After debuting a football card set in 1948, Bowman skipped the 1949 season but returned as the 1950s kicked off. The 1950 Bowman Football set is a 144-card collection that maintained the company’s smallish style design at 2 1/16 inches by 2 ½ inches. It was the first color football set put out by Bowman.
The New NFL in 1950
The return of Bowman—and its spot as the lone major card retailer in 1950 — fitted in nicely with the new-look National Football League. In 1949, the NFL had 10 teams and was in direct competition with the seven-team All-American Football Conference. In 1950 the two leagues merged, with the NFL absorbing three teams — the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts and San Francisco 49ers.
The Colts and 49ers struggled in their inaugural NFL seasons, but 1950 ended with a monumental title game as the four-time AAFC champion Browns edged the Los Angeles Rams 30-28.
1950 Bowman Football Design
Bowman’s card design for 1950 was simple and was very similar to the company’s look for baseball cards that same year. The card fronts showcased a painted photo of the player, with no lettering, player names, team names or logos. A white border ran around the card.
To identify the player, youngsters had to flip the card to the back. The player’s name is positioned at the top of the back in red ink. A paragraph was devoted to a player biography along with limited statistics.
Cards came six to a pack for a nickel (with two pieces of gum!), and there also were one-card wax packs that sold for a penny.
Hall of Famers and Rookie Cards
The set boasts more than 20 Hall of Famers and there are 31 rookie cards. Key rookies are Y.A. Tittle (No. 5), Lou Groza (No. 6), Glenn Davis (No. 16), Joe Perry (No. 35), Marion Motley (No. 43), Otto Graham (No. 45), Tom Fears (No. 51), Elroy Hirsch (No. 52) and Dante Lavelli (No. 78).
Key veterans in the set begin at card No. 1, with Doak Walker. Other big name players are Bob Waterfield (No. 17), Steve Van Buren (#23), Johnny Lujack, (N0. 26), Sid Luckman (No. 27) Bobby Layne (No. 37), Sammy Baugh (No. 100) and Chuck Bednarik (No. 132).
A total of 23,341 cards from the 1950 Bowman set have been submitted for grading to PSA. Only 14 grade out in gem mint, and only two players — Groza and Hirsch — have more than one PSA-10 (they each have two). And here’s a devilish number; there are 666 cards graded at PSA-9. The largest chunk of graded cards are PSA-7, with 6,559; and PSA-8, with 6,339.
In SGC grading, 3,656 cards have been submitted. Seven of those graded out a 98, with 103 at 96. The largest population is 84, with 705 examples.
Complete sets aren’t really that expensive considering the set is now 65 years old. A set with all 144 cards graded–generally EX/MT to NM–sold for just under $4,000. Mid-level sets that are ungraded can still be found for around $1,500,however.
There are only about a half dozen cards that will cost more than $100 even in EX/NM condition.
The 1950 Bowman football set is underrated, and yet it is a classic set. The cards are small, the paper stock is sturdy, and the ink reproduction was excellent for its era. It’s a challenge to complete but thanks to the absence of short prints or high numbers, working toward the finish is a far less painful process than it can be for some other vintage sets.
You can see 1950 Bowman football cards on eBay here.