Unprecedented Wax Box Find with 1948 Bowman Baseball Near Full Box Heads to Mile High Card Company June Auction

A few weeks ago, we were getting ready to put the final touches on the upcoming June auction when the phone rang … “Hello, I have some unopened full boxes and almost full boxes from the 1950s and 1960s that I am considering for your auction.” Well that certainly sounded promising, so I asked, “that’s great, what do you have?” He started off by telling me about a complete 1959 Fleer Ted Williams box, which certainly caught my attention, and then went into material that included near full wax boxes of 1961 Topps football five cent, 1962 Topps football and 1962 Fleer football. As he went on further (1960 Fleer baseball near full box, 1961 Fleer football full box, 1961 Fleer baseball near full box, 1961 Nu-Card Scoops near full box and 1961 Nu-Card Football near full box), I was trying to put a dollar value on the whole group when he hits me with “ and there’s a 1961 Fleer basketball unopened box.” I was already impressed at this point, but when he mentioned the 1961 Fleer basketball box, I said to him, “Aha! You buried the headline on me.” Actually, we still hadn’t reached the headline!

1961 Fleer Basketball Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE 1961 Topps Football 5 Cent Pack Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE 1961 Fleer Football Full Unopened Wax Box BBCE

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

This was already the greatest compilation of unopened material I’d ever heard of, and then he said, “Oh, and I have a box, it’s only 19 of the 24 packs, but it’s a Play Ball box from 1948. Wait, no, it’s 1948 Bowman.” Now I’m starting to wonder if Brian (Drent, MHCC President and CEO) is trying to punk me. I said, “I’m sorry can you repeat that?” He said, “1948 Bowman. The box and the wrappers say Play Ball on them but it’s Bowman. There was an extra pack that’s open and it’s the little black and white cards.” Now I’ve never seen or even heard of anyone who has seen a 1948 Bowman pack, but he’s claiming to have 19 unopened packs and the original box (which I also have never seen or heard of). I had to ask the obvious question, “How did you come across all of this?” He told me it was left to him by a member of his family who owned and operated a confectionary company that produced trading cards in the 1950s and 60s, though not a competitor to Topps, Fleer or Bowman in the sports card market. A quick Google search confirmed it and he still lived in the city from which the company had operated. Realizing that this would require an in-person pick-up due to our quickly approaching deadline, I asked if we could call him back in 5 minutes and sprinted down the hall with my page of notes to Brian’s office.

“You need to get off the phone NOW!”

Brian was looking out the window while talking on his cell phone when I walked in. As he turned and caught my eye, I said, “You need to get off the phone now!” Looking slightly perplexed but still, I handed him the notes, still listening to the person on the other end of the phone. After a few seconds of perusing the paper, he said, “Listen I gotta call you back.” Brian looked at me as if now I’m trying to punk him, but once I explained the lineage of the collection, he was back on the phone. Fifteen minutes later, he was booking a flight to pick up the collection.

Incredible 1948 Bowman Baseball Nearly Full Unopened Wax Box (19/24) Packs BBCE Incredible 1948 Bowman Baseball Nearly Full Unopened Wax Box (19/24) Packs BBCE

Untouched for over a half-century

The next day, Brian arrived to find the boxes laid out on a white linen across a dining room table. He was immediately drawn to the ’48 Bowman box, which seemed odd because it had “Play Ball” advertised all over the box and the packs. The thickness of the packs was also unusual but similar to a 1952 Bowman pack he has once seen. If not for the one opened pack, which contained five well-centered NM/MT to potentially GEM MINT examples and three large slabs of gum, there really wasn’t any indication that they were 1948 Bowman packs. The collection had been stored in a vintage Stroh’s beer case that was as old as the cards, the ones made of thick cardboard stock that originally had the insert to separate individual bottles. It was clear that this collection had been untouched for over a half-century. The consignor asked what he thought the collection was worth and revealed a dollar figure with his own estimate. Brian looked at the number and said, “Let’s put it this way; I’ll pay you four times that amount right now but I advise you not to take it. That’s what I think it’s worth”

“It’s Marvelous …”

We contacted Baseball Card Exchange owner Steve Hart, widely recognized as the foremost authority of unopened material, to examine and authenticate all of the material. After a few days of the material in his possession, we called Steve to ask what he thought. “It’s marvelous, all of it,” he claimed, verifying the authenticity by sealing the full boxes and adding their stamp of approval while providing a Letter of Authenticity and wrapping the near full boxes. Even Mr. Hart was not aware of any other 1948 Bowman baseball packs known to exist. The five cent packs are “NM to NM/MT and awesome” according to BBCE. The original box, though heavily damaged and taped, is also the only known example. In fact, BBCE had specific comments for each of the boxes:

  • 1959 Full Ted Williams full wax box – This one is extremely clean with NM/MT to MINT packs.
  • 1961 Fleer football full wax box – Most boxes have been salted away in collections and don’t come out anymore. Packs are NM/MT.
  • 1961 Topps football full wax box – The crown jewel of the find (other than the ’48 Bowman). I’ve seen less than 10 packs and they are usually EX … I’ve never heard of a full box. These packs are NM/MT to MINT.
  • 1961-62 Fleer basketball full wax box – Packs are NM to NM/MT and as fresh as can be.
  • 1962 Topps football near full wax box (20/24) – Packs are NM/MT overall and sweet.
  • 1960 Fleer Baseball Greats near full box (20/24) – Ten of the packs have mildew damage, the other 10 packs are NM to NM/MT.
  • 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats near full box (20/24) – Packs are sweet and NM/MT.
  • 1962 Fleer football near full box (19/24) – Packs are NM/MT and very rare.
  • 1961 Nu-Card Scoops baseball near full box (23/24) – Packs are NM to NM/MT overall.

Whether you’re a serious collector or just a curious bystander, this collection of unopened material will certainly be remember throughout the sports card hobby for generations to come. The Mile High Card Company Spring Auction will begin May 30th and conclude on June 15th. For additional information or to consign to an upcoming auction, please visit our website at www.milehighcardco.com or call our office at (303) 840-2784.

1948 Bowman Baseball: The Pioneer of the Post-War Era

From T206 to Goudey and everywhere in between, tobacco, caramel and gum companies tried to lay claim to the baseball card market, never getting past just a few seasons. While Gum Inc., manufacturer of the 1939-41 Play Ball series, appeared poised to mount a run at becoming the driving force that would lead the hobby into the next generation, their aspirations were halted by material shortages from World War II. Three years after the fighting subsided, Leaf and Bowman came forth to revive the industry, offering vastly different concepts of the future of the baseball card market. In the end, Bowman survived and went on 8-year run that dominated the industry until Topps permanently took over in 1956.

What if the roles had been reversed and Bowman was able to push Topps out of the market? One thing is for sure; the 1951 Mickey Mantle card, his true rookie card, would have no competition whatsoever as most coveted sports card ever produced. But while Bowman had the advantage of experience and an established customer base, Topps quite simply made a superior product. The simple black and white design of the inaugural 1948 Bowman series might not win any accolades for innovation, but the 48-card collection is one of the most important compilations in the hobby and the undisputed pioneer of the post-war era!

48 for ‘48

Whether it was meant to be a test set or a means to keep production costs as low as possible in a once again uncharted market, Bowman limited their introductory series to a mere 48 cards, formatting and sizing them almost identically to the football and movie star sets of the same year. While the cards were rife with centering issues characteristic of new start-ups, it was the first mainstream set produced in 7 years and thus, loaded with “rookie” cards of established players that had yet to appear on cardboard. Nine Hall of Famers are scattered within the set, and with a debut lineup that includes Musial, Berra, Kiner, Rizzuto, Spahn and Schoendienst, the 1948 Bowman series lives up to the words of William Shakespeare, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

The Only 1948 Bowman Baseball Packs Known to Exist Offered in June Mile High Card Company Auction

MHCC is proud to present one of the greatest finds of unopened wax boxes ever offered, headlined by a 1948 Bowman Baseball Near Full Wax Box with 19/24 packs. Until now there was not a single known pack to have survived, but this collection was consigned by the family of a rival trading card company that acquired all of the material for product research and has been stored away over half a century. Steve Hart of Baseball Card Exchange (BBCE) has examined all of the offered material and verified its authenticity, placing the BBCE wrapping and seal of approval on the full boxes and providing a Letter of Authenticity for the near full boxes. In each case, the packs are all NM to MINT and absolutely fabulous! Whether you’re a serious bidder or just an interested observer, this amazing event will be at the forefront of the hobby for a very long time.

August Catalog Auction Highlights

Hello Hobby Enthusiasts,

Once again, it’s auction time! As of today, Wednesday July 23rd, the preview is available for viewing and bidding will begin tomorrow, closing on August 14th for Session I and August 15th for Session II. We’re extremely proud of this event, which is highlighted by PSA Set Registry highly ranked 1933 George C. Miller, 1948 Leaf football, 1948 Bowman football and 1948 Bowman baseball complete sets. Other amazing items of interest include a game-used Joe DiMaggio Yankees jersey, a rare T206 Eddie Plank, a 1986-87 Fleer basketball unopened wax box and a 1939 Baseball Hall of Fame First Day Cover signed by inductees Ruth, Cobb, Speaker, Johnson, Young and others. And that’s just a small sample because there are literally hundreds of complete sets from the 1950s on up, including many extremely scarce test issues. Along with DiMaggio, game-used jerseys of Joe Namath, Walter Payton, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Lawrence Taylor, Jim Kelly, and Jerry Rice as well as vintage garments of Vern Stephens, Frank Crosetti and Forrest Gregg are available. This is sure to be an a tremendous event!

Afraid you might miss out because you’ll be in Cleveland attending the National Sports Collectors Convention? That’s not a problem, we’ll be there too! In fact, we’ll be exhibiting some of the outstanding items described above and a whole lot more. This year’s National promises to be a memorable event and the addition of Johnny Football and King James to “The Rock and Roll Capital of the World” will only add to the frenzy. Stop on by Booth 225 & 229, say hello to the Mile High crew and take a look! You can even pick up an auction catalog while you’re there. We will also be taking consignments for the Fall auction, determined to make it even more spectacular than this magnificent offering. As always, you can register and bid through our website (www.milehighcardco.com) or call (303) 840-2784. Hope to see you in Cleveland!

The 1948 Bowman Football Set – Turning A New Leaf!

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First off, we at MHCC hope everyone had a happy and safe July 4th weekend. We just put the finishing touches on our August auction, which promises to be one of our strongest in quite some time. A few weeks ago, we spotlighted the #4 PSA Set Registry ranked 1948 Leaf Football set that will be in the upcoming auction. Today we are pleased to add the #2 ranked 1948 Bowman Football set as well, making this event one of the most impressive gridiron representations that Mile High Card Company has ever had.

In 1948, rivals Bowman and Leaf entered the football card market with premier editions that could not have been any more diverse. The Leaf set was like going to a rager; chaotic, out of control and filled with wild color variations, misspelled names, and various other corrections that brought the 98-card basic set up to a ridiculous 145-card master set. It was as though Leaf just made up the rules as they went along, leaving collectors scrambling to figure out how to build a set while frequently discovering some new version of a previous released card. Bowman, on the other hand, was like attending a cotillion; structured, refined, offering a simple black and white pasteboard with sharp photography on the front and pertinent information on the back. There were no additional variations or corrections here. No sir, the ’48 Bowman set was professional all the way! Ironically, the “anything goes” approach that has made the 1948 Leaf Set more popular with today’s challenge-seeking collectors was the primary reason that led to Leaf’s demise after just two short years.

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Printed on three sheets of 36 cards each, the Bowman set was slightly larger than the Leaf set at 108, however the third and final sheet was short-printed and cards that are numbered as a multiple of three are sufficiently scarcer. Important short prints include the rookie cards of Johnny Lujack (#3), Charley Conerley (#12), Bulldog Turner (#36) and the final card of the set, Buford Ray (#108). Hall of Famers Steve Van Buren, Charlie Trippi, Sammy Baugh, Bob Waterfield, Alex Wojciechowicz, Pete Pihos, Bill Dudley, George McAfee, Bruce Smith and Sid Luckman also make their cardboard debut.

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The featured assemblage ranks #2 Current and All-Time on the PSA Set Registry. With a GPA of 8.421, this set is just one or two upgrades away from becoming the finest 1948 Bowman Football set ever registered with PSA as the top collection presently has an 8.44 rating. Every card in the set is graded PSA 8 or higher, with over 42% of the collection graded MINT. Key cards graded PSA 9 include #1 Tereshinski, 17 Trippi, 22 Baugh, 26 Waterfield and 61 Wojciechowicz, as well as “one and only” PSA 9 cards of #4, 5, 18, 38, 51, 70, 72, and 102. Card #11 and 97 (both PSA 8.5) are also “one of one” with none graded higher. In fact, 62 of the 108 cards are at the highest possible existing grade, leaving 46 potentials ways to upgrade this collection and take over the top spot on the PSA Set Registry. This collection is being offered as a complete set as well as each card offered individually, with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher.

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