The 1948 Leaf Baseball issue is probably one of my favorite vintage sets.
The bright color images and the bold backgrounds make for one of the most attractive post-war designs, in my opinion.
Some speculate that the Leaf set was issued in 1949, but many cards have a 1948 copyright on the back.
Also, note that the grading companies consider this a 1948 issue, so we will stay consistent and reference it as the ‘1948 Leaf Set’.
The set’s importance lies in the fact that it was one of the major baseball issues released following World War II and the first full-color issue.
The beautiful colors provided collectors with a glimpse of what soon would become the norm with baseball cards.
In addition, the set is loaded with star power, including Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and even a rookie card for one Satchel Paige.
Many collectors believe that the 1948 Bowman Baseball set preceded the Leaf issue; however, some of the key rookies from both sets share accolades as being a player’s first card.
1948 Leaf packs were sold for 5 cents and issued with a total of six cards. The packs are rarely found unopened, but one sold at an auction house for $57,000 in 2017!
The 1948 Leaf set consists of only 98 cards, but wow, is there a lot to love here in terms of star and rookie cards. I'd say that Leaf did a pretty good job in fitting the biggest names into this 98 card set.
A few important notes about the 48 Leaf set.
It was issued in two series (with 49 of the 98 cards considered 'short prints'), and the cards were 'skip-numbered', meaning that the 98 cards were numbered from 1 up through 168, making for a lot of missing numbers in the set.
Many vintage collectors believe Leaf did this intentionally to get youngsters to buy more packs, hoping to find the missing cards (that didn't actually exist).
Also of note the 1948 Leaf cards have a lot of inconsistencies in terms of printing, especially with the card backgrounds. Various hues of different background colors are common as are registration issues.
Here's a Ted Williams that obviously had some issues on the print run!
Note that centering is also a common flaw throughout the set.
As are wrong backs. Many have confirmed that Leaf printed the fronts and backs of the cards on different sheets and later pasted them together.
Our Top Picks - 1948 Leaf Baseball
Best Overall Value: Stan Musial #4
Best Investment Potential: Jackie Robinson #79
Best Overall Design: Ted Williams #76
Most Underrated Card: Warren Spahn #32
1948 Leaf - Most Valuable Cards
All in all, there are cards of twenty HOF players in the 1948 Leaf set.
As follows, I'll cover the Most Valuable HOF cards from the 1948 Leaf set.
1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson (RC) #79
Although some classify Jackie Robinson's 1947 Bond Bread issue as his rookie card, his 48 Leaf card is still considered by purists to be his true rookie card.
It is also the most valuable card in the set, and showcases a young Jackie Robinson on the verge of becoming one of the most feared players in the game.
The back of the card notes the fact that Robinson was 'the first Negro player in modern organized baseball', while discussing his rookie of the year victory in 1947.
One other note of importance on the back of the Leaf cards. Check out the bottom of the card: collectors can trade in 10 wrappers for a 'FREE Portrait' of an 'All-Time Star from Baseball's Hall Of Fame'.
Note these cards are the 5 1/2" x 7 1/2" 1949 Leaf Premium issues, an eight card old time HOF set. Super awesome cards, only one card (Babe Ruth) is an issue from the 48 Leaf base set.
PSA has graded over 1500 of the Jackie Robinson Leaf rookie card, so ultimately there is good supply, however, given the hot demand, the prices have gone through the roof.
A Jackie Leaf card even in Poor condition is going to set you back at least $5K, making this one of the most valuable cards in the hobby. Recent sales of PSA 8 copies have sold for over $400K.
We named the Jackie Robinson 1948 Leaf card to our All Vintage Large Cap Value Portfolio.
1948 Leaf Satchel Paige (RC) #8
The rookie card for one Leroy 'Satchel' Paige.
Note that Paige also has a 49 Bowman issue, and whether or not we believe this card was issued in 48 or 49, we could argue that the Leaf card is his true rookie .
However most collectors accept the fact that BOTH the Leaf and Bowman cards are Paige's rookie cards.
Here he is with a big smile, however the ones that have been truly been smiling are those that own this card!
Paige's cards have been on tear of late, and his Leaf rookie is a 'short print', making it a bit of a powder keg in terms of value explosion.
As of this writing, PSA has graded only 175 Paige cards from the set, which also makes this the most valuable card for Satchel.
Even a Poor condition Satchel Paige Leaf rookie card runs in excess of $10K, while anything in mid to higher grade will add significantly to the cost.
1948 Leaf Babe Ruth #3
This is considered a tribute card for Ruth, as he passed away in August of 1948, so likely following Leaf's decision to include Ruth in the set.
While tribute cards don't typically get the attention of collectors, this Ruth Leaf card remains one of the more iconic cards in the hobby.
Of the 1300+ cards graded by PSA, less than 100 have garnered a PSA 7 or above grade, making high grade copies very tough to come by.
Collectors will likely pay a minimum of $3K for even a lower grade Leaf Ruth, while NM-MT (PSA 8) copies are valued at around $50K.
1948 Leaf Stan Musial (RC) #4
One of two rookie cards for Stan 'The Man' Musial (the other being his 1948 Bowman card).
Collectors seem to gravitate towards the Leaf Musial, preferring the colors over the black and white of the Bowman issue.
Prices on Musial's Leaf rookie have averaged nearly double that of his Bowman rookie card, mostly due to the Leaf card having a lower graded supply (PSA has graded ~1100 Leaf Rookies and ~2000 Bowman Musial rookie cards.
A lower grade Musial Leaf rookie can often be found for under $2000, but prices have been climbing; Musial remains among the top tier of all-time baseball greats.
1948 Leaf Ted Williams #76
The 1949 Leaf Ted Williams card shows the 'Splendid Splinter' in his classic batting pose.
I love everything about this card - the bright colors especially, make it one of my favorite Ted Williams cards.
Note that we also named the Ted Williams Leaf card to our All Vintage Mid-Cap Value Portfolio.
Close to 1200 copies of the Leaf Williams have been graded by PSA, so not necessarily rare, but it's a high demand cards, and should continue to appreciate as collectors keep bidding up the values of Leaf cards.
1948 Leaf Joe DiMaggio #1
This card was released as DiMaggio had just finished up one of the best seasons of his career; in 1948, he hit 39 homeruns and 155 RBI's (a career high), finishing second in MVP voting to Lou Boudreau.
I'm not sure that I love the green background on this 'Joltin' Joe as much as I do the red background of the Ted Williams card, but hey its a Joe DiMaggio card, and still highly collectible.
PSA has graded ~1200 copies of the DiMaggio Leaf card, so not terribly rare, but the card is tough to find in high grade, mostly due to the fact that it was the first card in the set.
Expect to spend up to $2000 on a lower graded copy (PSA 1 to PSA 3), but the prices climb higher from there.
1948 Leaf Bob Feller #93
While not his rookie card, Feller's 1948 Leaf card was released in the midst of his prime, coming off a season in 1947 in which won 20 games and finished eighth in overall MVP voting.
The Feller Leaf card is considered one of the 'short prints' in the set and notably, PSA has graded only ~ 150 copies, which pales in comparison to a lot of the other regular print cards in the set, which typically have had over 1000 copies graded.
Due to the scarcity, expect to pay up for the Feller card; even Good condition (PSA 2) copies command around $2K, with higher grades much higher - for example, a Near Mint-MT (PSA 8) copy sold earlier in 2021 for over $70K.
1948 Leaf Larry Doby (RC) #138
Doby's card to me isn't the most attractive of the set; sometimes Leaf went maybe a wee bit too bright with the colors.
Still, Doby's early cards have gained in popularity in recent years.
With the Players Alliance formed and up and running in the MLB, black players from the early 1950’s are getting some attention they long deserved.
In 1951 Larry Doby had 6.4 WAR, the most of any American League position player except Ted Williams.— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) October 7, 2020
He was not mentioned in the league's MVP voting.
Doby's Leaf card is a 'short print' and has only been graded ~150 times by PSA, making it a highly sought after card for any Doby collectors.
1948 Leaf Warren Spahn (RC) #32
Spahn was one of baseball's most dominant pitchers during his time, notching an impressive 363 wins and 17 All-Star appearances.
His 48 Leaf and 48 Bowman cards are considered to be his rookie cards.
The Leaf Spahn rookie card is a bit tougher to find - PSA has graded ~950 copies, to the 1400 graded Bowman copies...and well, the Leaf card is let's say a bit easier on the eyes?
Which Spahn rookie card do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.
1948 Leaf Hal Newhouser (RC) #98
Newhouser is a lesser known HOF pitcher, but his dominance during his playing years might make collectors think twice about his cards.
Newhouser had a string of seasons that rival some of the best pitchers of all time.
He did benefit for not having to serve in WW II due to having a heart problem, so some say that Newhouser's stats should be tempered a bit.
Still, from the mid to late 1940's, he was simply put, one of the best in the game.
He won two consecutive MVP awards from 1944-1945, with a second place finish in 1946 to Ted Williams.
His 1948 Leaf is a short print, and only 144 cards have been graded by PSA.
1948 Leaf George Kell (RC) #120
While not a power hitter, Kell was the ultimate contact guy, batting .306 in his career. His batting title in 1949 also prevented Ted Williams from capturing the triple crown.
His 1948 Leaf card is a short print, with PSA grading only ~100 copies.
Lower to mid grade copies generally run in upwards of a few thousand, with higher grade versions commanding a much higher premium.
1948 Leaf Honus Wagner #70
This is a tribute card for Wagner, and this one makes me laugh, as Wagner is dipping into what looks like a pouch of chewing tobacco. Sort of like a little kid with his hands in a cookie jar.
Now, as a reminder, Wagner's T206 card was pulled from the 1909 T206 White Borders set due to speculation that Wagner didn't want to be associated with a tobacco related issue, especially in the eyes of his younger fans.
However, this certainly shows that Wagner himself was a big fan of tobacco, so the likelihood is that the T206 card was probably pulled due to a contractual dispute.
Investment Potential Of The 1948 Leaf Set
I think the 1948 Leaf set has outstanding investment potential.
The set has historical importance in the hobby, namely, that it was the first full-color baseball card issue released following World War II.
In addition, there aren’t many sets with less than 100 cards that have the same sort of rookie and star power that the 1948 Leaf set has.
Of course, the Leaf set is a challenge for any set builders due to the high number of short print cards.
The rookie cards of Robinson, Paige, Musial et al.’s rookie cards will all likely remain solid investments over time.
And I also consider a lot of the other star cards, such as Williams, DiMaggio, and Ruth, to be great investments.
The cards aren't cheap by any means, so budget oriented collectors might opt for building the 1948 Bowman set, but for those with deeper pockets, the Leaf set certainly deserves consideration.