Baseball card sizes varied over the years, but if you’re asking how big are baseball cards, you’re probably thinking of the most common size. The most common size for baseball cards is 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches, the same size as a wallet-size photograph.
Common baseball card sizes
Baseball card sizes varied quite a bit over the years, but here are some of the most popular sizes.
- 1957 to present: 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches
- 1952-1956 Topps and 1953-1955 Bowman: 2 5/8 inches by 3 3/4 inches
- 1930s Goudey, Diamond Stars and Play Ball: 2 3/8 inches by 2 7/8 inches
- Tobacco cards: 1 7/16 inches by 2 5/8 inches
Many of the most iconic baseball cards of the ages, however, are something other than the now-standard 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches. None of the so-called Big Three cards in the hobby are that size, and neither is the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle.
Reasons for the sizes
Topps reduced the size of its cards in 1957 for financial reasons. Topps’ three-year battle with Bowman for three years for the hearts, minds, and pennies of school-aged boys was expensive for both companies, and after Topps won, it wanted to cut costs and increase profits. So Topps made the cards smaller, and the designs became less ambitious.
Topps introduced its bigger size in 1952 for competitive reasons. Bowman issued cards that were smaller than modern cards in 1951 and 1952, so Topps decided to try to counter with a large-format card. It even touted the size of the card right on the package. It worked. The 1952 Topps set was a runaway success and Topps outsold Bowman every year, even when Bowman countered by adopting the same size and introducing some really good designs of its own.
I don’t think anyone knows why Goudey settled on its 2 3/8″x2 7/8″ format, which is only slightly smaller than modern cards. But undoubtedly it became the standard due to Goudey’s runaway success in 1933. Diamond Stars and Play Ball gave Goudey a real run for its money in the mid and late 1930s. but I think that’s because they did a better job of market research and reaction than Goudey did.
Tobacco cards served a dual purpose and that was the reason for the size. The cards served to stiffen the package they came in, as well as the marketing purpose. So the cigarette package determined the size of the card.
How big are baseball cards? There’s always a reason for the size.