPPS, which includes autographed copies. The print was limited to 190 in total, with a Red parallel of only 10. Williams’ card is a rare crossover within the popular Allen & Ginter set, which primarily features baseball. 

TOPPS has also followed decorated gymnast Simone Biles throughout her glorious career. The most spectacular athlete in the history of her sport, Biles’ cards have long captivated collectors. Biles made her TOPPS debut in 2016 as #38 in the U.S. Olympic Team set, including an autographed card, as well as a Gold Rainbow 1 of 1. The card features a famous image of Biles’ taking a bite of a gold medal. 

Women of Topps

When it comes to women’s cards, however, the future is now and history is being made as we collect. Recently, Bowman’s University Chrome has begun to release cards for basketball stars such as Ailyah Boston, Paige Bueckers, and of course, the supernova herself, Caitlin Clark. The cultural phenomenon and top pick in this year’s WNBA draft, Clark’s 2022 Bowman Chrome University Superfractor sold for $78,000 in late January. This smashed the record for a women’s basketball card, leaping well ahead of Diana Turasi’s 2004 Ultra Platinum Medallion card, which sold for $11,500 earlier this year.

While there’s no doubt that Clark has top-billing in the world of women’s trading cards, the increased attention that she and the entire next wave of women in sports are garnering should make a deep and enduring impact on the industry. With television deals improving, the hot-take economy finally giving year-round credence to women’s sports, and women athletes worldwide attracting millions of dollars from brands and marketers, the card industry will be in tow. With Clark exiting the NCAA stage, the likes of Bueckers and apparent heir-in-waiting JuJu Watkins of USC should keep the market plenty excited. Watkins made her debut in the 2022-2023 Bowman Chrome University set, as well as in the 2023 Topps Chrome McDonald’s All-American set. Both include autographed versions. If Watkins can capitalize on Clark’s impact on the spot, her future, just like

Women in Trading Cards


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