Sports and trading cards, 1952-1996, amassed by card collector Ronald S. Korda. The sports cards are subdivided by sport. Baseball cards, (1952-1996), comprise the vast majority of the sports cards, while football (1968-1996) and hockey (1968-1996) are the two next largest subseries. There are lesser quantities of cards for basketball, and only a few each for all other sports, such as racing, skiing, etc. Non-sports cards cover a large variety of popular culture topics, including motion pictures, television programs, popular music, toys, games, cars and trucks, comics, fantasy art, and many other subjects. Some ephemeral items are also included in the collection, such as sticker albums, posters and programs
Scope and Contents:
This collection is divided into two main series, Series 1, Sports; and Series 2, Non-Sports.
Series 1, Sports, comprises more than 90% of the collection. Within Series 1, the collection is divided into seven subseries:
Subseries 1.1: Baseball;
Subseries 1.2: Football;
Subseries 1.3: Hockey;
Subseries 1.4: Basketball;
Subseries 1.5: Other Sports;
Subseries 1.6: Sports programs, schedules and other paper ephemera; toys, souvenirs and novelty items;
Subseries 1.7: Sports card packaging.
Subseries 1.1 is the largest, with baseball cards making up approximately 70% of the entire Korda collection. Within the first three subseries, the cards are further subdivided into cards in sets, which are sleeved, and cards in packs, which are stored in card-sized boxes. Subseries D and E are in packs only. Both cards in sets and in packs have been arranged alphabetically by manufacturer, and thereunder, chronologically. Within sets, cards are arranged in numerical order by card number. In cases where, for baseball cards, titles of sets were unclear or ambiguous, the reference book Sports Collector's Digest's Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (which in this finding aid will be referred to as Standard Catalog) was used to determine how card sets should be titled. Likewise, in the rare cases in which cards were not numbered within sets, the order used was that given in Standard Catalog. In the case of football and hockey, Beckett's Football Card Monthly and Beckett's Hockey Card Monthly were used as reference guides.
Series 2: Non-Sports, is arranged into twenty three subseries:
Subseries 2.1: Mass Media and Entertainment
Subseries 2.2: Education
Subseries 2.3: Comic Books and Strips
Subseries 2.4: Toys and action figures
Subseries 2.5: Literature
Subseries 2.6: Automotive Themes
Subseries 2.7: Crime and Law Enforcement
Subseries H: Military Topics
Subseries 2.8: Biography
Subseries 2.9: Fine Arts
Subseries 2.10: Adult Themes
Subseries 2.11: Beauty Contests
Subseries 2.12: Video Games
Subseries 2.13: Parodies
Subseries 2.14: Product Advertising
Subseries 2.15: Fantasy Art
Subseries 2.16: Monsters
Subseries 2.17: Card Games
Subseries 2.18: Stickers, patches and tattoos
Subseries 2.19: Toys, games, puzzles, post cards and posters
Subseries 2.20: Pogs, caps and gum wrappers
Subseries 2.21: Oversize of above topics
Subseries 2.22: Non-card items, relating to above topics
Subseries 2.1, Mass media and entertainment, is the largest of the non-sports categories, comprising movies, television and music. Other subseries are similarly subdivided. Unlike the majority of the sports cards, the non-sports cards are stored in small, card-sized cartons, which have been assigned the letters A through DD, and are stored in 4 Paige boxes and 1 document box. They are listed here according to titles of packs.
The collection is divided into two series.
Series 1: Sports
Series 2: Non-sports
Ronald Korda, an employee of NBC television and a man of modest, middle class means, began assembling his card collection in childhood after receiving a pack of cards as a party favor. After that initial inspiration, he began his collecting hobby which was his passion until his death in March, 1996. In the early years of his hobby, he collected baseball cards, later expanding to other sports as well as cards on diverse popular culture topics. Among these topics are films, television, popular music, science and nature, comics and magazines, toys and action figures, games, and products, and in addition to cards, there are stickers, sticker albums, tattoos, gum wrappers, puzzles, games and other novelty items. Numerous foreign issues are included. He amassed his collection by attending cards and collectibles shows and seeking out reputable dealers, and by purchasing factory sets when they became available. He was selective and careful, and in the case of the sports cards, succeeded in acquiring complete sets of virtually every series which he collected. (With the non-sports cards, he tended to collect samples rather than entire sets.) This thoroughness is what makes this collection rare and possibly unique among any card collections in public or private hands. With few exceptions, there are no cards missing, and virtually all are in mint or near mint condition. The Kordas could have sold their collection for a fortune, but felt it important that the collection stay together as a unit. Mr. Korda, in an emotional article entitled "Collections Should Live Forever" written for Baseball Hobby News, referred to his collection as "my card family" and expressed the fear that the family would be split up after he died. He approached the Smithsonian late in 1995. Just days before the Archives Center was to acquire the collection, Mr. Korda died. Finalization of his gift was completed by his wife.
Although baseball and other trading cards date back to the nineteenth century, with some of the earliest accompanying packages of tobacco, they gained great popularity during the Depression with the advent of the bubble gum card. In the post-World War II years, and especially during the prosperous decade of the 1950s, they began to enjoy tremendous popularity, as the technology for producing them improved. The market rapidly expanded, and cards for other sports and other topics became popular, just as competition among manufacturers was heating up. The earliest trading cards accompanied packs of tobacco, but were eventually used to advertise gum, cookies, soft drinks, baked goods, hot dogs, and numerous other products. Card manufacturers, such as Topps, changed card formats with each new set, varying the presentation of statistics, vertical and horizontal orientation, use of action shots, candid shots and portraits, and inclusion of puzzles, games, fold-outs, and other novelties. They also added new features, such as trivia questions, cartoons, and holograms. As the hobby has changed, so have trading cards. Today's glossy, high-tech trading cards bear little resemblance to the tobacco cards of the 19th century or even to the cards produced during the "golden age" of cards in the 1950s. This collection represents a very diverse sampling of the card hobby from the 1950s to the 1990s.
Some card packaging was transferred to the Museum's Division of Cultural History (now Division of Cultural and Community Life).
The entire collection was donated to the Archives Center in April, 1996 by Mr. Korda's widow, Catherine Korda. Some of the card packaging was transferred by the Archives Center to the Division of Cultural History.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270
Use of this collection by researchers requires compliance with security procedures more stringent than those required for other collections in the Archives Center. This is due to the high value and rarity of some of the items in this collection. Autographed items, and cards valued at higher than $300 by Standard Catalog and Beckett's are stored separately, and may be seen only with special permission from the Reference Archivist, and then only in cases (such as photography or scanning) where it is deemed a necessity.
Color photocopies have been placed in sleeves where these items would normally be stored. When using card boxes, only six at a time may be requested from the Reference Archivist, and unlike other collections, may not be reserved in advance (i.e., on each separate research visit, a researcher must request boxes only for that visit.)
Card sleeves may be taken out of the binders for photocopying only with the permission and the supervision of the Archives Center staff. Cards may not be taken from sleeves, except with the permission and supervision of Archives Center staff. This may involve making advance arrangements with the Archives Center staff. These procedures are necessary for the preservation of this exceptional collection in perpetuity.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Ronald S. Korda Collection of Sports and Trading Cards, 1952-1996, Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Gift of Catherine Korda.
The enormous task of rehousing and processing this collection was enabled by a generous grant from the Smithsonian Research Resources Program in 1997, which made possible the purchase of large quantities of extremely specialized supplies.