Girl Power

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to shine a light on some notable female baseball card artists, past and present. I make no claim that my list is exhaustive, so please use the Comments area to let me know about the artists I’m missing.

2021 Topps Project 70

Though Topps seems to shy away from regarding it as a sequel, Project 70 follows in the footsteps of the prior year’s Project 2020 while opening up the selection of players and years and increasing the number of participating artists to 51. Notably, five of the artists in Project 70 are women. Here is the Topps bio of each, along with one of the first two cards released by each artist. (Check back soon for a full-length SABR Baseball Cards interview with Lauren Taylor!)

Brittney Palmer

Claw Money

Distortedd

Lauren Taylor

Sophia Chang

2020 Topps Project 2020

Five female artists out of 51 total may or may not feel like a big number to you, but either way it represents a significant jump from Project 2020, in which Sophia Chang was the lone female creator.

Chang’s cards cracked the coveted 10,000 print run threshold three times, led by Mike Trout at 14,821 and followed closely by Roberto Clemente (12,077) and Willie Mays (10,480).

When Sophia released her debut Project 2020 card, Mariano Rivera, I wondered how many female artists had preceded her. As it turned out, I didn’t have to look back very far.

2019 Montreal Expos

Montreal-based sports artist Josée Tellier, who may well be the world’s biggest Montreal Expos and Andre Dawson fan, created her own set of Expos greats in 2019 to honor the 50th anniversary of the franchise.

While the set was not an official release, her cards spread quickly on social media and became one of the Hobby’s hottest underground releases. Definitely don’t be surprised to see Josée take part in an official Topps product sometime in the future.

2018-present Topps Living Set

The Topps Living Set, which began in 2018 and continues to this day, combines current and former players into a single set based on the 1953 Topps design.

For the first three years of the Living Set, all artwork was done by Japanese artist Mayumi Seto. Beginning this year, Jared Kelley will join the Living Set team and share the artwork duties with Seto.

2016-2018 Various other sets by Topps

As the back of Seto’s 2019 Allen & Ginter card shows, Living Set was not the first baseball card set to feature her artwork.

You can also see her art in at least three other sets: Museum Collection (2016), Transcendent (2018), and Gallery (2018).

2000 Upper Deck

In 2000 the Upper Deck Company, still riding high, held a promotion where collectors could submit their own artwork to be used in the Upper Deck MVP “Draw Your Own Card” subset. Ultimately, 31 cards were chosen, with this Frank Thomas by Joe Dunbar, age 36, leading off the subset. As the card back notes, Mr. Dunbar was one of ten artists in the 15 years and over category.

This particular age category featured three female artists in all: Linda Marcum (age 34), Kat Rhyne (age 23), and Melina Melvin (age 32).

Linda Marcum

Melina Melvin

Kat Rhyne

Alexandra Brunet

The set’s most notable creator–man, woman, or child–was Alexandra Brunet. At age 6, she was the youngest artist in the set, beating out her brother and a few other 8-year-olds by two years, so there’s that. However, Brunet’s card was particularly noteworthy for reasons wholly unrelated to her age.

Where other artists gravitated toward established MLB stars such as Sosa and McGwire (hey, it was 2000!), Alexandra chose instead to feature…herself (!) as the Yankees first basemanwoman of the future.

In lending her artistry to a baseball card set, Alexandra was also continuing a tradition that began at least 25 years before she was born. However, before we get to the oldest cards I’m aware of, we’ll look at some wonderful postcard series issued from 1988-91.

1988-91 Historic Limited Editions

Some of the most attractive cards of the 1980s and early 1990s came from the brush of Susan Rini. Her artwork was featured in multiple series of limited edition (usually 10,000) postcards from the appropriately named Historic Limited Editions brand. The earliest set I’m aware of is a 1988 set of Brooklyn Dodgers (ultimately the first of four Brooklyn Dodger releases), and other work included the 1961 Yankees, 1969 Mets, and various player sets including Nolan Ryan, Thurman Munson, Roberto Clemente, and Lou Gehrig.

Backing up 20 years more, we come to a set that was not only pioneering in terms of “girl power” but also for its place in the history of one of the Hobby’s great enterprises.

1968 Sports Cards for Collectors

The prehistory of TCMA begins with another four-letter acronym, SCFC: Sports Cards for Collectors. While Hobby pioneer and SABR Jefferson Burdick Award Winner Mike Aronstein was the originator and distributor of the 1968 SCFC set, the artwork fell to two other relatives: Mike’s Uncle Myron and Aunt Margie.

Per Mike’s son Andrew Aronstein, the drawings initialed MSA were done by Myron S. Aronstein, and those initialed MA were done by Margie.

Was Aunt Margie the very first female baseball card artist? Our Hobby has a long history, so just about any time the word “first” is used, it ends up being wrong. What I will say is that Margie Aronstein is the first female card artist that I’m personally aware of. I will also offer that the industry is sufficiently male-dominated that any female card artist–first, last, or anywhere in between–is a pioneer of sorts.

The combination of artists and baseball cards is experiencing quite a boom these days. Congratulations to today’s female artists leading the charge and the past artists who paved the way!

Related:

  • Read about photographer and SABR member Donna Muscarella and her baseball card set honoring Hinchliffe Stadium
  • Read about the “Decade Greats” sets issued by megadealer and card producer Renata Galasso

Author: jasoncards

I mainly enjoy writing about baseball and baseball cards, but I've also dabbled in the sparsely populated Isaac Newton trading card humor genre. As of January 2019 I'm excited to be part of the SABR Baseball Cards blogging team, and as of May 2019 Co-Chair of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee.

10 thoughts on “Girl Power”

  1. Interesting story about the SCFC cards . . . I got them in my Christmas stocking in 1968 after pointing out an ad in The Sporting News for the set to my parents, suggesting it would make a really nice Xmas gift. They were beautiful cards, my first Ty Cobb card, first Honus Wagner and so on. I’ve known a little bit about the history of the set, one of the key precursors to the great sets that TCMA produced in the succeeding decades, but I missed the part about Myron and Margie Aronstein splitting the illustration assignments. So, whether or not Margie was the first female baseball card artist, she certainly was a pioneer!

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  2. The Claw Money Seaver is probably my favorite card of Project 70 to date, with the multiple exposure of Seaver’s pitching motion (as well as the player/team selection) a key reason. It’s also easy to pick out the flagship design just from looking at the card. I don’t recall Topps historically producing a lot of multiple exposure cards (I remember it more as an Upper Deck thing), though I think they have at least a few cards like the 1994 Topps Sandberg.

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  3. Did you know that the complete set of 72 supersisters cards is archived in the Jefferson R. Burdick Collection of the Drawings and Prints Department at the Metropolitan Musuem of Art, having been donated by Mr. Burdick as part of his collection?

    https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search#!?q=%22supersisters%22&offset=0&pageSize=0&perPage=80&sortBy=Relevance&sortOrder=asc&searchField=All

    We are biased, but we think supersisters cards should be nominated for a Jefferson Burdick Award if this is happening in 2022!

    We would love to have a sponsor.
    (www.supersisterscards.com)

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      1. Hello Jason,

        I do not know the full history, but in 2019, my mother Lois Rich and I were invited to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to record a segment of what became an award-winning BBC Radio documentary about supersisters (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cszp7y).

        While my mother (now 81) recalled that a set of the cards were provided to the MET in the 1980’s, we did not have the complete story.

        This MET blog (https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2014/supersisters) seems to indicate that the cards were cataloged in 1981 as part of the Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.1)

        The caption under one of the digitized card images says: “Published by Supersisters, Inc. Suzy Chaffee, Supersisters No. 1, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.1)”

        Liz Zanis, author of this blog, was one of our hosts in 2019.

        Melissa Rich
        melissa@supersisterscards.com

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  4. I think the problem with linking Jefferson Burdick to the Supersisters set is the difference between the man and the collection. Jefferson Burdick died in 1963, more than a decade before the Supersisters set was published.

    The story of the Met collection is one known to most serious collectors, how Burdick donated his vast number of cards and insisted that he handle the cataloguing himself. H spent the last several years of his life at a desk at the museum pasting the cards into albums despite the pain he felt in his gnarled hands from chronic arthritis. On Jan. 10, 1963, he finished the last of the albums and announced “I shan’t be back.” He checked into a hospital the next day and died just over two months later.

    Burdick’s collection focused on 19th Century and early 20th Century cards, but the fact that he died 16 years before Supersisters was published makes it fairly obvious he didn’t personally donate that set to the museum. But I would bet that any trading card set that has been donated to the Met since then has been lumped into the Burdick collection, which would explain his name being attached to the item.

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