Thirteen years had passed since the 36-card National Chicle set had made its debut and the football card collecting world was still without a mainstream issue, in large part due to shortages of materials from World War II. But with the defeat of fascism safely in the rear view mirror and an economy that was fiercely recovering from a decades-long depression, Bowman and Leaf stepped forward in 1948 to compete for gridiron greatness. Bowman produced a straightforward, professional assemblage with sharp black and white photography and clean graphics. Meanwhile, Leaf’s set featured unrealistically colorized pasteboards fraught with spelling errors, centering flaws, color variations and short prints. In any other industry, Leaf’s effort would have run them out of business, but collectors’ inability to resist a challenge has made the 1948 Leaf football set one of the most popular sports cards issues ever produced. Mile High Card Company is proud to offer one of the finest collections ever assembled, ranked #3 on the PSA Set Registry with a GPA of 7.444.
Malevolence or Incompetence?
Designed to be a simple 98-card assemblage, the master set swells to a whopping 145 pasteboards when you consider all the variations. Correcting the obvious spelling errors is understandable, but most variations come from unexplained color changes in the background, the jersey number, the uniform color, or even the player’s name. Perhaps Leaf had difficulties with the equipment that affected their color mixing, though a more cynical theory is that Leaf intentionally created these variations to keep collectors buying their product in search of building a “complete set.” Not without precedent, Leaf’s policy of “skip-numbering” various other sets has been criticized as a way to exploit kids into spending their allowance, searching for cards that didn’t exist.
A Collector’s Dream … or is it a Nightmare?
While highly-coveted for its amazing selection of Hall of Famers making their pasteboard debut, the trouble starts and ends with the first and last cards, typical for most issues but magnified by the soft cardboard and poor quality control of the ’48 Leaf series. Sid Luckman’s rookie card #1 is rarely seen in a grade higher than PSA 5 and card #98 of Al DiMarco is usually off-center, resulting in just five PSA 7 graded specimens and just one at PSA 8 with none graded higher. In fact, the large majority of the cards in the set are single-pop PSA 8s with only one out of every 200 on the PSA pop report listed at the elite status of PSA 9. With over 12,000 total submissions from the set, there has yet to be a single specimen to land a grade of GEM MINT.
Mile High Card Company Offers #3 PSA Set Registry Ranked 1948 Leaf Football Set in August 2014 Auction.
This is undeniably one of the finest complete football sets ever assembled, not just for the issue but for any football card set ever produced. Virtually every card in the collection is an extreme rarity in its respective grade that few collectors have had the opportunity to see, much less own. It begins with one of the most coveted specimens in the hobby; a PSA 8 example of Sid Luckman’s rookie card #1. One of just five with none graded higher, the PSA 8 Luckman is the cornerstone of the collection, but the amazing list of elite-grade Hall of Fame rookie cards seems almost endless: #3 Bulldog Turner PSA 8, 4 Doak Walker PSA 8 (none graded higher), 6 Bobby Layne PSA 7, 16 Pete Pihos PSA 8, 19 George McAfee PSA 8, 22 Steve Van Buren PSA 8 (one graded higher), 26 Bob Waterfield PSA 8, 29 Charlie Trippi PSA 7, 34 Sammy Baugh PSA 8, 36 Bill Dudley PSA 8, 37 George Conner PSA 8 (one graded higher), 52 Leo Nomellini PSA 7, and 54 Chuck Bednarik PSA 6. Al DiMarco’s card #98 closes out the collection at PSA 7, one of five with just one graded higher. In all, over half of the set (51 of 98) is graded PSA 8 and 14 of the cards are at the highest grade ever assessed by PSA. Quite simply, this is an incredibly special collection and one of the finest complete sets Mile High Card Company has had the honor of presenting.