1948 Bowmanis the granddaddy of all football sets. It’s a set that has a stark, black-and-white look that is perfect for the post World War II era. One might say it coincides with the expansion of television sets, only this football set did not require rabbit ears.
1948 Bowman Football Rookies and Hall of Famers
Collectors believe this is the first true football set of the modern era. The 1948 Leaf set was more colorful, but Bowman’s offering was loaded with ten future Hall of Famers and several rookies that are absent from the Leaf set. Those rookies include No. 1 in the 108-card set (Joe Tereshinski) and the final card (Buford Ray). In between, other exclusive rookies include Elbert Nickel (No. 60), Mike Holovak (No. 65), Leslie Horvath (No. 71), Marshall Goldberg (No. 81) and Bruce Smith (No.104).
Hall of Famers include Steve Van Buren (No. 7), Sammy Baugh (No. 22), Charley Trippi (No. 17), Bob Waterfield (No. 26), Clyde “Bulldog” Turner (No. 36), Alex Wojciechowicz (No. 61), Pete Pihos (No. 63), Bill Dudley (No. 80), George McAfee (No. 95) and Sid Luckman (No. 107).
Dawn of Post-War Football Cards
The cards themselves measured 2 1/16 inches by 2 ½ inches. The design is reminiscent of Bowman’s 1948 baseball set. The card front features a black-and-white photograph of the player, framed by a white border. Some photos are mug shots, while others are posed action shots. Some players are depicted leather helmets, too. Otherwise, the card front is bare — no team name, logos or player name is included.
The card backs utilize to colors. The card number is listed in red at the top (for example card No. 1 reads “No. 1 in a series of 108—but it’s all in capital letters), and the player’s name is presented in black. His position and the team he plays for also is listed, along with statistics and a brief biography. The card bottom is taken up by a wrapper redemption offer, which is printed in red. The item a collector was saving the wrappers for was presented in black.
Production and Distribution
The cards were distributed in penny and five-cent packs. From a production standpoint, the cards were printed on three separate sheets. The first sheet was plentiful, while the second sheet (cards numbered 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, etc.) are harder to find. The cards divisible by three (3, 6, 9, 12, 15, etc.) are the most difficult to find and are considered short prints.
Grading and Pricing
A total of 11,265 cards from this set have been sent to PSA for grading. Only four have been rating gem mint: Tommy Thompson (No. 16), Paul Governall (No. 28), Salvatore Rosato (No. 31) and Bob Mann (No. 47). However, 219 cards submitted have come back as PSA 9s. Of the 2,069 cards sent in to SGC for grading, there are none graded at 98 and 24 at SGC 96.
The most coveted card in this set is the Baugh card, followed by Ray, Johnny Lujack and Charlie Conerly (the last three are short prints). As you might expect, Ray’s card, as the final one in the set, would be one of the tougher cards to find in mint condition. There have been 97 turned into PSA, and only six grade as high as PSA 8. The percentage is not much better for SGC; of 19 cards submitted, one grades as high as 96. After that, the next highest grade submitted is a 70.
The biggest condition issue for the set is centering, which seems to be the norm rather than the exception. The white borders are prone to staining from handling, too.
The 1948 Bowman set has a big presence on eBay, with more than 2,000 listings. Collectors can find ungraded cards at bargain prices, and some of the lower graded cards can be had at a reasonable price, too. It’s a sometimes overlooked set, but it has plenty of value and is not difficult to collect.