In 1952 Bowman issued a baseball card set featuring colorful artwork of some of the game’s greatest stars. It was their fifth consecutive year of production, an accomplishment no other baseball card manufacturer had been unable to achieve. Unfortunately that same year Topps released a set that was much larger than Bowman, in terms of both the actual size of the cards and the size of the checklist. The 1952 Topps set became a collecting icon. The cardboard war continued and Bowman responded the following year with a large size set of their own featuring some of the finest photography to ever appear on a trading card. Sixty-one years later collectors still flock to 1953 Bowman Color and that is why it is this week’s Vintage Set of the Week.
The cards issued as part of the 1953 Bowman Color set are difficult to find in high grade due to centering issues, and as a result a perfectly centered example can carry quite the premium. Some of the cards have also been printed out of focus, and one when is found with a sharp, well-focused image it is often in high demand. Print lines are often a common defect found on several of these cards. Of the 56,516 1953 Bowman Color cards submitted to PSA only 35 have received the coveted PSA 10 grade, with only a further 721 reaching PSA 9 level.
The key to the 1953 Bowman Color set – and in fact the key to most sets issued during the 1950s – is Mickey Mantle (#59). In 1953 Mantle and the Yankees were in the midst of winning their fifth consecutive World Series title, and the young centerfielder was already one of the most popular players in the game at just 21 years of age. In the high numbered series are Mantle’s teammates Yogi Berra (#121) and White Ford (#153). This trio would lead the Yankees to an unprecedented 9 World Series between 1953 and ’63. A fourth card features the trio of Mantle, Berra, and slugger Hank Bauer (#44).
The most desired image in ’53 Bowman Color set features Pee Wee Reese (#33) - the athletic shortstop of the Brooklyn Dodgers – leaping high in air during Spring Training. The pure athleticism displayed in the pose portrayed in vibrant colors has made this one of the popular baseball cards ever produced. His teammate Duke Snider (#117) is also in the difficult high number series. During the decade of the 1950s no player hit home homeruns or batted in more runs than The Duke of Flatbush.
One player that could not be found in Topps products was Stan Musial (#33), who was a Bowman exclusive. By 1953 Musial was a three time league MVP and had led the Cardinals to World Series victories in 1942, ’44, and ’46. As the best hitter in the National League it is easy to understand why Musial was one of the players whom card manufactures looked to sign to an exclusive contract. This would be Musial’s final Bowman card, and final mass produced issue until he was included in 1958 Topps.
The Vintage Baseball Card Set of the Week will go inside a pre-1981 issue with facts and insight. The series is sponsored by Sean Bassik Cards, one of the country’s top buyers of vintage baseball and sports cards. If you’d like to sell your old cards, contact them via their website or by phone at (844) 227-4001.
For vintage set breaks featuring hundreds of cards for sale each week on eBay, click here.