In 1953, Bowman continued its run of collectible baseball card sets with an impressive 160-card offering. Like the company’s previous issues, that set included full color cards of players. But also in that year, the company issued a shorter, complementary set of black and white cards. Because of that, this is referred to as the black and white set while the other issue is known as the color set. Here’s a closer look at the less appreciated 1953 Bowman Black and White set.
About the 1953 Bowman Black and White Set
The 1953 Bowman Black and White set was a standalone issue. However, the release was also, in part, a complementary set to go along with Bowman’s 1953 color set. Comprised of only 64 cards, it was one of Bowman’s smaller sets. Because the cards began with card No. 1 instead of picking up where the color set left off, this is considered to be its own separate release.
The cards had the same general design as the color ones. Fronts were plain with nameless players inside of a black frame and had relatively thin white borders around the edges. Backs included a variety of information, including the player’s name, a biography, statistics, and a card number inside of a playing field. The back layout was the same one as found in the color set.
While called the Black and White set, that name isn’t entirely accurate. The pictures of players were black and white but red boxes for biographical information and a headline called the ‘Baseball Collector Series’ provide a splash of color found on these cards.
At 2 1/2″ wide by 3 3/4″ tall, the oversized cards were the same size as those found in the color release.
Key Players and Checklist
Because Bowman’s 1953 color set already included most of the major stars in baseball, the supplementary black and white set did not have many big names. As a result, the black and white set lacks the sizzle of the color issue and many collectors avoid it entirely. The lack of big names is probably the biggest reason for the set’s lack of popularity.
The biggest name in the set is perhaps the legendary Johnny Mize. Other Hall of Famers are found in the set, though, too, including Bob Lemon and Bucky Harris. The set’s most expensive card, however, belongs to Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel. In 1952, Stengel would guide the New York Yankees to their fourth consecutive World Series title and in 1953, he would claim his fifth. Needless to say, his card is a popular one.
Another card of intrigue is No. 28, that of Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, who began his career in 1952. The card is not technically Wilhelm’s rookie to most collectors, even though it sometimes is cited as one. After all, he appeared in the 1952 Topps set giving him an earlier major release card. However, it is his first Bowman card and one of the earlier overall cards of the pitcher.
Other Keys to the Set
In addition to the stars, a few other cards are important ones for collectors to watch — and they aren’t necessarily those of big name players.
For one thing, a notable error is found in the set. Card No. 43 features Hal Bevan. Bevan otherwise would not garner much attention but some versions of his card state a birth year of 1950 while others say 1930. 1950 obviously is the error and the card was later corrected to 1930. The corrected card is much rarer, as evidenced in part by the PSA population reports. PSA’s data indicates that fewer than half of the Bevan cards that have been graded are the corrected version.
In addition, cards No. 1 and No. 64 (the first and last) are key issues in the set. That is true in many sets as those ‘end’ cards that collectors stored with their sets are often found in lesser condition. Card No. 1 (shown here) features Gus Bell and his card is priced above even many of the Hall of Famers and stars. The same can be said of Card No. 64 for Andy Hansen and both cards are among the pricier ones in the set.
1953 Bowman Black and White Prices
Cards from this set are mostly pretty affordable. Mid-grade commons typically start in the $5-$10 range and even the bigger stars aren’t too crazy. A complete set in modest condition will fit into many collector budgets.
As stated, the card of Stengel is easily the most valuable one in the set. In mid-grade condition, the card starts around $100. High-grade Stengel cards can be significantly more. Earlier this year, a PSA 7 sold on eBay (via Buy it Now) for $570.
You can check out current 1953 Bowman Black & White listings here.