Bowman beat everyone to the post-War punch. Three years after everyone stopped conserving paper and working dads brought home extra pennies and nickels for their baseball-loving sons, the company brought baseball cards back to life. Missing since the early 40s and inconsistent in their availability, baseball cards were about to be reborn for good.
Except for a one-year challenge from Leaf early on, Bowman was the only gum card game in town from 1948-1951. Topps had risen up with a few odd sets in '51, then went all in the following year with what is now its iconic first major baseball card set. Building a 1952 Topps set is not for those without significant disposable income. From 1952-55 the two companies were locked in a battle to earn kids' favor and steal away the other guy's best players.
Mickey Mantle is a Topps guy in '52 and '53; then a Bowman guy for the next two seasons.
Who wins the head-to-head battle in the eyes of collectors buying cards on eBay? If you toss out the wildly popular and expensive 1952 Topps issue, a little research shows there are actually far fewer Bowman cards coming up for bid, but Topps rules the roost in terms of sales.
From December 9 through February 6, there were 48,437 1953-55 Topps baseball listings on eBay. Of those, 20,958 sold, a sell through rate of 42.12%. Total sales of Topps cards from those three years totalled $877,831.
Compare those figures with Bowman. There were 25,616 Bowman singles and lots offered, of which 10,418 sold, a sell through rate just slightly less than Topps. However, the average selling price of a Bowman listing from '53-55 was $27.99--nearly $14 less than Topps. Total sales were less than half. $291,647 was spent on Bowman--about three times less than Topps, in spite of Mantle's presence in the later Bowman issues.
The highest selling card from Topps during the 60-day stretch was a 1953 Mickey Mantle PSA 8 that sold for more than $12,000. The most expensive Bowman card was one from the '53 Black & White series--a Tom Gorman PSA 9 1/1 that sold for $4,301.99.
Those figures would seem to indicate that there are not nearly as many Bowman cards out there, but that Topps is still preferred when it comes to head-to-head competition during the era.
Click here for old Topps on eBay
Click here for old Bowman on eBay.