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1953 Bowman Football Remains a High Grade Challenge

The 1953 Bowman Football Set is a set with the fewest number of cards graded as 9 or 10. What does this mean? It means if you find one, grab it.  Cards from this vintage set are attractive, yet super scarce in anything beyond middle of the road condition.

If the infographic we showed you this summer wasn’t enough, here it is in plain old black and white:

Of the 7,873 ’53 Bowman cards graded by PSA, there are just 59 9’s and one—that’s right one—PSA 10.  Even 8’s are fairly rare with only 1,453 falling into that holder (along with 20 8.5s).  Even adding in cards graded by other companies, the numbers won’t change much.

Ungraded common cards from the set in something close to near mint condition sell for around $10.  Find one in a PSA 9 holder and you’ll pay as much as 15 times that much—sometimes more for harder to find cards.

It’s a set produced when Bowman was the only game in town and a snapshot of the NFL prior to the arrival of uber stars who debuted later in the decade like Unitas, Hornung, Starr and Brown.

The big names include Norm Van Brocklin, the Rams quarterback who went on to fine career as a player and head coach. His ungraded cards in the Beckett Price Guide in this set are listed from $75.00 to $125.00.

Eddie LeBaron, the Redskins quarterback is listed in Beckett at $75-125. Bobby Layne, the Lions quarterback is also $75-100. Otto Graham, the Browns quarterback is $100-175. Browns kicker Lou Groza is $75-125.  Giants’ running back Frank Gifford lists from $175-300. Their quarterback, Y. A. Tittle is $90-150.

Among the players with fewer than 10 PSA 8 examples are:  #1 LeBaron, #30 Buddy Young, #33 Dale Samuels, #34 Lou Creekmur, 35 Tom Catlin, #40 Horace Gillom, #57 John Rapacz, #60 Darrell Hogan, #63 Leon Heath, #65 Dewayne Douglass and #81 Pat Harder.

These cards are the gems of this set, but of course the real gems are any card that rate high with a grading company.   The player’s name doesn’t matter.  There simply aren’t many surviving examples of pack-fresh type cards.  Overall, there are about eight times as many 1953 Bowman baseball cards available as there are football.

There are many interesting names in the 1953 Bowman set. Some may not have been great NFL players but were college legends. Players like Kyle Rote of SMU, Bill McColl of Stanford, Heisman Trophy winner Leon Hart of Notre Dame, Thurman McGraw of Colorado State, Harder of Wisconsin, George Taliaferro of Indiana,  Harley Sewell of Texas, Babe Parilli of Kentucky  and Jerry Groom of Notre Dame.

But there are also plenty of Pro Football Hall of Famers including Charley Trippi, a running back for the Cardinals (who still does card shows from time to time), running back Elroy Hirsch of the Rams, Jim Finks of the Steelers who went on to become a successful team executive, the Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik, Rams end Tom Fears, 49ers great Hugh McElhenny and Eagles end Pete Pihos.

Again, these are the stars of the set, but anybody in this set is worth having, especially if you can find a card in top condition. If you get lucky enough to find a grade 8 or higher card from this set, you have a valuable collectible.  It can be argued at the 1953 Bowman football set is undervalued considering how few high grade examples from this 59-year-old offering are actually available. Click here to see what’s available now on eBay.

About Rich Mueller

Rich is the editor and founder of Sports Collectors Daily. A broadcaster and writer for more than 30 years and a collector for even longer than that, he's usually typing something somewhere. Type him back at [email protected].

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