There were no alley oop jams. No fancy shoes. No team jets.
Pro basketball in the 1940s was played in Fort Wayne and Syracuse, not L.A. and Miami. The game was popular enough in the east, though, that one upstart gum company decided to launch what became the first ever mainstream pro basketball trading card set. Now, one auction house is selling the best 1948-49 Bowman Basketball set ever to hit the open market.
Ranked fifth on PSA’s All-Time Finest list, it has a GPA of 7.83—almost near mint-mint. Premier Auctions is offering the set as its featured item in a basketball-heavy sale that concludes next week.
The sheer scarcity of certain cards in this set – notably the elusive rookie card of Minneapolis Lakers forward George Mikan (#69) – makes Bowman’s introductory basketball set a difficult task to complete in any grade. The Mikan card is graded 8.
The set is part of what the auction company is calling The Conway Collection, a group of items being sold out of a private accumulation of vintage basketball cards, sets and unopened material.
The current high bid on the set was over $19,000 with five days left in the auction.
Other auction items from the Conway Collection include several desirable rookie cards such as the 1957 Topps Bob Cousy (PSA NM-MT 8 – only four exemplars graded higher), 1961 Fleer Wilt Chamberlain (PSA NM-MT 8), 1961 Jerry West (PSA NM-MT 8) and a 1957 Topps Dick McGuire card graded PSA NM-MT 8 with none graded higher. Several dozen high-grade PSA encapsulated 1948 Bowman, 1957 Topps and 1961 Fleer Basketball cards are also being offered along with an extensive offering of complete sets and unopened wax packs and boxes, plus a smaller offering of baseball and football trading cards.
Another featured item is a 1996 NBA 50 Greatest Players lithograph signed by 49 players (only Pete Maravich missing). It is a Field of Dreams edition numbered “18/50”, matted and framed and is being offered to the public for the first time.
Premier also offers items from the John Hudman Collection of 19th and 20th century baseball signatures. Nearly100 lots of tough-to-find early autographs are up for bid including one from the officially recognized founder of the game, Alexander Cartwright.