The history of the New Era Cap Company has been well documented, so we won’t get into that right now. New Era has been the dominant cap maker in Major League Baseball and anything baseball-related for decades, steam-rolling the competition, and now has been the exclusive cap maker for Major League Baseball since 1994 (what monopoly?), after beating out final competitor Sports Specialties Corp.
The oldest New Era cap in my collection is a St. Louis Browns cap circa 1946 to 1949. Don’t ask me how much I paid for it! Anyway, New Era basically used the same tags inside their caps from the early days all the way until 1984. Since then they have changed rapidly, usually about every two years. Now, by tags I mean their manufacturers’ label on the back-center of the sweatband inside the cap, as well as the size tags and what-not.
Let's take a look at the evolution of New Era’s tags from the beginning to the present day. All years are approximate as it’s hard to tell exactly what years they were used, as some may have bled into other years. Special thanks to my friend Adam LeRoy. It was his idea for the blog and he took most of the tag photos from his collection. I filled in the gaps with photos from my collection. If I missed any, please let me know!
Early New Era tags. There is a slight difference between the two; one says “100% WOOL FABRIC, the other says “PERSPIRATION PROOF”. My first instinct was that this had to do with a difference in cap materials, or cloth and leather sweatbands. However, all I can tell you is that this is not the case and I have seen either tag on the same cap with either cloth or leather sweatbands. I never understood the “LOT/PRICE” tags or what they meant, other than having the size on them. Perhaps the caps sent to the teams go marked or written on. Anyone know?
1983 – 1984: Due to Sport Specialties Corp. entering the on-field cap market and becoming the first “licensed” cap company, New Era quickly follows suit and adds the “OFFICIAL LICENSEE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL” tag to their caps.
1985 – 1987: New Era modifies their manufacturers' tag, basically adding a few words. This would be the last tag to grace a New Era cap with a leather sweatband. Cardboard “Diamond Collection” tags attached to the caps in retail stores make their debut. Sports Specialties gets them as well, as both companies are awarded co-exclusive licensing for making on-field MLB caps (Roman Pro & ANNCO (American Needle) were granted co-exclusive licensing for old-style caps for the "Cooperstown Collection").
1988: The “Diamond Collection” inner tags make their debut; the main tag is modified again, adding a second New Era logo. The “LOT/PRICE” size tags begin to disappear but still show up. This is the last time the sewn-on extra ring of sweat protection around the rim of the sweatband is used.
1989 – 1993: The main tag is dramatically simplified. The “LOT/PRICE” tags show up sparingly but it is the last time they are used.
1994 – 1996: Now the exclusive supplier of MLB ballcaps, New Era drastically revamps all of their tags. The main tag now shows the “5950” logo.
1997 – 1998: The infamous “flag” logo makes its debut. The main tag again undergoes a major overhaul, as well as the size tag, which is now bigger than the main tag, and makes it clearer than ever before that THE 59/50 IS THE ONLY CAP WORN ON THE FIELD OF PLAY YADA, YADA….
1999 – 2001: The manufacturers tag and size tag remain largely unchanged, but the Diamond Collection tag changes to display “Authentic” instead of “Diamond.” New Era slogans begin to appear on the taping. At first they appear on the taping between the front panels, then on all of the taping.
2002 – 2004: All tags again undergo a major overhaul with the manufacturers tag and size tags in odd shades of red and blue. The word “Diamond” is removed altogether from the “Authentic Diamond Collection” tag and thus becomes the “Authentic Collection.” There are a few different variations of logos and slogans on the taping.
2005 – 2007: The New Era “Blue Box” logo makes its debut, further simplifying the manufacturers tag and size tag. These would be the last tags used on a wool on-field cap.
2008 – 2009: Polyester on-field caps make their debut. Now that the sweatband is black, the tags are changed accordingly, except the “Authentic Collection” tag is redesigned.
2009 – Present: The tags get spruced up from their plain polyester debut.