The end would come soon enough but in 1955, Bowman Gum was making one last-ditch effort to try to collect as many nickels and pennies as they could from baseball card collecting kids. They came up with a design that incorporated America’s new favorite evening pastime. They created a whopper of a set at 320 cards and they gave kids more cards in their packs.
It wasn’t enough.
By 1956, the corner store carried only Topps cards because Topps had cornered the market. Decades later, though, Bowman’s last baseball card packs were still making news. This week’s edition of Vintage Pack Facts is all about 1955 Bowman baseball.
- Bowman went horizontal with its 1955 set design in order to accommodate that console television look; a stark contrast to Topps’ continuing rectangular style. Interestingly, Topps would adopt the Bowman angle for its ’55 and ’56 sets.
- At 320 cards, it was the largest Bowman set ever made.
- As was the common practice at the time, Bowman created both 1-cent packs (one card and one stick of bubble gum for a penny) and 5-cent (nine cards and gum for a nickel) packs.
- Bowman made a point of touting the “nine cards for a nickel” on its display boxes. Some boxes also contain a black and white sticker promoting Bowman’s 320-card set.
- Salesman sample three-card uncut strips exist, carrying information for stores the company hoped would stock the product (see image in the gallery below).
- More Vintage Pack Facts after the gallery…
- Thanks to one of the hobby’s most famous finds, there is a decent supply of 5-cent Bowman packs. In 1986, Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen landed more than 200 1954 and ’55 Bowman unopened boxes in Paris, TN. While dozens were infested with bugs and thrown out, the rest were sold. Most seem to be in private collections but others have been sold and packs divvied up. Whether they’re from Mr. Mint’s find or elsewhere, 1955 Bowman wax packs are often found to have cards stuck together so it’s probably a good idea to keep them sealed.
- 1-cent packs are extremely rare, seldom coming to auction. Even wrappers are scarce.
- Some 1955 Bowman cello packs exist and one of them was famously opened at the 2018 National Sports Collectors Convention. It contained an Ernie Banks and a Mickey Mantle, which was immediately graded and is hitting the auction block for the first time with its origin printed on the PSA label. Each 10-cent cello pack contained 20 cards–not a bad deal for youngsters who could find them in 1955. Only a few exist today.
- While packs are a little tough to find, you can usually find wrappers and a display box or two on eBay.