Forums & Reference Sites
Vintage Baseball Card Forum – this forum has been running since 2001. Often a good source of information and the only substantial guard against hobby fraud.
Vintage Non-Sports Cards Chat Board – the only non-sports cards forum that covers 19th c. and early 20th c. material.
Old Cardboard is the single best reference site if you want to quickly get the basic information about a set.
There are now far too many auction sites, so I’m not going to list them all here. Old Cardboard has a good events calendar and the “Auction Report” below is similar.
eBay was once the best place to build a collection by far, but it’s now largely a waste of time. Once they idiotically chose to treat collectibles like commodities, they ruined their own thriving business. Look for auctions from sellers PWCC, Probstein123, Just_Collect and a few others. BIN prices from most sellers are fantastically high and don’t reflect what cards actually sell for.
Robert Edward Auction (REA) – Bi-annual and scrupulously honest.
Brockelman Auctions – My choice for most consignments. Charges very low BP of 12.5%, which means sellers get more of the proceeds.
Sterling Sports Auctions – Frequent auctions aimed at collectors. Good replacement for eBay.
BST Auctions – Newer auction house with good material.
Love of the Game Auctions – Well-respected in the hobby.
Auction Report – This site maintains a somewhat complete list of auctions. However, since they charge too much for participation, some auction houses don’t bother to sign up.
I’m glad to add other hobbyists’ sites here, but I won’t add seller sites unless I know them personally.
Vintage Ball – Postcards, real player photos, miscellany, detritus
Vintage Card Reference (non-sport) – Excellent review of 19th c. non-sport sets, with pictures
Boxing Cards – Boxing and more boxing, plus other stuff
19th & 20th Century Cards – extensive vintage card collection
T209 Contentnea Cards 1909-1910 – great overview of the Contentnea sets.
Blue Heaven – all things Dodgers
Number 5 Type Collection – Baseball’s vintage century (1880-1980), one card set at a time
Bailen Cards – Vintage Ohio
Sporting Oregon – Focus on Oregon baseball, but many other great items, as well. No longer online.
Caramel Cards – First and still most informative site on E cards. No longer updated.
Vintage Dodgers cards
List of other collector sites
Books and Magazines
There is a dearth of books pertaining to vintage collecting, so get the few that matter.
The Encyclopedia of Baseball Cards by Lew Lipset. Published in the 80’s and now out of print, this remains by far the most important hobby publication. I’ve referred to it so often that I can now recite some of the sections by heart. Old Cardboard used to have extra copies for sale, but if they don’t you can still find one on eBay, Amazon or Alibris.
American Tobacco Cards by Robert Forbes and Terence Mitchell. A great overview of the “N” and “T” card sets (non-sport and sport), with interesting essays on different aspects of collecting.
The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company 1886-1890, Old Judge by Miller, Masson & Gonsowski. A comprehensive overview of one of the largest and most popular of all baseball card sets issued over several years in the late 19th century. Indispensable.
Picture Postcard History of Baseball by Ron Menchine. Pictures of many rare baseball postcards.
Beckett Baseball Card Alphabetical Checklist. Want to know which sets a player appeared in? This is a critical reference book.
Other relevant books
The Color Explosion: Nineteenth Century American Lithography by Jay T. Last. Not essential for most collectors, but a fabulous book with great detail and pictures of lithography. Out-of-print, but copies can still be found without too much difficulty.
The Trade Card in Nineteenth-Century America by Robert Jay.
Tobacco Advertising: The Great Seduction by Gerard S. Petrone. Great overview of the tobacco industry’s early advertising efforts.