The classic sets of the 1950s all have that signature star, rookie or some design trait that make it instantly recognizable and sought after by collectors.
1951 Bowman has those gorgeous horizontal rookie cards of Mays and Mantle. 1954 Topps contains that blazing, bright orange Henry Aaron. 1952 Topps is chock full of rookies and legends. Even 1955 Bowman’s kitschy color TVs and umpire cards are nothing if not instantly identifiable.
Signature players and classic designs keep post war sets from Topps and Bowman high on any collector’s want list. But what about the 1950 Bowman baseball card set? What do the signature rookies or stars look like in that set? Who is the key card?
The 1950 Bowman set lacks many of the traits common among its uber-popular and uber-pricey contemporaries which has made it far less sought after, but far more affordable than other sets and players of that era. It’s our Vintage Set of the Week.
This 252-card set looks much like subsequent Bowman issues from 1951 and 1952. In fact many cards from the ’50 set are identical to those in ’51 (Take Casey Stengel’s card for example). It’s small size – just 2 1/16” x 2 1/2” – and the fact that the cards have no player names or other distinguishing marks on the front also make it an easy set to miss.
Bowman had complete control of the baseball card market in 1950 and its one and only year as the sole distributor of cards was a noble effort. Beautiful cards of Ted Williams (also identical to his ’51 card) and Jackie Robinson are the keys to the set. There are many Hall of Famers littered throughout the set and this is the first modern set that included manager cards. Big name rookies, however, are another story.
The key rookie in the set is probably former Dodger right hander Don Newcombe. Only Hank Bauer, Del Crandall or Al Rosen can really make a legitimate claim as a better rookie card that year. For whatever reason, Bowman didn’t produce what would have been rookie cards in 1950 for future Hall of Famers Monte Irvin or Nellie Fox. Irvin was in his second year and Fox was enjoying his first full season but neither would make their Bowman debut until the following year. Whitey Ford won nine games in 1950 but he too wouldn’t get his first Bowman card until 1951. It’s that lack of rookies above everything else that prevents 1950 Bowman from taking its place among the other elite post war sets.
Once you get past Williams and Robinson, completing a pretty nice example of a 1950 Bowman set is not as impossible as it may seem, especially in the context of building other sets from that era. Sure Hall of Famers like Yogi Berra – probably the third most valuable card in the set – Warren Spahn, Duke Snider, Phil Rizzuto, Bob Feller and Pee Wee Reese will cost you, but not nearly as much as cards of these legends from other years. There’s no Joe DiMaggio or Stan Musial in the set, which adds to its affordability.
Instead of there being scarce high numbers, rare 1950 Bowman cards show up in numbers 1-72. Although these cards are listed as short prints, commons in this range in VG-EX condition can be had for between $12-$20 or less if you get lucky. Numbers 72 and up are plentiful and depending on condition can be found for even less. If you are so inclined to put together a master set, cards 181-252 can be found with or without the copyright line. Those without the line cost slightly more than those with it.
A near complete set (missing just Rizzuto and three commons) recently sold on eBay for $3,499. A lesser condition complete set went for $1,385. A high end complete set sold for $11,850 in the most recent Robert Edward Auction.
Whether you’d like to piece a set together, buy it all at once or just cherry pick some Hall of Famers at reasonable prices, there are plenty of 1950 Bowmans available in all conditions on eBay.
The 1950 Bowman baseball card set gets lost in the shuffle of an era of legendary players and cards. While it may not be the most popular set from those golden years, many of the same all-time greats are available and can be found at prices that won’t break the bank.