Good Sports: 'Art of Selling Bubblegum' at Fresno Art Museum

The collection has been broken into four categories: sports, entertainment, history and war.

Alec Nolan Image
Friday, March 22, 2024
Good Sports: 'Art of Selling Bubblegum' at Fresno Art Museum
When you walk into the Fresno Art Museum, you'll find the "Art of Selling Bubblegum."

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When you walk into the Fresno Art Museum, you'll find the "Art of Selling Bubblegum."

"We started talking about this exhibition pre-pandemic," says curator Sarah Vargas.

It's an exhibition featuring hundreds of vintage Bowman baseball cards ranging from the 1930s and 50s.

"Old guys like me who collected cards when they were kids, and now, their kids aren't interested in their cards, so they don't know what to do with them," says Jeff Jaech.

Jaech founded the American Baseball Card Museum, a non-profit he runs out of his house to bring in old trading cards.

"Kids did not know what the players looked like, so getting the cards, you get to see what they looked like," Jaech said.

For the past four years, he's been putting together his Bowman collection for display at the museum.

"Once you started diving into it and doing the research, you realized it's not really outside of the realm of an art museum at all," Vargas said.

The collection has been broken into four categories: sports, entertainment, history and war.

"Well, it ties into that nostalgia -- it is a reminder of times gone by," Vargas said.

Outside of baseball cards featuring hall of famers like Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays, you'll find the most gripping deck: "The Horrors of War."

"Some of the cards were used as propaganda," Vargas said.

The process of getting these cards was a little different than you might think.

"Because they were coveted, because they were collectibles, people would buy more bubblegum," Vargas said.

With the invention of bubblegum in 1928, Bowman's Gum Inc. dominated the market by offering a stick of gum and a pack of cards for just a few cents.

"They became the selling point for the gum itself," Vargas said.

That craving for a piece of gum decades ago has opened a door into history.

For now, the museum will keep the exhibit open through the end of June, hoping to share a slice of American pop culture with the Central Valley.

"I haven't figured out what my next one will be yet, but I'll come up with something else, too," Jaech said.

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