If the new owner of the hobby’s most expensive unopened packs would opt to open just one, he could probably sell tickets to the viewing party. While the 1948 Bowman set isn’t the most attractive piece of hobby history, the story of the find and the resulting auction is the stuff of legend.
Opening a 69-year-old time capsule you never knew existed is great theater–even if the cards are in black and white. While we don’t know the name of the owner or his plans, you’d have to think it’s unlikely all 20 packs will be ripped open. On the surface, it seems like a huge gamble—especially at $27,430 per pack. The scarcity of the pack and the mystery of what’s inside is what drives prices of vintage unopened material rather than the potential break value. Many unopened packs, especially those from the 1970s, are now priced higher than the realistic potential value of what’s inside.
Yet understanding the graded card market and population reports would indicate there’s at least a chance that if the itch became too strong, the buyer could open them and not necessarily lose his shirt, but he’d have to have luck on his side. The scarcity of high-grade cards from the set has driven strong prices for the few graded 9s and 10s that have sold at public auction. Consider the selling prices for some condition rarities in recent months:
- $360,000 for a PSA 10 Stan Musial
- $44,730 and $36,000 for two PSA 9 Musials
- $192,000 for a PSA 10 Yogi Berra
- $20,315 for a PSA 9 Berra
Would another PSA 10 Musial sell for $360,000? Maybe. Maybe not. But the price would be well into six figures, especially in the current market and with the pedigree from an historic hobby find that would undoubtedly be attached to it.
At this point, there are no Gem Mint 10 Rizzuto, Spahn or Schoendienst rookie cards and just one Kiner. In fact, 28 players in the set have no 10s and the only a few have low double-digit populations of PSA 9. Nineteen of the 48 cards in the set have an SMR value of over $1,000 in a 9 grade. Seven are valued at over $3,000. Anyone who follows the graded card market and Set Registry competition knows the auction price for any card in the set rated 10 would be very strong. The value of a 1/1 Hall of Fame rookie 10 is hard to overstate.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that any card any of the 20 packs would grade 10 (or 9). While only 2% of the graded ’48 Bowmans currently in existence are graded mint or gem mint PSA, keep in mind there’s never been an unopened pack find of ’48 Bowman. We understand the one pack that had been opened at some point years ago by the original owner contained cards that were exceptionally nice. That would seem to bode well for the other 95 cards inside the unopened packs. We did ask if the cards from the opened pack, at least some of which were submitted for grading, had been returned and what the grades were, but we haven’t heard back.
A pack with commons that rated 8 or less would be pretty much of a disaster. However, the odds are good that there would be at least a few gems—maybe more—if the buyer would take the unlikely step of opening a few packs. The possibility of landing multiple Hall of Fame rookies and stars isn’t bad, especially with just 48 cards in the entire set.
The half million dollar price tag for the 20 packs and box actually wasn’t unexpected. Impressive, but not really shocking in today’s market. It’s a one-of-a-kind type item. The new owner has to be pretty excited to touch something only a few people have since 1948. We’ll see if he or she is able to stave off the inevitable curiosity about what lies inside or bought them with the purpose of hopping into the time machine to a place when you put your nickels on the counter and ripped open the seals.