Pure Color Genius: 1953 Bowman Baseball Cards
Beauty born from Competition
The Bowman Gum Company had been producing baseball cards consistently since 1948. Bowman felt that the market was secure from competition because of their contracts with the players. As a result, the Bowman issues evolved very slowly in design, content and size.
Bowman’ s lazy evolution of its bubble gum card came to a sudden end in the spring of 1952, when the Topps Company aggressively seized the opening and issued a competitive set of baseball cards. Bowman seemed caught completely by surprise and was shocked at how quickly the superior giant-sized 1952 Topps baseball cards snatched the majority of the baseball card market share.
Bowman was now forced to create a better card. The 1953 set was the Bowman’ s direct response to the 1952 Topps surprise attack and Bowman spared no expense. The 1953 Bowman cards would be bigger and roughly match the size of the Topps cards. Bowman also decided to use color photography on a baseball card for the first time.
The 1953 Bowman baseball cards were a great leap ahead in the evolution of baseball cards and demonstrated the benefits to the consumer of a competitive marketplace. The cards were now large enough to allow some unique color photos never seen before on a baseball card.
Without names on the card fronts, it is sometimes tough to determine who the player is in the photo. The 1953 Bowman set forces you to concentrate on the player’s face more so than any other set. As you go through the set, you find yourself turning over most of the cards, in order to verify the identity of the player. I was shocked on how many guys that I identified incorrectly. Once looking at the back of the card, it is impossible not to take a peek at his 1952 stats.
1953 Bowman Innovations
The 1953 Bowman Baseball Cards feature the first multi-player cards and the first real action shot – card #33 Pee Wee Reese. Also unique about these cards is that Bowman did repeatedly reuse these images in the following years, as was the case of many of the Topps Cards of the 1950s and 1960s.
The 1953 set was Bowman's first issue to include player statistics on the backs of the cards. Bowman dropped the annoying advertising that they had used in previous issues and filled the card backs with information about the player. The card backs also had empty spaces below the player’s statistics so that kids could write in the player’s statistics for 1953. Thank goodness, that only a few of the kids took Bowman’s suggestion to deface the cards with handwritten numbers.
A Very Collectible Set
Even though, the 1953 Bowman Color Set has the most expensive common cards of any vintage set, the set is still very collectible. With only 160 cards to buy and no real short prints, the 1953 Bowman set is affordable. The 1953 Bowman set has no superstar rookie cards to drive up the price. Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson are missing from the set, which keeps the complete set price lower than it would usually be.
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