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1948 Bowman Basketball Set

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Fast Facts

Year(s) Issued: 1948
Number Cards: 72
Card Size: 2-1/16" x 2-1/2"
Common Card Value (Good Condition): $50
Scarcity Rating: (1 to 10, 10 scarcest):  4

Full 1948 Bowman Basketball Checklist

Keys For Collectors

  • The first official full basketball release and the only basketball issued ever released by Bowman.
  • Features the rookie card of George Mikan, considered to be one of the early pioneers of basketball. 
  • Cards featured black and white photos of players, set on either a blue or red background.
  • Twelve cards (out of the 72 in the set) featured various basketball plays with a picture diagram.
  • The set features the rookie cards of nine Basketball Hall of Fame players. 
  • The set featured players of the BAA (Basketball Association of America) and the NBL--which would only two years later become the NBA, following a merger of the BAA and the NBL
  • PSA has graded on average roughly 150 cards of each card  in the 72 card set

1948 Bowman Basketball Summary + Design

The 1948 Bowman Basketball set is a landmark set in the history of basketball cards.  It marked the first set devoted entirely to professional basketball players.  And remarkably, it would mark the first and only Basketball card issue for Bowman.  

Cards in the 72 card set, feature a combination of 60 professional basketball players from the BAA and the NBL, along with 12 basketball play cards.  See below for one example. 

One of the Basketball Play cards #17

Card #17 48 Bowman Back

The design of the 1948 Bowman Basketball cards features a monochromatic image of the player, on top of a bright red or blue background.  Many of the player images are accented by blue or red bold coloring around their jersey.  See one example below:


1948 Bowman Paul Armstrong #13

Note that the design for the 1948 Basketball set is identical to their baseball issue from 1949.  See how the 1949 Jackie Robinson card has the same monochromatic image and blue and red color accents. 


The backs of the 1948 Bowman cards feature the player's name, card number and biography at the top of the card.  Below the biography is a player summary -- we can see with the Mikan card below, that they discuss how Mikan 'broke every NL scoring record'.   Below the player summary is an offer to get four pencils for 15 cents and three Bowman basketball wrappers!


The set is notorious for printing variations, notably there were many cards produced that did not get the typical blue or red accents.  The theory is that Bowman may have run out of red and or blue ink.  Here is a comparison of the same card - John Palmer with a normal print run and one with the blue and red ink missing:

John Palmer regular print run

John Palmer with missing blue and red accents

It should also be noted that card numbers 37-72 (often referred to as the 'High Numbers')  were supposedly in circulation for a shorter period of time and are scarcer than the rest of the set.  It should also be noted that Mikan's card (#69) is considered to have been a part of the lower print run and are tougher to find.  

Here's a picture of a 1948 Bowman basketball pack, of which there are only several still known to exist:

1948 Bowman Basketball Key Cards

George Mikan #69 (RC, HOF)

The George Mikan is the true `highlight of the 1948 Bowman set.  A mint condition Mikan card can command in excess of $300K in today's market and is one of the hobby's most valuable basketball cards.   Mikan was the first prototypical big man, and at 6’10”, he sported thick glasses, while becoming a prolific rebounder and shot blocker.  


Arnie Risen #58 (RC, HOF)

Risen was a 10-year standout with the Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics, playing from 1948-58. He won NBA titles with the Royals in 1950-51 and the Celtics in 1956-57. 


Jim Pollard #66 (RC, HOF)

Jim Pollard has often been referred to as pro basketball's first power forward. "He stood 6-5, a human pogo stick gifted with a 42-inch vertical leap. It's been said he could swipe quarters off the top of the backboard and slam-dunk from the free-throw line".  (source)


Carl Braun #72 (RC, HOF)

"Braun led the Knicks in scoring seven straight seasons, earning five All-Star nods along the way. The native New Yorker joined the Boston Celtics in 1961 to help Auerbach and the Green win the franchise’s fifth championship in six years" (source)


"Buddy" Jeanette #38 (RC, HOF)

"From 1938 to 1948, Buddy Jeannette was professional basketball's top backcourt player. One of basketball's early pioneers, his dexterous passing, clutch shooting, hard-nosed defense, and all-around playmaking earned him four Most Valuable Player awards." (source)


"Red" Holzman #32 (RC, HOF)

"A street-wise basketball gym rat, Red Holzman was the coaching genius behind the magic the New York Knicks brought to the NBA during the 1970s.  Holzman was named one of the Top Ten Coaches in NBA History in 1996." (source)

holzman bowman

Andy Phillip #9 (RC, HOF)

"Captain and floor general of the "Whiz Kids" of Illinois during their glory years, Andy Phillip was considered one of the early game's best playmakers. A fierce competitor, Phillip played his best in the big games."  (source


1948 Bowman Basketball Checklist

1  Ernie Calverley
2  Ralph Hamilton
3  Gale Bishop
4  Fred Lewis
5  Basketball play (single cut off post)
6  Bob Feerick
7  John Logan
8  Mel Riebe
9  Andy Phillip RC, HOF
10  Bob Davies RC, HOF
11  Basketball play (single cut with return pass to post)
12  Kenny Sailors
13  Paul Armstrong
14  Howard Dallmar
15  Bruce Hale
16  Sid Hertzberg
17  Basketball play (single cut)
18  Red Rocha
19  Eddie Ehlers
20  Gene Vance
21  Fuzzy Levane
22  Earl Shannon
23  Basketball play (double cut off post)
24  Leo Crystal Klier
25  George Senesky
26  Price Brookfield
27  John Norlander
28  Don Putman
29  Basketball play (double post)
30  Jack Garfinkel
31  Chuck Gilmur
32  Red Holzman - RC, HOF
33  Jack Smiley
34  Joe Fulks - RC, HOF
35  Basketball play (screen play)
36  Hal Tidrick 

37  Don Carlson
38  Buddy Jeannette - RC, HOF
39  Ray Kuka  
40  Stan Miasek 
41  Basketball play (double screen)
42  George Nostrand
43  Chuck Halbert
44  Arnie Johnson  
45  Bob Doll 
46  Horace McKinney
47  Basketball play (out of bounds)
48  Ed Sadowski
49  Bob Kinney
50  Charlie Black
51  Jack Dwan
52  Connie Simmons
53  Basketball play (out of bounds)
54  Bud Palmer
55  Max Zaslofsky
56  Lee Roy Robbins
57  Arthur Spector
58  Arnie Risen - RC, HOF
59  Basketball play (out of bounds)
60  Ariel Maughan
61  Dick O'Keefe
62  Herman Schaefer
63  John Mahnken
64  Tommy Byrnes
65  Basketball play (held ball)
66  Jim Pollard - RC, HOF
67  Lee Mogus 
68  Lee Knorek 
69  George Mikan - RC, HOF
70  Walter Budko  
71  Basketball play (guards play)
72  Carl Braun - RC, HOF


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1948 Bowman Basketball 32 Of 72 Carl Braun,Arnie Risen,Jim Pollard,Kenny Sailors

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