PGA Golf trading cards have had a rocky and up-and-down history. These cards do not have the same value as the big sports cards like football and especially baseball cards, but still have some value with collectors.
The history of golf trading cards is sporadic, especially early on. There were some golf cards produced in the early 1900s while Goudey produced a couple of cards mixed-in with other sports stars in their Sport Kings set in 1933. After this there were pretty much no golf cards produced until about 35 years ago.
The first company that produced a full, mass-produced set of cards was Donruss in both 1981 and 1982. These are the first golf cards that most modern era collectors recognize, so the Donruss golf cards are considered rookie cards for many of golf’s biggest stars, like Nicklaus, Kite, Watson, etc., even though they actually made their debuts years earlier.
Over the next 20 years, PGA Golf trading cards were issued on-and-off. The two companies that issued most of these cards were Grand Slam Ventures and Pro Set. For the most part, these sporadic issuings of cards did not sell well at all.
The first time collectors recognized a set of golf trading cards as being “popular” was in 2001. This was when Upper Deck released their first golf cards. The obvious reason for the sales success of this line is that it contained the Tiger Woods “rookie” card. This is probably the most expensive of the modern golf trading cards, selling for hundreds of dollars depending on the variety and print run. Woods was also included in an earlier set of cards in 1987. This set was issued by Grand Slam Ventures, but because it wasn’t really issued to the masses, some don’t consider it a real trading card. Others believe it’s Tiger’s true rookie card since it dates from his PGA Tour debut.
While Upper Deck’s line was popular at first, they stopped making the cards in 2005. They still have a deal with Tiger to distribute signed memorabilia. Since this time, there has not been a complete set of golf cards mass-produced. Of course, one always hears rumors, and Upper Deck has been the subject of most of these.
There are still some companies that produce a couple of golf trading cards. One of these is Sportkings, in a multi-sport set issued by the founder of In the Game. These runs haven’t been mass produced and do have their fans despite not being mainstream.
PGA Golf trading cards are missing from the card collecting hobby these days and the future probably hinges on the popularity of the sport, which is waning right now because of Woods’ recent problems. If golf has a resurgence, we can probably look forward to some complete sets in the near future.