Vintage Set of the Week: 1948 Bowman Set a Realistic Target

It won’t win any design awards, but for collectors, the 1948 Bowman baseball set has carved out its own unique place.

Consisting of just 48 cards, with virtually no tremendously scarce or exceedingly valuable parts, the set is attractive for anyone looking for a reasonable challenge that carries a story or two behind it.

1948 Bowman Red SchoendienstWhen the spring of 1948 rolled around, it had been almost three years since the end of World War II. Paper shortages had ended production of baseball Bowman 1948 Baseball boxand other sports cards after Pearl Harbor. By ’48, Bowman Gum saw an opportunity and cranked its presses year-round, producing baseball, basketball and football cards.

The baseball set, of course, came first. Many youngsters born too late to remember Goudey or Play Ball sets, discovered baseball cards for the first time. A one-card penny pack yielded one of 36 cards that spring, with 12 others added later in the season.  Half of the cards in the set feature New York Yankees or Giants while there are no Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Tigers, Senators or Browns cards.  It’s uncertain why they weren’t included.  According to research in the book The Bubble Gum Card War, Bowman had 106 players under contract, so it’s not known why the set included only half of them.

It quickly became apparent to those who bought packs with a fervor that the game’s two biggest stars would not be available. Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams don’t show up on Bowman’s first products. Their omissions obviously help keep the price down. Still, there were recognizable faces in Bowman’s debut issue and many would become Hall of Fame rookie cards.

Stan Musial rookie cardMeasuring 2 1/16 x 2 1/2 and featuring black and white photos, the set does pack a pretty good star-powered punch even without the two icons. Stan Musial’s rookie card is here. So is Yogi Berra’s. And Warren Spahn. And Red Schoendienst. Bob Feller 1948 BowmanAnd Ralph Kiner and Phil Rizzuto. Where do you find the rookie card of 1951 Giants home run hero Bobby Thomson? ’48 Bowman.  There’s a very attractive Bob Feller card, too.  In fact, you’ll find nearly 20% of the set is made up of players who made the Hall of Fame.  Yet none of them are outrageously expensive today.

Not all of the photos are perfect.  Spahn gets a side profile shot.  Rizzuto’s photo is almost comical, appearing as if something huge is stuffed inside his jersey.

Complete sets of 1948 Bowman Baseball vary in price, but a very respectable mid-grade set can usually be found for $2,000-$3,000.

T1948 Bowman Yogi Berrahe challenges include single prints. Bowman printed 36 cards in its first series, then removed 12 cards from its printing sheet and put 12 new players in. The single prints are worth roughly twice as much as their common counterparts. Rizzuto’s card is the only SP, fortunately.  That card, along with the Musial and Berra rookie cards, creates the three toughest targets for collectors.

Cards from the ’48 Bowman set that have proven difficult to find in high grade include Clint Hartung, Marty Marion, Herman Wehmeier and Thomson.

The set really established Bowman as the new king of bubble gum cards–at least until Topps barged in during the early 1950s and the two went to war over pennies and nickels spent by kids.  It would be over by 1955, when Bowman printed its last set.

When collected piece by piece, the 1948 Bowman Baseball set is a very attainable goal for a fan of vintage cards looking to move into an issue that’s both historic and affordable.

Here’s a look at a full set:

You can see 1948 Bowman Baseball cards on eBay by clicking here.

1948 Bowman Baseball Checklist

1 Bob Elliott RC

2 Ewell Blackwell RC

3 Ralph Kiner RC

4 Johnny Mize

5 Bob Feller

6 Yogi Berra RC

7 Pete Reiser SP

8 Phil Rizzuto RC SP

9 Walker Cooper

10 Buddy Rosar

11 Johnny Lindell

12 Johnny Sain RC

13 Willard Marshall SP

14 Allie Reynolds RC

15 Eddie Joost

16 Jack Lohrke SP

17 Enos Slaughter

18 Warren Spahn RC

19 Tommy Henrich

20 Buddy Kerr SP

21 Ferris Fain RC

22 Floyd Bevens RC SP

23 Larry Jansen RC

24 Dutch Leonard SP

25 Barney McCosky

26 Frank Shea RC SP

27 Sid Gordon

28 Emil Verban SP

29 Joe Page RC SP

30 Whitey Lockman RC SP

31 Bill McCahan

32 Bill Rigney

33 Bill Johnson

34 Sheldon Jones SP

35 Snuffy Stirnweiss RC

36 Stan Musial RC

37 Clint Hartung RC

38 Red Schoendienst RC

39 Augie Galan

40 Marty Marion RC

41 Rex Barney RC

42 Ray Poat

43 Bruce Edwards

44 Johnny Wyrostek

45 Hank Sauer RC

46 Herman Wehmeier

47 Bobby Thomson RC

48 Dave Koslo RC