It is the purpose of this article to revisit the evolution of the 1949 Bowman Baseball Set and the memories it generates. Two great previous articles were written by Ted Zanidakis and Ralph Triplette in 1983 and 1998, a must read for the 1949 Bowman collector. (See reference 1 and 2).
It was the Spring of 1949 when the 1st Series of the 1949 Bowman baseball cards came onto the market.
I was eight years old and was attending Public School 69 in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. The school was on 37th Avenue between 77th and 78th street. A sundries store was across the street from the school on the corner of 37th Ave. and 78th St. My twin brother, Roger and I would check everyday to see if new cards were being sold over the counter in the store. The 78th Street side of the building had a red brick wall with a wide sidewalk to the street. After school we would use the sidewalk and brick wall to "pitch" our baseball cards against the wall. They were a great size (2-1/6" x 2-1/2") to hold between the end of the middle finger and bottom of the palm, and we would "sail" them against the wall. Whoever was the closest to the wall would win the other boy's card, and a "leaner" on the wall would get paid double. Also, if you "covered" a card closer to the wall, you would win it.
We never thought about the "condition" of the cards, and the softer the corners the better for pitching and holding cards close to the wall. These cards were obviously "game worn" and you would think they would demand a premium in today's market as "game-worn" memorabilia (ha, ha, ha).
With that background of memories, let me relate what we didn't know then (or cared), on how the 1949 Bowman came into the market. There were 240 different players, and the cards were printed on seven sheets (7 series) of 36 cards with 4 rows of 9 cards; that's 7 x 36 = 252 cards. I will shortly explain the extra 12 cards.
The 1st printing consisted of the 1st and 2nd Series (two sheets of 36 cards each) for cards #1 through #73. There was no card #4. As a marketing ploy, Bowman left out card #4 and that position on sheet #1 was replaced by card #73- Billy Cox. I was not a "set collector" in 1949, and didn't notice the missing card #4, but many kids kept buying packs looking for a superstar as a card #4. These cards had no name on the front (NNOF) and the name on the back was printed (PNB). The first 72 cards used a white stock, then switched to a gray stock that was used throughout the remaining print runs. This created 72 white-back AND 72 gray-back cards for 72 variations (#1-3, 5-73). No one knows for sure as to whether the white backs or the gray backs are the more scarce, but from my experience in collecting both, I have found that gray backs are more difficult to find, but there has been no value added to the different backs.
During the Spring and Summer of 1949, the 2nd printing included the 3rd Series of 36 cards #74 through #108, plus the missing card #4. To the dismay of many, card #4 was not a superstar (i.e. Joe DiMaggio), but an infielder named Jerry Priddy with the St. Louis Browns; Jerry who? Bowman inserted #4-Priddy into the 73rd position of the 3rd sheet to complete the 1st Series. These cards also had no name on the front (NNOF) and a name in print on the back (PNB), as was the case for the first two Series.
The 3rd printing, in the Summer of 1949, included the 4th Series of 36 cards #109 through #144. This 4th Series changed from the first three Series in that the player's name was printed on the front of the card (NOF), and the name on the back was a simulated scripted autograph (SCR).
The 4th printing, in the Fall of 1949, included the 5th Series of 36 cards #145 through #180. This 5th Series changed from the previous 4th Series in that the simulated scripted name on the back was returned to a name in print on the back (PNB), but the name on the front (NOF) was continued.
The 5th printing, in the Fall of 1949, included the 6th Series of 36 cards #181 through #216. This 6th Series stayed the same as the previous 5th Series in that there was a printed name on the front (NOF) and a name in print on the back (PNB).
The 6th and last printing, in the Fall of 1949, included the 7th Series of 24 cards #217 through #240. The last sheet had room for 12 more players, but it was too late in the process to find 12 new players, so Bowman reached back to the 3rd Series for (6) cards: numbers 4, 78, 83, 85, 88 and 98. These cards were changed from having no name on the front (NNOF) to include a name on the front (NOF). The final six (6) cards came from the 4th Series with numbers 109, 124, 126,127,132 and 143. These cards were changed from having a scripted autograph on the back (SCR) to a name in print on the back (PNB). Consequently, all of the 7th Series cards have a printed name on the front (NOF) and a name in print on the back (PNB), as was the case for the previous 6th Series.
The Fall of 1949 printing (Series 5, 6 and 7) was not as plentiful as Series 1, 2, 3 or 4 as was the case for many sets of the '50s and '60s, when the "Boys of Summer" gave way to football as baseball interest waned. For the 1949 Bowman issue, these later Series are about twice as difficult to find as the first four Series cards, and include the even more difficult 7th Series variation cards.
Therefore, the complete set of 1949 Bowman includes 240 different players with 12 players repeated in different formats to complete the 7th Series for a total of 252 cards. And, if you consider the white and gray back variations, you could add 72 more cards for a master set of 324 cards.
- Baseball Card Magazine, Vol. 3, No.1, Spring 1983, pages 52-57; "The Case of the Mysterious 1949 Bowman's", by Ralph Triplette and Ted Zanidakis.
- The Vintage and Classic Baseball Collector Magazine, Issue #15, May/June 1998, pages 42-43; "1949 Bowman Color Variations", by Ted Zanidakis and Ralph Triplette.