Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dean's Book Reviews on Amazon


by +Dean Hanley
We would like to Thank each and every one of you who have supported Dean’s books.

Dean’s books “Before There Was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards” and “The Bubble Gum Card War: The Great Bowman & Topps Sets from 1948 to 1955” are top rated sellers under the “sports cards” category on Amazon.com. These books are available in both paperback and eBook form.


We appreciate everyone that has taken the time to read this book. We always enjoy and appreciate reading customer reviews and feedback. For all that have read his books, would you please be able to take a few minutes to leave a review?



 To review one of Dean's book click on one of the links below. This will take you to the books sale page. Scroll all the way down until you see a box that says "write a customer review". From there you will be able to leave a book review.




















To Review "Before There Was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards” click here. 


















To review "The Bubble Gum Card War: The Great Bowman & Topps Sets from 1948 to 1955” click here. 















Please click here to return to Deanscards.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dean's Top 10 For Black Friday!






                                                   10. 2012 Topps Factory Football Set



   
 9. Dean's Book "Before There Was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards"





                               8. Baseball Card Near Complete Sets




             7. Sports Illustrated Covers to hang in the "man cave"




                              6. Vintage Baseball Complete Sets



5. Dean's new book "The Bubble Gum Card War: The Great Bowman & Topps Sets from 1948 to 1955."


4. 2012 Topps Baseball Complete Set


 3. Vintage Team Sets for your favorite team


2. Dean's Cards Gift Certificates



And the # 1 thing on Dean's Black Friday List!
T207 Reprint Set 

Happy Holidays Everyone! Please click here to return to Deanscards.com.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Project Bulldog!



by +Dean Hanley
We have some exciting news to share! The whole Dean's Cards team has been involved with this huge project that we have nicknamed "Bull Dog".  In August, we began to professionally grade and scan all the vintage cards in our inventory. So far, the team has scanned over 200,000 cards. We are about half of the way done in completing our vintage card inventory (1952-1969).
Team Labeling Cards

Our goal is to have Bull Dog completed by the time that we sit down to eat turkey on Thanksgiving.  IT IS GOING TO BE CLOSE!





Zach Identifying
Each card that we have is being de-sleeved, graded and scanned. After it is scanned it is then identified in the computer. Once those steps are done we then print out labels for the cards.

Barry Printing Labels



Before Bull Dog, we had only the stock images for the cards listed online, but now each and every card has been professionally graded and is accompanied by a full front and back scan.


Completed Bulldogged Cards
Our customers can now access any of the cards that they have purchased by scanning the "QR Code" with a smart phone.  Eventually, we plan to add a card collecting software, so that collectors can organize their collections, view images and vital statistics of the cards in their collection.

We never realized how hard of an accomplishment this would be. We even brought in some wonderful temps to help us with the process. They are doing a fantastic job!




BullDogged!
All of our baseball cards are sorted by years. If you are shopping online and would like to see the picture of the card you are buying please follow these steps.


  





How to view card images on DeansCards.com

1. Select the Vintage Set that you would like to review.

2. Find the card you want to look at. Cards with the asterisk * by the card will have a complete scanned image.

3. Choose a card and its condition

4.  Click on the card. If the card you choose only has 1 quantity in stock then only one image will appear (front and back). If there is more than 1 quantity of a card, their images will appear on the page.

5. Each card will have two images displayed side by side. Each card has its own unique serial number. To get a enlarged view of the card simply click on either the front scan or the back scan. This will magnify the card so that you can get a better look. To close the image out simply click anywhere on the image. Please realize that even the most pristine cards show flaws at their magnification.

6. Once you decide on which card you would like click “add to cart”. After you click that it will say “This item is in your cart”. If you click on “shopping cart” it will show you the card you selected along with the serial number. If you click on the serial number it will show you the image of the card in your cart. If you need to go back to the year you were looking at just click the back arrow button on your browser.



We hope that this will enhance you shopping experience and make the process of buying vintage cards even faster, easier and more fun.

 Please click here to return to Deanscards.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

So why did Topps win the Baseball Bubble Gum Card War?

by +Dean Hanley
In 1950, Bowman Gum Company was the only bubble gum manufacturer that issued a set of baseball cards. By the time Topps produced their first set of bubble gum baseball cards in 1952, Bowman had every conceivable advantage. Bowman had four years of experience of designing, producing and manufacturing sports cards. Bowman had the majority of the players under contract and was also the most profitable gum company. Bowman seemingly had the finances to outlast any competitor in a war for market share – both at the candy counter and in the courts. If someone who was familiar with the situation had been giving gambling odds on who would win a Baseball Bubble Gum Card War in the fall of 1951, Topps would have been considered an under-dog at best and a long-shot by most, especially after their feeble attempt to market cards in 1951.

 So why did Topps win the Gum Card War and not Bowman? The short answer is that Topps sold more baseball cards and the companies that owned Bowman gave up. But, why did this happen?

After researching all the available material that I could find for this book, I came to the realization that the answer to this question was still not totally apparent to me. Generally, when one company wins a battle for a market niche, there are multiple factors playing into their victory. Possibilities range from better financing, management, marketing and sales, better distribution, manufacturing procedures or even a combination of several of these factors.

 In order to better understand these numerous factors, I decided to speak to Sy Berger personally to get the answer. When I reached him by phone, I was prepared to discuss each of these areas in great complexity and detail with Mr. Berger; however, Berger’s response was much simpler than I was prepared to hear. Berger quickly answered the question by saying, "Because they (the Topps cards) are so beautiful. They are just beautiful!"

The simplicity of Mr. Berger’s answer shocked me into silence. After a few seconds, I replied, “Yes sir, they certainly are.” Sometimes the answer can be just that simple.

The greatest advantage that Topps possessed and Haelan Labs did not was Sy Berger. Each year from 1952 to 1955, Topps managed to produce a better and more attractive set. The kids responded by sliding their coins across the candy counters of America. Producing Topps baseball cards was Sy Berger’s passion in life. He was involved in every aspect of the product, from the design, production, manufacturing and even securing the player’s signatures on contracts.

Although George Moll and his agency continued to design the Bowman cards until the company was sold to Topps, the Bowman baseball cards lacked the creativity that Moll had displayed in the Horrors of War set. Most card collectors prefer the design of the Topps cards to those produced by Bowman.

 This is what caused the downfall of the Bowman Baseball Card Empire and goes to show how much of a difference that one person can make on history. Warren Bowman made this type of impact in 1938, with his Horrors of War set and Sy Berger did it again in the 1950s. This is why hobbyists refer to Seymour “Sy” Berger as the “Father of the Modern Baseball Card”.

Topps begins a new era 

As the years went on, Topps never forgot how quickly a market leader can fall from power. Topps saw first-hand how the Bowman Gum Co. lost its dominant position in the market. It all began with the appearance of the 1952 Topps baseball set. One superior issue of baseball cards was all it took to make a major impact in the market and Topps never forgot this valuable lesson.

Unfortunately for collectors, during the 25 year reign of Topps, the company invested far more effort on streamlining costs and protecting its monopoly than developing innovations for the cards. This is one reason why the 1952 Topps Baseball Card set has remained a hobby standard for so many years.

Cost cutting and profit optimization is the typical strategy of monopolies in any market. Real innovation in the card collecting hobby did not reemerge until other companies were allowed to issue sets of cards. This put more power in the hands of collectors, who were once again allowed to vote for the best product with their dollars in the 1980s. The end result was an exciting reset to the hobby and the beginning of a card collecting boom.

Most collectors feel that the hobby has had way too many sets issued in the last couple decades. However, it is doubtful that the exclusive license recently granted to Topps in the baseball card market will increase the quality or creativity of the products that they produce in the near future or bring kids back into the hobby. Innovation is most often the child of competition, not monopolies. Using history as an indicator, I predict if we ever have another sports card collecting boom, it will take another pioneer like Sy Berger to come along with a great idea, and the passion and drive to implement it.

A loyal following and an American Tradition

As Topps continued to increase the number of cards in their sets, collectors could once again possess a set of cards that contained all of the major league players and this is what mattered most to the collectors. In reality, there was only room in the hobby for one company. The hobby of collecting baseball cards would have never been as popular, if the collectors could not get cards of every player in the league. The kids were hooked and a firmly established American tradition was born. The results were dramatic. Baseball card related sales rose from $950,000 in 1955, the last year of the Bubble Gum Card War, to $3.8 million in 1959.

A survey of 339 boys from the early 1960’s showed that 89% of the boys who were surveyed collected baseball cards. Can you imagine getting that percentage of the population to agree on anything else? To put this huge percentage into perspective, only 60% of today’s kids (ages 10 to 14) own cell phones.

Topps marketed their cards to the boys and they responded. We played with them for hours on end. Baseball card trading sessions were one of our main sources of entertainment. I learned to read by studying the player’s profiles on the back of the cards. I expanded my vocabulary with words like, "Most Valuable Player”, “bullpen” and “southpaw". By the age of six, I also knew who played each position for every team and that player's uniform number.

Baseball cards also taught me geography. By age seven, I learned which state each team's city was located. I knew that there were countries to the south, such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, where the people spoke Spanish. I was too young to know exactly where these places were (until my mom helped me find them on a map), yet I knew that these countries seemed to produce all of the great shortstops!

By the next year, my trusty Topps cards began teaching me math. I began calculating batting averages and ERAs (by using long division) for the players in my Ethan Allen All-Star Baseball Game. I sometimes wonder how many of today's kids can calculate an ERA. There were no calculators, so learning long division was a must if you wanted to play the game properly. These statistics played an integral part in knowing who was leading my fictional league in batting and pitching. And so went my education...

This article is taken from Dean’s  book “The Gum Card War and the Great Bowman & Topps Baseball Card Sets of 1948-1955”, which is now available for sale at Amazon.com.

Dean Hanley is an authority on vintage sports cards and has written numerous articles on the topic. Mr. Hanley is the founder DeansCards.com, and with well-over one million vintage cards in inventory, DeansCards.com is the largest seller of vintage cards on the web. Dean has also published “Before there was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards”, which is also available in eBook form at Amazon.com and has just released a T207 reprint set. For more information, please visit www.DeansCards.com

 If you are looking to sell your cards we would be happy to hear from you. Please fill out our sell your collection form here and we will be in touch.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Results of Year Five of The Great Bubble Gum Card War: 1955

by +Dean Hanley
All wars have to end, if for no other reason, because the combatants cannot continue to fight on forever. This was also the case for the great Bubble Gum Card War. The end of the Great Bubble Gum War came quickly and surprised most collectors of the day.

When I first wrote about the 1955 Topps All-American set in Sports Collectors Digest, I accepted the popular conclusion that was adopted by most previous baseball card historians. That since Topps sold more cards, Bowman eventually went out of business and that the All-American Football card set was “the final nail in the coffin for the Bowman Gum Co.” Although, there is truth to that statement, further research indicates that there was more to the story of Bowman’s demise that had not been previously known to most hobbyists.

 Enter Connelly Containers

In the winter of 1955, Haelan Laboratories was acquired by Connelly Containers, Inc. as the result of a merger. The problem for Connelly Containers was that the damage portion of litigation of the Haelan Laboratories VS Topps Chewing Gum court case had yet to be resolved. Given that Connelly had no interest in baseball cards or bubble gum, especially given Bowman’s declining market position and sales, Connelly Containers quickly sought to divest themselves of the highly competitive, low-profit Bowman product line and all of the legal issues and costs associated with it. Connelly was more concerned with exiting a lawsuit without any strings attached and a business line that they did not want, than getting the highest possible price for Bowman’s assets.

On January 20, 1956, almost three years after the court’s decision, Connelly agreed to settle the lawsuit with Topps. In exchange for a measly $200,000, Connelly assigned all assets of Bowman, including the baseball and football player contracts to Topps.

Topps had little interest in Bowman's manufacturing facilities or even Bowman's Blony Bubble Gum brand name. The most valuable Bowman asset was their player contracts. Gaining access to Bowman's player contracts would now allow Topps to issue a complete set of baseball cards, as well as a football card set that featured the current NFL players in 1956. The Great Bubble Gum Card War was over and Topps had achieved a total victory.

Potential competitors are shut out

The courts decided that the contracts the players signed with both Topps and Bowman, were in fact “iron-clad,” thus ensuring Topps had the rights to the player's image on every sports card. Whether or not the cards were packaged alone or with chewing gum, candy or any other type of confection, all of the image rights now belonged to Topps. This made it increasingly difficult for a competitor to enter into the baseball card market because they were forced to sell their cards with some other type of product. The product could not be gum or candy.

The Gum Card War greatly increased both production and legal costs for both companies. The four-year old Gum Card War had also taken a financial toll on Topps as well as Bowman. By 1955, Topps was at its weakest and Bowman had more players under contract than Topps, giving them a strong tactical position. It would have been possible for any of the gum manufacturers, such as Leaf, Fleer or Donruss to buy out Bowman and continue the war, but they were never given the opportunity. These other bubble gum manufacturers would have to wait 25 years to get another chance to issue baseball cards with their gum.

Leaf immediately approached Topps about some sort of collaborative agreement for Leaf to again issue baseball cards with their bubble gum. Topps had no intention in relinquishing their hard won spoils of the Bubble Gum Card War and totally refused to cooperate with their competitor. Topps made it clear to Leaf, and any other potential competitor, that they would quickly sue on the same exact grounds that Haelan had used against Topps a few years before. The threat worked, as none of the gum companies issued a set of baseball cards.

When Leaf finally did produce a baseball card set in 1960, it was packaged with marbles, or with a cookie, instead of gum. Due to the restrictions of the player contracts the Fleer cookies contained so little sugar that they were considered inedible by many of the kids at the time. One collector of the day claimed that even his dog would not eat the cookies.

Aftermath

Now with the ability to issue a complete set of cards and the lack of a strong competitor, Topps baseball cards became even more sought-after than before. Topps sales soon doubled and by the end of the decade, seven of the remaining bubble gum manufacturers were out of business.

The end of the Bubble Gum Baseball Card War greatly slowed down the evolution of the baseball card itself. With a virtual monopoly in the bubble gum sports card market, Topps could now focus on controlling costs and increasing profits.

1957 Topps Print Sheet
When the war ended, the 1956 Topps cards had already been designed. Without a competitor, Topps was able to reduce the number of cards that came in their nickel packs from seven to six. The next year, in 1957, Topps reduced the size of their cards so that more cards could fit onto a printing sheet, thereby enabling Topps to print more cards at the same cost.

Only modest creative innovations in design were seen in the sports card hobby until 1981, when a new court ruling broke the Topps' monopoly and allowed competitors to enter the market and introduce a new crop of innovative products.



This article is taken from Dean’s  book “The Gum Card War and the Great Bowman & Topps Baseball Card Sets of 1948-1955”, which is now available for sale at Amazon.com.

Dean Hanley is an authority on vintage sports cards and has written numerous articles on the topic. Mr. Hanley is the founder DeansCards.com, and with well-over one million vintage cards in inventory, DeansCards.com is the largest seller of vintage cards on the web. Dean has also published “Before there was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards”, which is also available in eBook form at Amazon.com and has just released a T207 reprint set. For more information, please visit www.DeansCards.com 

If you are looking to sell your cards we would be happy to hear from you. Please fill out our sell your collection form here and we will be in touch.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Results of Year Four of The Great Bubble Gum Card War: 1954


by +Dean Hanley
By 1954, baseball card collecting continued to achieve new heights. A new magazine, Sports Illustrated, debuted in August of 1954. The first issue of SI featured an article about the Bubble Gum War between Topps and Bowman.

 The SI article details how the hobby of collecting cards had become the obsession of American boys. The first two issues of SI also featured Topps baseball cards. The cards were getting better each year and most kids were collecting the cards of both manufacturers, but as more players began to sign exclusive contracts the number of players appearing in both sets was steadily decreasing each year.

 Some historical perspective 

While the kids of the day were enjoying the selection of the beautiful new baseball cards available, Topps and Bowman were locked in a competitive death struggle. Topps and Bowman cards sat side-by-side on every local candy counter across America, each desperately trying to grab the attention of the boys that would appear every day after school with coins in hand.

Production costs were high for both Bowman and Topps because of the competitive environment. Since the Baseball Gum Card War had begun, Bowman was forced to make their cards bigger and better. The nickel packs now contained seven cards instead of five. Both companies were under pressure to sign the best players to contracts, then to out-design, produce, innovate and market the other in order to survive.

It had become clear to both companies that the gum card market would be much more profitable with only one company making cards. Unlike many industries, a monopoly was possible because the most important ingredient to the cards, the images of the professional athletes, could be signed to exclusive contracts that courts would uphold.

If a monopoly could be re-established by either company, kids would only have one type of baseball and football card to buy and that company would get all the sales. The winning company could steadily reduce design, production and marketing costs and increase the price of the product.

 Bowman bounces back from 1953

It had been three years since Topps had launched its surprise attack on the Philadelphia-based Bowman Gum Company, shaking up the entire card collecting hobby with its groundbreaking 1952 Topps baseball card set. It was the 1952 Topps Baseball card set that catapulted Topps into a lead over Bowman in the baseball card market, one that they would never relinquish. By 1954, Topps baseball card related gum sales had surpassed the one million dollar mark.

The good news for Bowman was that their revenues from baseball cards rebounded in 1954 to $602,000, which was exactly double the sales of 1953, but far less than their 1951 sales revenues, back in the days before Topps was a serious competitor. Bowman had also reduced production costs in 1954 by issuing a more cost effective set of cards.

As noted earlier, Bowman was also doing a better job of signing the star players of the day to exclusive contracts than Topps, but Bowman was still finishing second in sales. Second place is not a good position to finish, especially when it is a two team race.

Bowman as a company was still strong, but was definitely feeling the competitive pressure around it in the market. Sales of all Bowman products had declined from over $3 million in 1951 to just less than $2.5 million in 1954.

When Haelan Labs bought the Bowman Gum Co. in 1952, they ended up getting much more than they initially bargained for. In 1951, Bowman Gum was the leading bubble gum producer in a growing, profitable market niche, including the sports cards business that was well-protected by exclusive contracts. This was the company Haelan thought that they were buying, but when Topps issued its 1952 set, everything had changed. Bowman was now losing money and was locked in the fight of its life, with an aggressive and innovative competitor. Worse yet, baseball cards and bubble gum were an area market in which Haelan executives had little experience.

Warren Bowman had succeeded at one of the hardest decisions that any entrepreneur has to make. He had cashed out of the business that he built at just the right time.



This article is taken from Dean’s book “The Gum Card War and the Great Bowman & Topps Baseball Card Sets of 1948-1955”, which is now available for sale at Amazon.com.

Dean Hanley is an authority on vintage sports cards and has written numerous articles on the topic. Mr. Hanley is the founder DeansCards.com, and with well-over one million vintage cards in inventory, DeansCards.com is the largest seller of vintage cards on the web. Dean has also published “Before there was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards”, which is also available in eBook form at Amazon.com and has just released a T207 reprint set. For more information, please visit www.DeansCards.com

If you are looking to sell your cards we would be happy to hear from you. Please fill out our sell your collection form here and we will be in touch.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

1954 Bowman: A star-packed variation



by +Dean Hanley
The 1954 Bowman baseball card set has 224 total cards that are printed in two series: #1-128 and #129-224. Both series were printed in roughly the same numbers. Bowman employed some creativity in its numbering of the set. There is a sixteen card rotation, meaning that one team, in this case, the Yankees, would have card numbers 1, 17, 33, 49, etc, while the second team, the Red Sox, would have 2, 18, 34, 50, etc. This team rotation arrangement is not seen in any other vintage set.

Variations Galore

While nearly every baseball card set has a few variations, due to misprints and small errors the 1954 Bowman issue easily sets the record for post-war vintage sets. As for the printing mistakes in the 1954 Bowman baseball card set, a surprising 40 out of 224 total cards have some sort of variation.

The most prominent and valuable variation is the #66 Ted Williams card. Williams had been flying jets in Korea and returned to baseball for the 1954 season. Once home, Williams signed an exclusive contract with Topps. The Bowman Company, which had rushed to get its set out before Topps, had to withdraw the Williams card and replace it with Jimmy Piersall, who was already featured on card #210. Due to the extreme rarity and high cost of the #66 Williams card, the standard 1954 Bowman set is considered complete without the Williams card, when it contains both the #66 and #210 Jimmy Piersall cards.

Bowman’s hurry to get its set released before Topps resulted in many other variations in addition to the Williams/Piersall variation on card #66. Variation cards have differences in statistics, birthplaces, trades and even answers to the quiz questions on the back.

One example is the #12 Roy McMillan card. The first card that Bowman released for McMillan has the following stat line: 551 season ABs, 1290 lifetime ABs. The correct stat line should read 557 season ABs, 1290 lifetime ABs. Although this seems like a minute difference to the casual observer, Bowman had to correct similar mistakes 40 different times throughout the set.

Lots of established stars, but few star rookies


With Don Larsen being the only well-known rookie card in the set, Bowman clearly lost the annual battle of “set with the best rookie cards” to Topps. Although rookie cards are much more valued by today’s collectors, the 1954 Topps set featured Hall-of-Famers: Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, and Tommy Lasorda. It should be noted, that Lasorda made his name as a manager and added little star power to the Topps set in 1954.

Despite its lack of rookies, Bowman did a superior job of getting commitments of the baseball’s best players to appear on their cards. There were eleven Hall of Fame players that were exclusively in the Bowman set in 1954: Roy Campanella, Bob Feller, Nellie Fox, George Kell, Ralph Kiner, Bob Lemon, Mickey Mantle, Pee Wee Reese, Robin Roberts, Red Schoendiest and Enos Slaughter. Comparatively, the 1954 Topps set only had 3 veteran players signed to exclusive contracts (not counting the rookies) that were eventually elected to the Hall of Fame: Ted Williams, Warren Spahn, and Jackie Robinson.

The loss of Ted Williams in 1954 was a shock to Bowman, despite clearly getting a larger number of the games’ stars to sign exclusive contracts. Some other stars that went exclusively with Bowman in 1954 were: Bobby Avila, Gus Bell, Lew Burdette, Sal Maglie, Smokey Burgess, Billy Cox, Al Dark, Del Ennis, Carl Erskine, Dee Fondy, Carl Furillo, Whitey Lockman, Gil McDonald, Jimmy Piersall, Minnie Minoso, Eddie Yost, Jerry Coleman and Billy Pierce.

One big star was still missing from both the 1954 Topps and Bowman sets. In a declaration reminiscent of Honus Wagner, Stan Musial did not want his picture on a card. He continued to hold out for another four years before finally appearing in the 1958 Topps set.

Completely New Card Design 

The Bowman Gum Co. was still reeling from the loss of market share that they suffered in 1952 and again in 1953. In both 1953 and 1954, Topps took the previous year’s card design and added features to make it even better. Unfortunately, Bowman did not have that luxury in 1954, as the color photography used in 1953 proved to be way too expensive to expand upon.

The 1954 Bowman baseball cards demonstrated a clear attempt to scale back the production costs that derailed the 1953 Bowman in mid-issue. For this set, Bowman again used the painted portrait for the player’s image except chose to put it on the larger-sized card. Bowman tried to emulate the “pure color” concept that they employed on the 1953 Bowman cards, but without the beautiful color photography the technique fell short. As a result, the 1954 Bowman baseball card design was very plain when compared to the exciting design of the Topps issue. The 1954 Bowman card also has a colored box at the bottom of the card that contained a facsimile of the player’s autograph.

The main problem with the portraits on the 1954 Bowman cards is that they make poor use of the entire canvas of the card. The pictures of the player’s faces seem too small and do not pop off the card, especially compared to the 1955 Topps cards. The smaller sized portrait leaves too much “dead” space on the card. Also, whereas the backgrounds on the 1953 Bowman baseball cards catch the viewer’s eye and add to the charm and beauty of the set. The blurry, painted backgrounds on the 1954 Bowman cards have the opposite effect. They completely fail to catch one’s eye or interest. By simply increasing the size of the player’s portrait, the Bowman cards would have been much more appealing.

The back of the 1954 Bowman baseball cards are even more disappointing than the card fronts. The only new features added to the cards were trivia questions, but most of the questions and answers are not interesting enough to bother reading. Although the card backs contain player information and statistics, they fall far short of the exciting card backs of the 1954 Topps set. The grey cardboard that the 1954 Bowman cards were printed on (probably another effort to cut production costs), made the very plain card backs look even darker and less attractive.

Summary

The 1954 Bowman baseball card set was issued at the pinnacle of the Bubble Gum War and was a good representation of the strategies employed by both combatants. Bowman dedicated more effort (and money) to securing the images of the marquee players of the day to place on their cards, while Topps did a better job of signing the young exciting rookies to exclusive contracts. Players such as: Aaron, Banks, Kaline and Kuehn. Topps also focused on designing and producing a more attractive baseball card that had far less printing errors.

Bowman was clearly winning the battle to get the most stars of the game onto their cards, but it is a shame that Bowman did not design a better product on which to display the images of these marquee players. This missed opportunity resulted in yet another second place finish; in both popularity and sales for the Bowman Baseball Card Set in 1954. The clock was ticking for Bowman, both in time and in money, and they were beginning to run both short.










This article is taken from Dean’s  book “The Gum Card War and the Great Bowman & Topps Baseball Card Sets of 1948-1955”, which is now available for sale at Amazon.com. 

Dean Hanley is an authority on vintage sports cards and has written numerous articles on the topic. Mr. Hanley is the founder DeansCards.com, and with well-over one million vintage cards in inventory, DeansCards.com is the largest seller of vintage cards on the web. Dean has also published “Before there was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards”, which is also available in eBook form at Amazon.com and has just released a T207 reprint set. For more information, please visit www.DeansCards.com 

 If you are looking to sell your cards we would be happy to hear from you. Please fill out our sell your collection form here and we will be in touch.

Monday, September 24, 2012

1955 Bowman – The T.V. Set



by +Dean Hanley
Black and White TV’s were starting to populate American homes, and television was quickly becoming another way for Americans to enjoy their national pastime. The first color television set appeared in the stores in 1954 and Bowman felt that it would be a fun and classy way to highlight their 1955 baseball card set.

Collectors of vintage cards know the 1955 Bowman baseball cards as the “T.V. Set”. The set itself consists of 320 cards, with the high number series (cards #225 - #320) as the most expensive.

The wood grain border being the distinctive mark of this set hides corner wear better than one would expect. Cards #1 to #64 feature a lighter blond-colored wood border and cards from #65 -#320 feature a darker-colored wood border. Inside the card’s border, the player's color photo is shown on the TV’s “screen”.

Set Features

The 1955 Bowman baseball cards were sold in one card penny packs or a six card pack that cost a nickel. Both, of course, included a stick of Blony bubble gum. The cards size remained at the standard 3 3/4" by 2 1/2" dimension Bowman had adopted in 1953. In comparison to Topps cards, Bowman’s cards are slightly thinner.

By 1955, Bowman had signed more players to exclusive contracts than Topps, yet Bowman still had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find enough images for 320 cards. The set contains cards for players who had very short, unremarkable careers, such as managers, coaches and even umpires. Many of the players would never have another card printed.

All of the player pictures were taken in Shibe Park in Philadelphia, the home of the Bowman Gum Company. Many of the player photos feature Shibe Park’s characteristic green wall in the background.

Card Backs

For one of the few times in a vintage card set, the backs of the 1955 Bowman cards are not standard. Many cards have the standard career highlights but some quote the featured player. "The Best Hitter I've Ever Seen," "My Favorite Baseball Story," "My Childhood Hero," "My Biggest Thrill in Baseball" and "My Advice to Youngsters".

Although I am all for creative and innovative ideas, not having the statistics on every player’s card is a bad one, witnessed by the fact that the idea was never repeated. Part of the fun of collecting cards is to flip it over and look at a player’s statistics.


Another problem is that most of the stories are fairly routine and somewhat boring, even to a baseball historian, like myself. The player’s advice usually is along the lines of "practice hard and be good", which are still popular clich├ęs used by today’s players. I guess it is unreasonable to expect advice on how to sneak out past curfew, which player they considered the biggest jerk or most over-rated, or what they really thought of their manager. Now that would have made for a great set of cards!

The stories often refer to a memorable event like the player’s first game or home run. One of the funniest stories is told by Virgil Trucks:

"It was my first year in the big leagues. I was pitching against the Boston Red Sox. The first hitter was Bobby Doerr. He doubled on the first pitch. The next hitter did the same, and the next one tripled, again on the first pitch. Ted Williams came to the plate. He hit the first pitch too, for a home run. Manager Del Baker came to the mound and asked Bob Swift, my catcher, 'Doesn't Virgil have it today?' Swift answered, 'How do I know? I haven't caught one yet!'"

The most unique story has to be that of Eddie Waitkus (#4), whose "greatest thrill" begins: "In 1949, I was shot by a deranged girl." I imagine that Waitkus's story, which was the basis for the movie "The Natural," confounded more than a few of the boy collectors of the day.

 In my opinion, the most interesting information contained on the 1955 Bowman card backs is finding who the players considered the toughest hitter or pitcher in the game. While there was no clear consensus as to who was considered the toughest pitcher to face in either league, Warren Spahn and Bob Feller were mentioned the most often.

The pitchers of the day were much more unified on whom they did not wish to see standing in the batter’s box holding a piece of lumber. Almost every pitcher named either Stan Musial or Ted Williams as the best hitter in his respective league. It is not a credit to the 1955 Bowman set that neither player has a card in the set for this year.

 Rookie Cards

One of the major negatives voiced about the Bowman sets issued during the Bubble Gum Card War is the lack of outstanding rookie cards, as compared to Topps. On the surface, the 1955 Bowman set seems to also be afflicted, especially with the 1955 Topps set featuring future Hall-of-Famers such as: Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew and Sandy Koufax. While it is true that all of these players had outstanding careers, they took a while to become great and none played in the All-Star Game until 1959.

The two biggest rookie cards in the set are #68 Elston Howard and #296 Elroy Bill Virdon, both of whom had good years in 1955.

The Men in Black

The umpire cards are the most difficult cards in the set to find. Not only were they issued in fewer numbers, as part of the high-number series, the umpires were understandably ignored by the kids who purchased baseball cards. Part of what makes the umpire cards so difficult to find is that they were often thrown away by kids looking for their baseball heroes. The umpire cards feature short biographies and included facts such as the national heritage of the umpires as well as personal hobbies, family and professional sports, or umpiring experience.

Curiously, the Bowman Company put the umpires in the last series, which historically competed with the football card sets that were being released at the same time. Kids who had already bought the previous two series full of players and had no interest in the coach and umpire-heavy last series. Topps was busy releasing the 1955 Topps All-American football card set and Bowman was releasing their 1955 football card set, so most kids spent their nickels on those sets instead.

The 1955 Bowman umpire cards represent a fun challenge to collectors and another example of baseball cards that went from unpopular to considerably valuable. Although baseball cards have had many innovations over the years, issuing umpires in the set has never been attempted again.

Aftermath 

As much as I like the unique design of the 1955 Bowman baseball card set, it still falls a bit short when compared to the Topps issue for that same year. Although color televisions were a very big deal at the time, the concept did not translate that well to baseball cards.

The biggest flaw, with the front of the 1955 Bowman cards, is the same one that Bowman had the previous year. There is too much wasted canvas space. Most of the pictures of the players are standing upright, resulting in small pictures and a lot of empty background. The design of the 1955 Topps set did a much better job of filling the canvas and creating a more attractive product.

 Despite Bowman’s advantage in exclusive player contracts and Bowman’s many innovations on the design of the cards, Topps again produced a more attractive baseball card. For the fourth straight year, the kids choose the Topps product over the cards issued by Bowman and that is where they spent their money.

Although few realized it in 1955, the TV set would be the last baseball card set for the floundering Bowman Gum Company. The 1955 Bowman Baseball card set has since become a hobby classic with its unique design and charming quirks.

This article is taken from Dean’s book “The Gum Card War and the Great Bowman & Topps Baseball Card Sets of 1948-1955”, which is now available for sale at Amazon.com. 

Dean Hanley is an authority on vintage sports cards and has written numerous articles on the topic. Mr. Hanley is the founder DeansCards.com, and with well-over one million vintage cards in inventory, DeansCards.com is the largest seller of vintage cards on the web. Dean has also published “Before there was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards”, which is also available in eBook form at Amazon.com and has just released a T207 reprint set. For more information, please visit www.DeansCards.com 

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