HISTORY - Major League teams began producing photo postcards for their players in the 1940's and
early 50's. This was a relatively inexpensive way for the players to honor autograph requests through the
mail. The St. Louis Browns, the Orioles' predecessors, were one of the first teams to do this. When the
team moved to Baltimore in 1954, they continued the practice. The postcards that the team issued from
1954 to 1956 were black and white with a glossy finish (Real Photo postcards). The Orioles dropped the
postcard-style back in favor of a blank back sometime in 1956. These blank backed cards are also known
as photo-cards. Most of the postcards found from the fifties and early sixties are autographed. Players
continued to sign and mail the postcards out throughout the sixties and into the seventies. It appears that the
a combination of higher postage rates and a much larger volume of autograph requests, made the practice
of sending out postcards too expensive for the players in the late sixties and early seventies. It was around
this time that players began only honoring requests that had a self-addressed stamped envelope. Even though
very few of the postcards from the seventies were ever mailed out without being placed inside an envelope,
the Orioles started using a postcard-style back again in 1981. This continued through 1991 and with late
season call-ups even today. I have never seen a postcard from the 1980s or 90's that was actually mailed out.
With the move to Camden Yards in 1992, the postcard-size photos beagn using message backs.
FOR SALE - Several of the early postcards can also be found with a handwritten note on the back "Additional photos 10 cents each". Some of the pioneer collectors, such as Dan Even and Bob Thing wrote to the Orioles and all other Major League teams during the early years requesting the current year's set. Forty years later they are still writing the teams each year. In 1970, the team changed to a color postcard. The 1971 and 1972 Orioles Yearbooks had an ad offering the "Full Color Postcard Size Player Photographs" for 10 cents each or $2.50 for the entire set of 30. The Baltimore Orioles Publishing Department continues to sell the postcards (as a team set) via mail today ($12.00) and on occasions at the Camden Yards concession stands.
What was issued - The team has always produced their postcards on an "as needed" basis. If they felt that they had enough PCs of a player left over from the previous year, a new PC would not be produced. You could have 5 people order the current year's set at the same time and more than likely each person would receive a different group of postcards. You would probably get all players that were currently with the team but some of the PCs may be two or three years old. Another person may get current PCs for those players but older ones for others. At the end of each year's listing is a list of "Other possibilities". These were players that played for the Orioles during that year but there no PCs were issued that we know of.
Uncut Sheets - Team issued postcards are made on large poster size sheets. The 1991 uncut sheet has a total of 42 postcards on the sheet. All "regular issued" player postcards for that year are on the sheet plus double prints of Ben McDonald, Elrod Hendricks, Dave Johnson, Cal Ripken Jr. and a blank "Official Orioles Autograph Card". The Orioles Bird PC is printed 6 times at the bottom of the sheet. All double prints on this sheet appear to be the exact same photo. Several of the double printed PCs on the 1987 uncut sheet have cropping differences between each PC. The Orioles usually produce there main group of postcards around the end of June of each year. They will also produce smaller groups at the beginning of the year (for players signing at the Orioles Winter Carnival, etc.) and for late season callups. Sometimes the early or late season PCs are black and white only. Posters of the 1979 and 1983 Championship teams were produced that look very similar to uncut sheets. These posters were the same thickness as an uncut sheet of postcards but the posters have a title across the top and only one PC of each player is displayed. The backs of these posters were blank.